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Commissioners' Resolution Encourages Wearing Masks in Centre County

by on June 30, 2020 10:07 PM

Centre County commissioners on Tuesday moved forward with a resolution that will urge residents and businesses throughout the county to continue using masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Chair Michael Pipe and Vice-Chair Mark Higgins agreed to move the resolution to the consent agenda for the next commissioners meeting on July 7. Commissioner Steve Dershem was not in attendance. The commissioners will continue to accept public feedback until next week at [email protected].

"When we don’t wear the masks, we’re really threatening the progress we’ve made as a community, especially when the students return," Pipe said. "When we have the Penn State students returning it’s going to be very important that we as a community demonstrate and model good behavior."

The resolution calls on all who live, work and visit Centre County —except those with a preventative medical condition or who are under the age of 2 — to wear a mask when in a business or when in a public space where social distancing cannot be maintained.

The Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization both recommend wearing masks or cloth face coverings in such situations. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spread easily from person to person, primarily through respiratory droplets produced by sneezing, coughing, talking or breathing. Those droplets can land in the mouth or nose, or be inhaled into the lungs, by another person, especially when people are in close proximity.

Laboratory and field studies have shown the effectiveness of masks in limiting the spread of those droplets and COVID-19.

"Masking is one of the best ways that we can save lives and bring back jobs," Pipe said.

He pointed to a statement by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who wrote on Twitter that face coverings will allow for "more freedom to go out," noting that masks will mean less asymptomatic viral spread and in turn more places will be able to open sooner.

The commissioners' proposed resolution echoes and endorses Gov. Tom Wolf's requirement for mandatory masking in businesses and crowded public places.

“The importance of mask-wearing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect people and businesses cannot be overstated,” Wolf said in a statement last week. “Masks are required in businesses, for the entire time someone is visiting a business. It’s that simple and that important to continue to safely reopen the state and keep our case counts on the decline.”

Enforcement of masking has largely been left to businesses — though liquor license holders could face fines or even the loss of their licenses for failure to comply with COVID-19 safety guidance, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Pipe and Higgins said they felt that Centre County has done well with masking, but that it is critical that continues for the county to continue to move forward.

An analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer showed that in states where masks are mandatory in public, new COVID-19 cases fell by 25 percent from June 1-21. In states where they are recommended but not required in any place, new cases grew by 84 percent during that same period.

"We’ve all been used to no shoes, no shirt, no service now for decades. That was more of a basic hygiene situation," Higgins said. "With masks, it’s going to save lives. It might not be yours, but it could quite possibly be a loved one or next door neighbor.

"If we can normalize this behavior in Centre County, when the students come back it will be a lot more likely that most of them are wearing masks. If they come back and it’s a haphazard, do-whatever-you-feel-like situation… we have one local hospital. I know people think it’s a big hospital, but it’s not a very big hospital."

Higgins added that while continuing to use masks, it's important for residents to support local businesses, many of whom are hurting from previous shutdowns and restrictions.

The resolution also expresses appreciation to businesses and organizations that have been encouraging mask use, offers guidance for using masks, calls for continued social distancing and frequent hand washing, and pledges that the commissioners will allocate a portion of the county's $14.7 million in CARES Act funds to the purchase of masks and other protective equipment for businesses, nonprofits and faith communities.

The commissioners will send a copy of the resolution to the governing bodies of each of Centre County's 35 municipalities and encourage them to adopt similar resolutions.

State College Borough Councilman Evan Myers said he strongly supports the resolution, citing the numerous studies showing masks reduce infections and deaths, as well as the pending return of thousands of Penn State students.

"I will be working with my fellow State College Council members to encourage we adopt whatever measures we can to recommend and if possible require the wearing of face masks in State College and do what we can to encourage and implement physical distancing," Myers said.

"This is both a health and economic issue. It keeps people safer and healthier and it gives people more confidence when shopping and conducting business. We require licenses to drive a car, we require that people cut the grass on their lawns and we can do no less in protecting lives and our economy by requiring the wearing of face masks."

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