There is little doubt that many Pennsylvanians will quibble about the latest COVID-19 orders issued Tuesday by state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.
But there should be no argument that we still have a personal responsibility to follow any recommendations that will help protect ourselves and others from a highly infectious virus that harbors unpredictable and potentially life-threatening effects.
Amid a recent surge in positive COVID cases and steady rise in hospitalizations, Levine announced Tuesday that people who visit Pennsylvania and residents who travel out of the state and return must get tested for COVID-19 or quarantine for two weeks. She also strengthened the state’s order requiring people to wear facial masks whenever they gather, even inside residences if non-family members are present.
Although the words “order” and “required” are used multiple times in the statement posted by the Department of Health, there will be no formal institutional enforcement, Dr. Levine acknowledged during her briefing, which was streamed online Tuesday afternoon.
These words will likely fuel ongoing debates about whether the government is intruding on personal freedoms, reaching into our homes or preventing us from traveling and earning a living, but we must not be distracted from mitigating this health crisis.
Levine said that while the state has no plans to formally enforce the orders, residents should take them seriously.
“I don’t think this is empty rhetoric. These public health measures are necessary,” she said, adding that if people don’t comply, it will be more likely the pandemic surge will worsen and the state will need to put additional mitigation restrictions in place.
Let’s not get so caught up in the terminology that we overlook the highly recommended and proven protocols we all can take to slow the spread of this virus — maintaining social distance, wearing a mask when we are close to others, washing our hands and limiting travel and social gatherings.
We will get through this by maintaining our primary focus on personal responsibilities to ourselves and others.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.