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State College Amends and Extends COVID-19 Ordinance

State College’s temporary COVID-19 ordinance will remain in effect through the end of July, albeit with some changes.

Borough council on Monday night unanimously approved amendments to the ordinance that will loosen the mask-wearing requirement, gathering limits and waiting line restrictions. The ordinance was previously set to expire on May 31.

The change comes a week after Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced that most of the commonwealth’s COVID-19 restrictions — with the exception of the order requiring mask-wearing — will end on Memorial Day. The masking order will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvania’s adult population is fully vaccinated.

Administration officials said local municipalities can continue to enforce their own requirements.

“I think we need to continue this,” Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said in support of the amended borough ordinance. “I personally would really hate to know, be the parent of, child of, spouse of the last person in Centre County to die of COVID because we were in a hurry to hang out with a small or large crowd.”

Under the amended ordinance the limit on indoor and outdoor residential gatherings increases from 10 people to 25. Gathering capacity in borough parks and other municipal property increases from 25 to 50 people.

As in the version that has been in place since August, the gathering limits do not apply to a number of events, such as religious functions, weddings, funerals, demonstrations and Centre Region Parks and Recreation activities. They also do not apply to non-residential properties like businesses or schools.

The amended ordinance eliminates the limit of 10 people in a waiting line outside a business as well as social distancing requirements. It now only requires that people waiting in line wear masks.

Assistant Borough Manager Tom King said last week that enforcing the limit on the number of people in line was a challenge because the lengths were constantly changing.

The ordinance’s outdoor mask-wearing provisions were changed to simply follow Centers for Disease Control and Department of Health guidelines.

Both the CDC and DOH have updated their guidelines to state that, among other circumstances, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks for outdoor activities, except in crowded settings and venues. Penn State also recently updated its masking requirements to reflect CDC guidance.

Masks are still required indoors in places open to the public and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status.

Exemptions for indoor masking remain in place including for people with documented medical conditions that prevent wearing a face covering; individuals who are hearing impaired or who are communicating with someone who is; those for whom wearing a face covering while working would create a safety risk; individuals receiving a service, treatment or medical procedure requiring the removal of a mask; people who are seated at a dining establishment; and people who are working alone with no expectation of in-person interaction.

Violations of the ordinance are punishable by a fine of $300.

Borough council’s vote also extended the ordinance to July 31, or until either the Department of Health or Centre Region Council of Governments lift their emergency declarations, whichever comes first. Council can also vote to rescind the ordinance at any time.

“If things change on the ground we can always move the deadline back but I’m more comfortable with the July 31 deadline,” Council President Jesse Barlow said.

Out of Centre County’s population of 162,385 residents, 75,740 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday morning, including 57,098 who are fully vaccinated.