PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Pennsylvania's universal mask mandate is getting lifted Monday at 12:01 a.m., but don't throw your masks away.
It's been more than one year since Pennsylvanians started wearing face coverings and now, they are getting a breath of fresh air. All Pennsylvanians, vaccinated or not, are no longer required to wear a mask.
Many people said they are ready to take their masks off and show their smiles.
"I think it's time. I think people are taking the precautions that they need to, and I think everyone is ready to get back to life as it was," said Tabitha Warman, who was enjoying the day with her family in Squirrel Hill.
But then again, many other people plan to continue covering their nose and mouth in certain places.
"I'm definitely still going to wear it in grocery stores and crowds for now and airports to be safe," said Kieran Bell, who was with friends in Squirrel Hill.
"I think it's a little early but I'm happy that we can at least not have masks outside. It might be a little early for inside," said Nadia Narnor, Bell's friend.
Allegheny Health Network Dr. Brian Lamb said if you haven't received the COVID-19 shot in your arm, you should consider wearing a mask or getting vaccinated.
"Just because masks are coming off, if you're not protected, really that little extra layer of protection of everyone wearing masks is gone, and so it's going to put you at slightly higher risk and we would like everyone to think about getting their vaccine in the next couple weeks," said Dr. Lamb.
Keep in mind, businesses and healthcare providers can still make face coverings a requirement and the CDC requires it for public transportation.
Dr. Lamb said you may also need a mask if COVID-19 becomes seasonal like the flu.
"One thing we saw last year, we didn't have a lot of flu or upper respiratory symptoms because people were wearing their masks. I think it might actually become fashionable for people to start wearing their masks during flu and cold season which is usually our winter months and really maybe even for COVID season," said Dr. Lamb.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports about 75 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older have received their first dose and about 60 percent are fully vaccinated.
Allegheny county's executive director Rich Fitzgerald said almost 80 percent of Allegheny County residents have at least one shot. He said he's confident about the mask mandate being lifted.
"I feel very comfortable in doing this. I'm actually hoping more workplaces get people back to work. I'd like to see downtown with a lot more activity," Fitzgerald said.
The health department encourages unvaccinated people to wear a mask in public. Dr. Lamb said unvaccinated people should especially wear a mask if in a large group or around someone who may be immunocompromised.
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