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State College, Penn State Mask Requirements Remain in Effect

Correction: A previous version of this story stated Patton Township had its own provisions in effect for indoor masking. The township enacted changes to its ordinance on April 28 to follow CDC and Department of Health guidance.

State College and Penn State continue to require masks indoors and in crowded settings outdoors regardless of vaccination status — for now — despite a change to the statewide mask order by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Following Centers for Disease Control guidance, the state health department on Thursday updated its order to state that anyone who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer needs to wear a mask or practice physical distancing in most places, indoors and outdoors.

The guidance does require masks to be worn in some circumstances, regardless of vaccination status. Those include in doctor’s offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters and prisons and on airplanes, buses and other public transportation.

Local governments, businesses and organization, however, still can continue to enforce their own restrictions.

In State College, borough council voted on Monday to update its temporary COVID-19 ordinance to reflect current DOH orders for outdoor masking, but it still contains requirements for wearing masks indoors in most places open to the public regardless of vaccination status, with some exceptions.

“The Borough of State College’s Ordinance is still in effect that all persons vaccinated or unvaccinated must wear a face covering while indoors,” a statement from the borough on Friday said. “With only an average of 50% persons vaccinated, and the fact that vaccination cards have been duplicated and sold online, the only way to keep the community safe from the COVID-19 virus is to continue requiring masking of all persons indoors.”

While most COVID-19 mitigation orders in Pennsylvania will be lifted on May 31, the statewide mask order will not be fully lifted for unvaccinated people until 70% of the state’s adults are vaccinated, according to Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration

State College’s ordinance, which also limits indoor and outdoor residential gatherings to 25 people and gatherings on municipal property to 50, is in effect until July 31 or until the health department or Centre Region Council of Governments rescind their emergency declarations.

Borough council can also vote to amend or repeal the ordinance at any time. Council’s next meeting is on June 7.

Violations of the ordinance carry a $300 fine, though police and borough officials have repeatedly said their focus is on education and that issuing a citation is usually a last resort.

Penn State, meanwhile, issued a statement of Friday saying that while the university evaluates the new guidance, “masking and physical distancing is expected by all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — inside Penn State campus buildings and on public transportation across all campuses.”

When outdoors on campus, vaccinated people are not required to wear a mask or practice physical distancing, but unvaccinated individuals “must continue to wear masks when physical distancing from individuals outside of the same household or ‘pod’ is not possible.”

“Penn State is a complex organization, which is spread across the entire commonwealth,” Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement. “So, while we are reviewing the new federal and state guidelines, we ask that our community continue to follow the defined University guidance to protect the health and safety of our community.”

Barron “strongly encouraged” students to report their vaccine through MyUHS. A similar system is planned for employees.

“With this information we will be better able to assess vaccination rates,” Barron said.

Elsewhere in the Centre Region, College, Ferguson and Patton townships each have local COVID-19 ordinances, which include provisions for masking and gathering sizes.

College  and Patton townships’ ordinances were updated in April to simply follow current DOH orders on masking, while Ferguson Township’s ordinances contain similar provisions to State College’s.

A review of the ordinance is on the agenda for the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday.