On November 17, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced additional targeted mitigation efforts aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.  These targeted mitigation efforts addressed out of state travel and mask wearing.  Specifically, the Department’s orders regarding targeted mitigation are as follows:

  1. Travel

Under the new order, any individual traveling into or returning to Pennsylvania from another state or international location must either produce evidence of a negative COVID test from a specimen collected within 72 hours prior to entering the state, or must quarantine for 14 days upon entry.  Certain individuals are exempted from this requirement, including: those individuals commuting to and from Pennsylvania for work, individuals traveling to and from Pennsylvania for medical reasons (including individuals providing comfort and support to a patient), military personnel traveling to and from Pennsylvania pursuant to military orders, and individuals in transit through the state to another destination provided the amount of time they spend within Pennsylvania is minimal and necessary to complete their transit.  In order to constitute a valid test, the test must be one which has been authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration.  Any travelers who do not have test results at the time they are entering Pennsylvania must isolate at their travel destination until they receive their test results.  This order goes into effect as of November 20, 2020.

  1. Masking

Under the amended, strengthened masking order, individuals are required to wear masks under certain circumstances, the following of which are some examples:

  • When indoors in the presence of other individuals who are not part of your household, even if you are able to maintain 6 feet of separation at all times.
  • When outdoors, if you are not able to maintain social distancing with someone who is not part of your household for the entire time you are outdoors.
  • When participating in physical activity where individuals who are not members of your own household are present, regardless of physical distance.
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation, or while in a taxi or ride sharing vehicle irrespective of physical distance.
  • When working in any space where food is prepared, packaged for sale, or prepared for distribution to others.

Exceptions to the mask requirement still apply.  For example, individuals are not required to wear a mask if doing so would create or affect a medical condition, would create an unsafe working environment for operating equipment, or when working alone (defined in the order as “when a person is isolated from interaction with other people with little or no expectation of in-person interruption”).

Schools are specifically identified as having certain obligations in Section 4 of the Order.  Under this Section, school entities have certain mandatory obligations, which are listed here in full, as follows:

  1. Require that all people, including their employees, teachers, students and visitors, wear a face covering and take reasonable steps to enforce the requirement.
  2. Mitigate or eliminate employee, teacher, student, and visitor exposure to people who cannot wear or refuse to wear a face covering.
  3. Post prominent signs that are visible to all people—including employees, teachers, students, and visitors—stating that face coverings are required by the Order of the Secretary of Health.
  4. Provide reasonable accommodations to people, including their employees, teachers, students, and visitors, who state they have a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the person to maintain a face covering.

Additionally, the Order advises that a school entity should not:

  1. Enforce face covering requirements when it is unsafe to do so.
  2. Restrain, assault, use force, or physically remove employees, teachers, students, or other individuals who refuse to comply with this Order when it would not otherwise be legal to do so.
  3. Violate other laws, including state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

It does not appear that this Order amends the guidance issued by the Department of Education permitting reasonable mask breaks during the school day.  If the Department issues additional guidance overruling that, our office will issue a supplemental notification.  Moreover, neither the travel nor the masking order contain any enforcement provisions, so it is unclear how these orders will be enforced.  This order is effective as of November 18, 2020.

Our office will continue to issue updates as new guidance is promulgated.  Please contact our Public Sector Law team with any questions.

Access the Orders from the Pennsylvania Department of Health below:


Alfred C. Maiello
Alfred Maiello

Alfred C. Maiello is the founding member of MBM and has represented area school districts as solicitor for 50 years. He counsels school districts and educational institutions on leading developments in school law and guiding them through their day-to-day and long-term challenges.