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College Township Adopts Masking Ordinance, Plans More Expansive Measure

by on August 25, 2020 1:00 PM

College Township last week became the fourth Centre Region municipality to adopt a temporary ordinance for local enforcement of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

On Thursday, township council unanimously approved the measure, which requires anyone in College Township "to wear a face covering in conjunction with current guidance and/or orders issued by either the Pennsylvania Governor or the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Health."

Anyone in violation of the state masking order may be subject to a civil citation with a minimum fine of $150 and a maximum of $300. In September, council will consider a more expansive ordinance similar to those adopted by State College and Patton Township.

By requiring compliance with state orders, the ordinance is flexible to change in conjunction with any tightening or lessening of masking requirements issued by the health department. 

"We did have an awful lot of input from many members of the community, including the business community and this was something that would actually be beneficial to them to help with compliance and also to ensure we have the greatest chances of being able to stay open and continue to recover economically from what has been a pretty significant hit," Councilman Paul Takac said. 

Councilman Eric Bernier added that some business owners have said it "would help customer confidence" to know there is consistent masking requirements at businesses throughout the township.

The order issued by the Department of Health in July requires face coverings to be worn when outdoors and unable to maintain a distance of 6 feet from individuals who are not members of their household; in any indoor location where members of the public are generally permitted; obtaining services from the health care sector, except when a procedure requires the mask to be removed; engaged in work while interacting with the public; working in any space visited by members of the public; working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for distribution; working in or walking through common areas.

It also contains several exceptions, including individuals who cannot wear a mask because of a medical or mental health condition; those for whom wearing a mask would create an unsafe working condition as determined by federal, state or local regulations; individuals who are communicating with a person who has a hearing impairment or other disability where the ability to see the mouth is necessary for communication; and children under 2.

Ferguson Township also approved an ordinance last week focused solely on masking, but ordinances adopted by State College and Patton Township are more restrictive, placing limits on gatherings at residences and public parks, as well restricting waiting lines on public sidewalks outside of businesses.

On Sept. 3, College Township will hold a public hearing on an additional ordinance that would address gatherings and lines.

After discussion by council on Thursday night, the proposed ordinance would limit indoor residential gatherings to 25 people and outdoor gatherings at residences, township parks and other municipal properties to 50 people.

Like State College and Patton Township, the gathering restrictions would not apply to non-residential properties, including commercial properties, private businesses, schools and religious institutions. Nor would it apply to events and activities sanctioned by Centre Region Parks and Recreation, State College Area School District or Penn State, as well as constitutionally-protected activities in public spaces.

The State College ordinance limits residential gatherings to 10 people (except where the household is larger than 10) and gatherings at public parks/municipal property to 25. Patton Township's limits residential gatherings to 25 and outdoor gatherings at public parks/municipal properties to 50.

The current state order limits all indoor gatherings to 25 people and all outdoor gatherings to 250.

College Township's proposed ordinance also would requiring individuals waiting in line to enter a business to wear masks, be spaced 6 feet apart and not be in front of another business or property. But where the State College and Patton Township ordinances limit lines to 10 people on public rights of way, the College Township ordinance would include no limit on the number of people in the queue.

"We’re trying to protect our local businesses and economy and keep them going as long as we possibly can, helping keep everybody healthy and stopping the spread of this to keep it from further decimating our economy and community," Takac said. "This is our way of helping to address that. We’re just trying to do the right thing to keep everybody healthy and also protect our businesses. It gives them the tools to help them be more effective."

Township Manager Adam Brumbaugh said that in addition to State College police, which is contracted by College Township, any sworn officer of the township, such as zoning and ordinance enforcement, as well as emergency personnel could enforce the approved and proposed ordinances.

The Centre Region's other two municipalities — Halfmoon and Harris townships — are not currently planning local masking or gathering ordinances.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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