The Great Mask Debate: Here’s How Pennsylvanians Feel About Them

How do Pennsylvanians feel about masks and their role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic?

On Tuesday, we asked Patch readers across Pennsylvania to weigh in on their feelings about masks. Questions were aimed to gauge how often our readers wear masks, if they’d like to see children wear them to school, and if they believe businesses should refuse service to those not wearing them. We also asked our readers how they think their local and state leaders have handled the pandemic response.

More than 11,500 people responded to this informal survey, with the majority supporting mask wearing as an essential safety precaution during the pandemic.

Gov. Tom Wolf has been pushing Pennsylvanians to wear masks since early April. Later, mask wearing in public places and businesses became a requirement as part of the Secretary of Health’s order.

“Pennsylvania has emerged as a leader among states for reduced cases amid increased reopening and we want that to continue to keep people safe and healthy while returning to many of the activities we enjoyed before COVID,” Wolf said in a statement this week where he reiterated the importance of mask wearing.

According to the Patch survey, more than 73 percent who took it say they “always” wear a mask in public. Just 8.5 percent of respondents say they “never” wear a mask.

When asked how often respondents see others in public wearing masks, just about 15 percent said “always.” The majority of respondents — 52 percent — said they see others wearing masks in public “more than half of the time.”

We also asked: Do you think restaurants, retailers and other businesses should refuse entry to people not wearing masks?

More than 72 percent of respondents said yes. Just about 28 percent said no.

When it comes to mask wearing in schools, the feelings were mixed.

We asked: If public schools reopen in the fall, do you think students, teachers and staff should be required to wear masks?

Nearly 43 percent said they believe students and staff should wear masks when social distancing could not be observed. Nearly 32 percent of respondents said masks should be required all day in school.

Nearly 26 percent said there should be no mask requirement in schools.

Feelings were even more mixed when parents were faced with the question of whether the masking rules would impact their decision to send their children back to school in the fall.

Of the 11,529 responses, 8,855 responded to the following question:

For those with school-age children: If masks are not required when schools reopen, would you consider keeping your children out of school?

More than 36 percent said the mask requirements would not impact their decision to send their child back to school. One-third of the respondents were unsure, and 30 percent said they may consider keeping their children home if masks were not required.

Of those who responded, nearly 77 percent said no one in their immediate family or social circle has tested positive for COVID-19. Most say they’re just moderately concerned with catching the virus, which so far has infected 82,696 in Pennsylvania. As of Tuesday’s data, there have been 6,464 total deaths in the state from the virus.

The majority of respondents had a favorable assessment of how state and local authorities have handled the pandemic.

More than 26 percent of respondents rated the local government response a five — the highest rating in the survey. Nearly 30 percent rated the response a four. Nearly 18 percent have been very dissatisfied with the response, giving state and local authorities a one — the lowest rating.

Our Way Forward: See more stories about Pennsylvania’s coronavirus recovery

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