Reverend and dear Father,
This afternoon, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, held a conference call with the news media to announce four new mitigation efforts to help control the spread of COVID-19.
For your reference and information, I am providing you the information released by the state, along with links to the new orders that will take effect.
The most significant announcement for our Diocesan parishes and schools involves the strengthened masking order. While I have urged everyone to be diligent about mask wearing – the new indoor rules indicate that even if you are able to stay six feet apart from other people – you will need to wear a mask if those individuals are not in your immediate household.
With the number of COVID cases rising, I urge you to remain vigilant to all policies and procedures that are in place.
I will continue to share important information with you as the situation warrants.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton
STRENGTHENED MASKING ORDER
Dr. Levine first issued a masking order on April 15. The order signed today strengthens this initial order with these inclusions:
- Masks are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home.
- When outdoors, a mask must be worn if you are not able to remain physically distant (at least 6 feet away) from someone not in your household the entire time you are outdoors.
- When indoors, masks will now be required even if you are physically distant from members not in your household. This means that even if you are able to be 6 feet apart, you will need to wear a mask while inside if with people other than members of your household.
- This order applies to every indoor facility, including homes, retail establishments, gyms, doctors’ offices, public transportation, and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.
Dr. Levine issued an order requiring anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth.
If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvanians visiting other states are required to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to their return to the commonwealth or to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.
This order, which takes effect on Friday, November 20, does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work or medical treatment.
PROTECTING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
Dr. Levine issued a memorandum to acute care hospitals outlining expectations to care for Pennsylvanians who need care during the pandemic.
Hospitals are to work through the established health care coalitions and other partnerships to prepare for how they will support one another in the event that a hospital becomes overwhelmed during the pandemic. Hospitals should also be working to move up elective procedures necessary to protect a person’s health and prepare to suspend them if our health care system becomes strained.
Restrictions on elective surgeries put into effect in March and lifted in April were to help with both PPE and bed capacity and were considered successful.
Hospitalizations are increasing, as are ICU patients, and according to modeling from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, which does not take into account hospitalizations from influenza, Pennsylvania will run out of intensive care beds in December if ICU admissions continue at the current rate.
The same modeling indicates we will have sufficient medical-surgical beds with some uncertainty as to capacity from region to region.
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
The departments of Health and Education issued recommendations for colleges and universities to implement a testing plan for when students return to campus following the holidays.
These recommendations include establishing routine protocols for testing.
Colleges and universities should have adequate capacity for isolation and quarantine and should be prepared to enforce violations of established policies such as mask wearing and physical distancing.
Every college and university should test all students at the beginning of each term, when returning to campus after a break and to have regular screening testing throughout the semester/term.