Masks:

On July 1, 2020, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings

As a result of the Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings (Order), staff who provide direct services must wear a mask that covers the staff person’s nose and mouth during the entirety of service provision.  The mask must be a cloth covering or other mask that offers a higher degree of protection.  This applies to all OMHSAS services.  For staff, plastic face shields are not acceptable alternatives to masks.

Masks should be worn by individuals who receive services during the provision of services in the community in line with the Order. 

NOTE: Cloth face coverings are not considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and should not be worn in place of recommended PPE when caring for an individual with COVID-19.

• In accordance with current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, cloth face coverings should:
     o Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
     o Be secured with ties or ear loops;
     o Include multiple layers of fabric;
     o Allow for breathing without restriction;
     o Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

• Masks are not required for children younger than 2 years of age or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance.  If an individual has trouble breathing or other medical or mental health conditions that may be worsened with wearing a mask, seek clarification with the individual’s health care practitioner regarding mask use.  
 
• Masks are not required for staff and individuals who are receiving services if they are communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who has a hearingimpairment or has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.  Additionally, clear face masks are an alternative and more information can be found here: Clear Facemasks Resource.  
 
• If, for medical or other reasons, an individual receiving services is unable to wear a mask as required in the Order, the use of a full face shield as an alternative may provide some benefit, particularly against spread of respiratory droplets, and should be permitted.  

• It is important to keep in mind that some individuals may have difficulty adjusting to a mask or may be afraid or unsettled when others wear masks.  The following may help an individual adjust to wearing a mask:
     o Use the Wearing a Mask Social Story on the ASERT website, with an animated version at the bottom of the page.
     o Ensure that the individual knows that the individual will be able to breathe while wearing a mask if that is a concern.
     o While wearing a mask, look in the mirror and talk about what it is like to wear a mask.
     o Decorate a mask so the mask is personalized and fun to wear.
     o Show the individual pictures of other people wearing masks.
     o Use a mask with a clear window where staff or caregiver’s mouths can be seen. 
     o Pin a picture of the staff or caregiver without a mask on the staff or caregiver’s shirt.
 
• Other infection control practices, including screening, frequent hand washing and social distancing remain important even if staff and the individual receiving services are wearing masks.

NOTE: Failure to wear a mask during service provision is not subject to OMHSAS’s Incident Management requirements and failure does not need to be reported as an incident in the Enterprise Incident Management (EIM) system unless otherwise directed by OMHSAS.  OMHSAS will respond to mask-related inquiries and situations on a case-by-case basis. 

 Reference: Department of Health (DOH)  Universal Face Coverings Order Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)