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Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Police May Issue Citations Over Mask Order, But State Wants Voluntary Compliance

UPDATE: On Monday, Nov. 23, among several new mitigation efforts, the state announced it's stepping up enforcements on public health orders like the recently strengthened mask mandate.

"Orders already in place and those announced today will be enforced, and law enforcement and state agencies will be stepping up enforcement efforts, issuing citations and fines and possible regulatory actions for repeat offenders," said Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

"It has to be our collective responsibility to protect our communities, our healthcare workers and our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians from COVID-19."

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It'll be a small and intimate Thanksgiving for most of us this year. Shannon Savol will be dining alone with her husband without risking relatives or friends.

"It's sad, but it's the right thing to do so we're not too stressed out about it," she said.

Most people it seems are taking to heart new orders from state and Allegheny County health departments to limit gathering, stay put as much as possible and wear a mask pretty much all the time.

Under state orders, masks are required indoors and out -- outdoors within 6 feet of others, and indoors at home when non-family members are present. The order applies to all indoor spaces, including stores, restaurants and gyms.

But Dr. Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania Health Secretary, said: "It will be the responsibility of law enforcement and businesses to enforce those mandates when people are in those businesses."


Levine says while the state is relying on the public to follow the order, police have the authority to issue warnings or citations to anyone who does not comply. But police say they're in the dark.

"We don't have guidance or mandates from the state as far as what to enforce in mask orders. We've been fortunate -- when we do get a call, we've been able to work out an amicable agreement between the parties," said Det. Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp of the Ross Township Police.

Pitt just cited 313 students for violating COVID protocols, but students KDKA's Andy Sheehan spoke with say they'll be getting tested for COVID before returning home for Thanksgiving.

"Yeah, I want to. My parents want me to. Everybody's a little nervous with these cases," said Pitt student Justin Dressel.

Health departments are concerned about the coming week: the night before Thanksgiving when young people like to gather in bars, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday following.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says the onus is on the public to do the right things.

"Not law enforcement. Not Dr. Bogen or Secretary Levine. It's up to all of us to do this," he said.

The state Health Department says the mask order is a legal order under the Disease Prevention and Control Law and as such, police can issue citations and businesses can be cited. However, they say they're really just asking for cooperation.

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