Updated 4:05 p.m.
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On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 87,242 coronavirus cases since the coronavirus pandemic began, and 6,687 deaths.
As of Wednesday, Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health has reported 26,257 cases and 1,609 deaths.
Wolf expands mask mandate; must be worn every time you leave the house
Following Philly’s mask order from a few days ago, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine signed an order Wednesday expanding the mask-wearing directive beyond just inside businesses.
Effective immediately, Pennsylvanians statewide must wear a mask every time they leave the house and when social distancing isn’t possible.
“This mask-wearing order is essential to stopping the recent increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “Those hot spots can be traced to situations where Pennsylvanians were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing – two practices that must be adhered to if we want to maintain the freedoms we have in place under our reopening.”
There are limited exceptions to the order, such as people who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition including those with respiratory problems or other health issues; children under the age of two years old; people who cannot remove a mask without assistance; and people for which the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
The order will be sent to local officials and law enforcement and others will be tasked with educating the public about the order.
Pennsylvania sounds the alarm about $600 COVID-19 payments running out
Federal unemployment assistance payments that help many out-of-work Pennsylvanians get by will end at the end of this month, warned state officials on Wednesday.
Without a new stimulus package, the $600-a-week payments created through the federal CARES Act added will run out on July 25. These payments are currently added automatically on top of state-issued unemployment benefits, which max out at $573 per week.
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry secretary Jerry Oleksiak said Pennsylvania would like to see them stay. “Anything that the federal government can do to help the citizens of America, and particularly Pennsylvania, get through this crisis will be welcomed,” he said.
The extra $600 payments were intended to keep people home during the pandemic, keep households afloat, and lubricate the economy as the country’s unemployment rate hit its highest point since the Great Depression. Workers say the additional funds have helped keep their heads above water, while some employers complain it is incentivizing their employees to stay home.
On average, unemployment compensation covers only around 41% of a person’s previous income, according to the Brookings Institution. However, about half of all Americans earn wages so low that they stand to make more on this enhanced unemployment, per an analysis by the Wall Street Journal.
Democrats in Congress support keeping the payments, but some Republicans have said they would prefer to eliminate them, or replace them with a bonus for returning to work.
Congress will not meet again until the second half of July.
In the event that more federal support doesn’t materialize, state officials urged Pennsylvanians to apply for other forms of assistance, such as Medicaid and SNAP, or food assistance payments.
“I just want Pennsylvanians to know no matter what happens at the federal level, they don’t have to weather this time alone,” said Secretary Teresa Miller of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. The applications for those forms of assistance can be found here.
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