STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ)–Masks are something most have grown more accustomed to seeing across the commonwealth, during the Covid-19 pandemic… but have some Central Pennsylvanians gotten a bit lackadaisical in masking?
WTAJ spoke with locals from a few different communities to gather their take on masking.
The story is below:
To mask–or not to mask–that is the question.
Many have reached out to WTAJ expressing confusion on PA’s masking policies.. asking: When do you actually have to wear a mask?
Per PA Governor Tom Wolf and the PA Department of Health, it’s recommended but not required to wear a mask outside on the street.
But, when inside businesses or public buildings it’s required that customers wear masks while on the premises, and that businesses deny entry to individuals not wearing masks.
(See the language pulled from the PA DOH below).
This applies to all counties in the yellow and green phase.
There are exceptions allowing customers to take a mask off inside–like when eating or drinking at a restaurant/bar, and when working out at a gym.
Also those with a medical condition that’s impacted by wearing a mask, aren’t required to wear one.. and no documentation of this condition is required.
(See the statement from the PA DOH below).
Technically, one could lie about having a condition and not have to wear a mask.
“It’s irresponsible behavior to make up a medical condition to get out of something,” said Michael Gerver from State College.
“I have a hard time believing that every single person who refuses to wear one has some sort of lung condition,” said Madelin Hulbert who works at a Centre County grocery store. She said she has experience seeing some customers try to enter without masks.
“We’ve had quite a few customers who’ve given us a hard time about it,” Hulbert said.
But she added that her store is strict with customers.
“Ultimately they either do put one on or are asked to leave the store,” she said.
Some WTAJ spoke with feel State College has a higher percentage of folks wearing masks compared to other cities in Central PA.
“There’s a bit of a mix in State College. I would say more people–like 80 to 90 percent–are wearing them than not wearing them. Going outside the area… we were just in Altoona, and I definitely see less people wearing them there,” said Courtney Gerver.
She added: “Masks to me are like seat belts. You’re probably not going to get into an accident, but why take the risk and not wear a mask.”
“I think it’s silly not to wear a mask. I always wear one in a store—it’s preventing you from spreading the virus to other people. I’m irritated when I see people not wearing it. It’s inconsiderate to others.” said Rebecca Hirsch, from State College.
She said: “I don’t see a good reason not to wear a mask in this day and age.”
Some did give WTAJ reasons why they (or those they know) don’t mask.
“Discomfort is a main reason they don’t wear them,” said Tyler Gully.
“Some people don’t like being told what to do,” said Jenessa Huff of State College.
“People are too stubborn to wear them. They don’t like to listen or care what other people want them to do,” said Abigale Kramer, from the Clearfield area. She was in State College when she spoke to WTAJ.
Kramer said compared to the State College community, Clearfield residents aren’t as concerned with masking.
WTAJ: “If you go to a store like Walmart or Lowe’s on a typical Saturday in Clearfield, how many people will have a mask on?”
Kramer: “Probably less than 50-percent of people. If I go to Walmart, I usually don’t have it on–because there’s a lot of people there that don’t usually wear it.”
She added: “Since [Clearfield] is smaller than State College… they shouldn’t be required [to wear masks] compared to more populated areas.”
Huff told WTAJ: “People know they can get away with it right now, so they’re not trying to follow the rules.”
PA State Police in Troop G confirmed they have gotten calls related to businesses and individuals not following the mask requirements. However, they said they’re taking an educational approach to these calls by teaching violators about the mask policy, and why it’s important to follow.
Thus far, State Police in Central PA have not handed out any out citations related to a failure to mask.
This has some calling for things to change—by asking State Police to hand out fines and if necessary disorderly conduct charges to those who fail to wear a mask in required areas.
“It would be a deterrent,” Michael Gerver said.
“People should be thinking about other people, rather than themselves in this whole situation,” Huff said.
Others said they feel cracking down (with penalties) for those who don’t mask will only increase the number of locals who choose not to wear them.
“I think people would start to get angry if [police] made them wear masks… more people would rebel and not wear them,” said Kramer
WTAJ asked State Police if they would consider issuing fines, or perhaps more severe charges for those failing to wear a mask in required areas… thus far the station has not received as response.