What does Pennsylvania’s new face mask order mean for churches?

by | Jul 2, 2020 | Church, Health | 3 comments

Update: See a Pastors Briefing email from Kurt Weaver (Director, Church Ambassador Network) with further insights into this new order.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has issued an updated order for face coverings and now churches across Pennsylvania are wondering how this new order pertains to churches and church life.

Here are three points to help you understand this new order

1. Face Covering Order

Outdoor church meeting: If attendees are socially distanced from non-family members, this new order does not require you to wear masks.

Indoor church meeting: It is unclear how the Department of Health intends this recent order to apply to churches and what this means, particularly if you are meeting indoors. 

The Church Ambassador Network has requested and been promised additional guidance by the PA Department of Health, which we will provide to you as soon as possible.

2. Order Enforcement

At this time, no citations will be issued and law enforcement will not enforce the new mask wearing requirement order. As the Health Department spokesperson, Nate Wardle, stated, ”We are relying on the good sense and cooperative spirit of Pennsylvanians to follow the Sec. of Health’s mask-wearing requirement order, and at this time law enforcement will not be charged with enforcing this latest order with citations for noncompliance.”

3. Taking Communion

The Health Department spokesperson also stated, “As far as eating, yes, the mask should be worn until the point of eating or drinking, at which point the individual does not need to be wearing a mask until they finish.” It stands to reason then that taking communion would be allowable under this description.

Allegheny County Order

The Allegheny County Health Department issued a new order today prohibiting gatherings of over 25 people, starting at 12:01am tomorrow (Friday, July 3rd). However, they exclude religious gatherings. “This Order does not apply to religious gatherings held by churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, or other places of worship. Religious institutions remain subject to any requirements set forth by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.” Click here to read order.

One additional note: Governor Wolf instituted his current reopening plan with this exemption (which still stands): “Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of congregate worship are specifically excluded from the limitations established by this Order. These institutions are strongly encouraged to enforce social distancing and other mitigation measures like masking at their gatherings.” Click here to read order.