For months, U.S. citizens have debated the efficacy of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. Some have tried to prove that it's a useless practice. Some have pointed out that it's, at the very least, a precautionary measure that isn't hurting anyone.
Others, such as the Mayo Clinic, note that mask-wearing is not a measure that the nation's populace should use by itself, but also that “countries that required face masks, testing, isolation and social distancing early in the pandemic have successfully slowed the spread of the virus.”
As 2020 has progressed, more and more states have started to require mask-wearing in public. People have followed these rules, if begrudgingly, to a certain extent. Now, PA is stepping up its recommendations.
Pennsylvania Legislators Considering a No-Mask Misdemeanor
Lawmakers in the Keystone State are debating the benefits of a bill that could penalize any refusal to follow the state's masking mandate. The bill surfaced early in September of 2020. Its language states that “A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if the person willfully fails to wear a mask or other face-covering that is necessary to protect public health.”
Currently, Pennsylvania's mask mandate requires that people use masks (correctly) when they are outdoors in situations where social distancing of six feet or more is not possible. PA residents must also follow the mask mandate when in public indoor locations.
Not everyone has been happy with the mask mandate. For example, in September of 2020, two Pennsylvania couples sued the state's government, claiming that “the state's face mask mandate and contact tracing program are signs of “tyranny” that strip them of their Constitutional rights.” Other actions that Pennsylvania's governor has taken, such as limiting gatherings and recommending the closure of small governments, have come under fire for being “unconstitutional.”
Despite this, the mask mandate continues. Public health experts have found that wearing masks has been associated with better health outcomes elsewhere in the nation. Many PA residents seem, at the very least, less vocal about any displeasure with the mandate: “in Philadelphia, the health department has been pleased by the overall compliance with the city's mask mandate.”
Currently, the proposed mask misdemeanor bill is under review at the Senate Judiciary Committee in Pennsylvania. If the governor signs it, the law will go into effect after 60 days.
Protecting Yourself and Your Rights in a Pandemic
If Pennsylvania follows other states (such as Connecticut, California, and New York) who have enacted penalties or fines for noncompliance with mask mandates, you might easily find yourself in a situation where you need a lawyer to help you avoid fees or formal criminal charges.
Joseph D. Lento is an experienced defense lawyer. For years, he has worked hard to assist Pennsylvania residents as they work towards favorable outcomes. If you need assistance, he'll be able to help. Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.