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Updates to COVID-19 Mitigation Orders and Gathering Limits

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

This page was created on May 13, 2021.

How do the changes regarding indoor and outdoor gathering limits that begin May 17 impact school events that are not related to instruction?

Beginning Monday, May 17, 2021, at 12:01AM, indoor and outdoor event and gathering maximum occupancy limits for school activities not related to educational instruction, including, but not limited to, sports, extracurricular activities, concerts, ceremonies, and meetings will change as follows:

    • May 17 – May 31, 2021: maximum occupancy limits will be increased to 50% for indoor events and gatherings and 75% for outdoor events and gatherings

    • May 31, 2021 and after: indoor and outdoor gathering limits are fully lifted

For the ongoing safety of all Pennsylvanians, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) continues to recommend that organizations, including schools, follow CDC guidance pertaining to COVID-19 safety measures and procedures which continues to recommend 6 feet of social distance between individuals from different households.

What are the physical or social distancing recommendations for instructional settings in schools after the targeted mitigation orders are fully lifted on May 31?

The DOH and Pennsylvania Department of Education continue to recommend that schools follow the guidelines for physical distancing outlined in the CDC Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention, which include:

  • In classrooms and other instructional spaces:
    • In elementary schools, students should be at least 3 feet apart, regardless of the community transmission level.
    • In middle and high schools, students should be at least 3 feet apart in areas of low and moderate community transmission. In areas of substantial community transmission, middle and high school students should be 6 feet apart to the maximum extent feasible, if cohorting is not possible.
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance to the maximum extent feasible in all settings outside of the classroom and other instructional spaces, including:
    • Between adults in the school building (teachers and staff), and between adults and students. Several studies have found that transmission between staff is more common than transmission between students and staff,
      and among students, in schools.
    • When masks cannot be worn, such as when eating.
    • During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band, orchestra, or sports and exercise. Move these activities outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces.
    • In common areas such as school lobbies and auditoriums.

Does lifting the targeted mitigation orders on May 31 change a school's responsibilities related to case reporting and contact tracing?

Lifting the targeted mitigation orders does not change the process for case investigation or contact tracing, or subsequent isolation or quarantine guidance that may result from those processes. These essential public health measures will remain, just as they do for many other diseases, as they are not part of any order from Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health or Governor.

Schools are encouraged to continue notifying the DOH or their county municipal health department (CMHD) staff immediately upon learning that a person with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 was present at the school or a school event while infectious. DOH or CMHD staff will continue to assist Pre-K to 12 schools with risk assessment, isolation and quarantine recommendations, and other infection control recommendations.

How will the changes to indoor and outdoor gathering limitations, and the lifting of targeted mitigation orders (including the attestation process), impact the use of face coverings in schools and at school-sponsored events?

The Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Requiring Universal Face Coverings remains in effect until 70% of adults in Pennsylvania are fully vaccinated.

As per the order, all individuals age 2 or older, whether indoors or outdoors, must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth while at school and at school-sponsored events, and when they are traveling in school buses and school-provided transportation.