On track to achieve vaccine benchmark, Pa. plans to lift mask mandate by June 28

Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam speaks at a press conference.

Pennsylvania is on track to fully vaccinate 70 percent of adults by the end of June, meaning the most visible reminder of the COVID-19 pandemic — masks — will soon become optional.

“We have determined that the commonwealth mask order can safely be lifted on June 28, or when 70 percent of adults get their second dose,” whichever benchmark is hit first, acting State Health Secretary Alison Beam said during a Thursday press conference. “That puts the future in the hands of all Pennsylvanians.”

The majority of statewide restrictions, except for masking, are scheduled to expire at 12:01 a.m. Monday. But the 70 percent benchmark to lift the mask mandate serves as an additional incentive for those eligible to get vaccinated, Beam said.

Businesses can still impose individual masking, capacity, and social distancing requirements even after the order is lifted, according to state guidelines. The state has no plans to mandate getting a COVID-19 vaccine, but schools may choose to implement vaccine requirements, Beam added.

Despite update to CDC masking rule, Pa. businesses, schools can require masks

Statewide data show that nearly 98 percent of senior citizens and 70 percent of adults have received at least one dose. Beam said the Health Department is still monitoring daily case numbers, hospitalizations, and the death toll and protecting vulnerable populations.

Beam declined to say whether the pandemic is over. Instead, she said Pennsylvania “is at a point of transition.”

“There’s a point where the state wants to make sure that folks also take self-responsibility for how they’re going to safely conduct their lives and their family lives and the community is moving forward,” Beam said. “And at this time, that’s more indicative of why we want to lift the mitigation orders and really progress safely to even lifting that masking order so that folks can self regulate and be able to bring back some activities that maybe they were engaging in pre-pandemic times, but do it safely and do it acutely aware of the risks that are still posed by COVID-19.”

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania since the beginning of the pandemic reached 1,199,536 on Thursday — a 941 increase from Wednesday. There are 1,172 individuals hospitalized due to the coronavirus. Of those, 296 patients are in the intensive care unit, according to state data.