DCIU COVID-19 Updates
July 22, 2020
Reinstituting Statewide Restrictions
Governor Tom Wolf and Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on July 15, signed new orders for targeted mitigation efforts in response to the recent rise in COVID cases, primarily in southwest Pennsylvania, but also in other counties in the state, influencing the decision for statewide mitigation efforts for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework. The new orders took effect on July 16.
The new orders prohibit nightclubs from operating, place renewed restrictions on bars, restaurants and gym facilities, prohibits indoor events and gatherings of more than 25 persons are prohibited and outdoor events and gatherings of more than 250, requires businesses to utilize teleworking unless it is impossible (and practicing adherence to previous guidance for work sites in that case). Businesses and individuals in violation of these orders, issued pursuant to the authority granted to the Governor and the Secretary of Health under the law, including the Pennsylvania Disease Control and Prevention Law, could be subject to fines, business closure or other applicable enforcement measures.
Wolf and Levine noted three catalysts for case increases across the state: ignoring mask-wearing requirements and social distancing, out-of-state travel, and lack of national coordination in addressing the COVID threat.
During a press conference, when asked whether the governor would be making decisions about school reopening under the new restrictions, Gov. Wolf said he did not think he would do it but rather that teachers and parents ultimately would when making a decision about returning or sending their children into classrooms. He also stressed the importance of following the new restrictions to allow Pennsylvania schools to have the confidence to reopen.
Updated Guidance about School Reopening
Following the governor’s announcement about further restrictions across the commonwealth, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera jointly announced the release of updated guidance to help Pre-K to 12 schools prepare to reopen and safely educate students for in-person learning. Both emphasized that each school entity will determine if classes resume in person at school buildings, remotely or a combination of both options
“Our goal is to ensure a safe return to school for students, educators and staff by following best practices to mitigate the spread of the virus, including wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “In those instances when someone tests positive, public health staff from the department will immediately assist the school with risk assessment, isolation and quarantine recommendations, and other infection control recommendations.”
According to the departments, the guidance provides a list of best practices for schools to consider before the start of in-person classes and represents endorsed best public health practices related to social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfecting in school settings. It also outlines how to accommodate individuals with disabilities or chronic conditions, procedures for monitoring symptoms, and responding to confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in the school community.
“The health and safety of students, teachers and staff must be paramount as schools prepare for the upcoming school year,” said Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. “The Department of Education has been focused on supporting schools with resources and best practices to help school leaders make informed decisions within their local contexts and in response to evolving conditions.”
The best practice recommendations for schools outlined by the departments of Health and Education include:
* Masks must be worn by students and staff at school and on the bus as required by the order signed by Sec. of Health Dr. Levine on July 1, with some exceptions. Masks can be removed to eat or drink.
* Students or caregivers should do a daily symptom screening before leaving for school.
* Students, teachers and other staff are strongly encouraged to follow social distancing throughout the day with 6 feet of separation between desks and other seating.
* If possible, hold classes in gyms, auditoriums, other large spaces or outdoors, where physical distancing can be maintained.
* Student seating should be facing in the same direction.
* Limit student interactions by staggering class times, creating one-way walking patterns in hallways, and, when feasible, keeping students in a classroom and rotating teachers instead.
* For breakfast and lunch, consider serving individually packaged meals in classrooms and avoid across-the-table seating. If meals are served in a cafeteria, sit students at least 6 feet apart.
* Limit the number of students on playgrounds at one time and encourage social distancing.
* Encourage the use of virtual gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities.
The guidance for school sports is unchanged. Coaches, athletes, and spectators must wear masks unless they can maintain 6 feet of separation outdoors. Athletes can remove masks during a workout or competition.