“What a joke.”
“COME OUT TO THE FIELD & MAKE ME WEAR IT.”
Dozens of farmers panned an order that went into effect this week requiring workers at Pennsylvania’s life-sustaining businesses to wear masks on the job to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Life-sustaining businesses include farms and agribusinesses, in addition to banks, medical facilities and grocery stores.
Businesses must provide masks to their employees and mandate mask wearing during work. Workers may also supply their own masks, according to the directive from Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s health secretary.
In response to Lancaster Farming’s initial story on the mask order, Facebook users mainly clicked the Angry and Haha reaction buttons, with several saying the rule seemed impractical for farms.
But the Health Department is sticking to the rule, which goes a step beyond the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of April 19, failure to comply with the state rule could result in a citation or fine.
In a guidance document, the Health Department said the wear-a-mask order applies even for people who work outside and in situations where workers can be spaced out.
If the farm has a store, customers must wear masks, or the farm should offer an alternate method of picking up food.
With few exceptions, “masks should be worn at all times,” the guidance says.
An employee is not required to wear a mask if it impedes vision, the person has a medical condition that prevents the use of a face covering, or the mask would make the task at hand unsafe.
Masks are also not required for employees when they are alone in their office, or when people are eating or drinking.
A Health Department spokesman said the order likely would not apply in situations where the business had only one worker.
While some farmers were unhappy with the face mask rule, the nation appears to be largely going along with mask-wearing guidance.
A Morning Consult poll conducted April 7-9 found 72% of Americans planned to wear face coverings in public in the following two weeks.
Extension educators and groups such as Pasa Sustainable Agriculture have also been urging farmers to follow state and federal guidance to protect themselves, their workers and their customers.
In addition to the mask-wearing requirement, the health secretary’s order says employers should provide enough space for workers to be at least 6 feet apart when taking breaks, avoid holding meetings in person, block nonessential visitors, and when possible, stagger work start and stop times to prevent large groups of people from coming or going at the same time.
The order also includes procedures businesses must follow upon discovering exposure to someone who has a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Employees must receive temperature screening before starting work and be sent home if they are at 100.4 F or higher. Sick employees should follow federal recommendations on home isolation.
Businesses must also close off and ventilate areas visited by the sick person; wait 24 hours, or as long as practical, to clean and disinfect; clean common areas; and inform employees who were within 6 feet of the person for 10 minutes.
As of Wednesday, more than 35,000 Pennsylvanians had contracted COVID-19, and more than 1,600 had died from the disease.
The full order is posted at bit.ly/MaskOrderPA
Information about the order is available in Spanish at bit.ly/SpanishOrderPA
Instructions for making masks are at bit.ly/MakeMaskPA