As Pennsylvania sees daily upticks in new coronavirus cases, Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday urged all residents to wear a cloth mask when they must leave home, a recommendation in line with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But on a day that the state reported 1,404 new confirmed cases, he stressed that doing so should not provide a false sense of safety.
“Masks help prevent people from sharing illnesses,” Wolf said. “They don’t do a great job at preventing people from getting sick, and they’re not foolproof, so it’s critical that our first act … is to ask ourselves whether we really need to leave our house.”
Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine said laypeople should not wear paper surgical masks or N95 masks, as these types of protective equipment should be reserved for essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
Instead, they urged people to make their own masks or find individuals or businesses in their area who are making them.
“Wearing a mask or even a bandanna could be an extra layer of protection,” Levine said. “Remember, a mask isn’t a pass to go back to work or visit friends or socialize.”
Masks will help reduce community spread, Wolf said, and protect essential workers. He said they prevent the mask-wearer from inadvertently infecting “innocent bystanders ... like the grocery store cashier, or the pharmacist or someone stocking shelves.”
Masks aren’t necessary for isolated outdoor exercise, Levine said, but she reminded people that they may encounter others when on hikes, runs, or walks in public areas.
The CDC now recommends all Americans wear non-medical cloth masks or facial coverings in public settings, President Donald Trump said Friday. He said wearing a covering is voluntary.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the cloth face coverings should be used in public settings where social distancing measures are tough to maintain, like grocery stores and pharmacies, but emphasized maintaining six feet of distancing is “key to preventing the virus’ spread.”
Earlier in the day, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city would follow the CDC guidance, and echoed other officials’ continued calls for social distancing as a first line of defense. People should not leave their homes more often if they are wearing a mask, he said.
"By wearing a face mask, you protect the people around you,” he said. “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”
Staff writers Ellie Rushing and Laura McCrystal contributed to this article.