Rep. O'Neal Has More On State's Decision To Lift Mask Mandate At End Of June

Rep. Tim O’Neal, who is on the Pennsylvania Vaccine Task Force, has more on the decision.

Video Transcript

MEGHAN SCHILLER: Joining me now live over Zoom to dive deeper into how the state arrived at its decision is representative Tim O'Neil. Thank you for joining me tonight.

TIM O'NEIL: Thank you for having me, mate.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: You were on the state's vaccine task force, so you were inside that room. Can you tell us what factors played into this mask decision?

TIM O'NEIL: Well, of course. All of the science of the data really shows us that the pandemic is going in the right direction. The case counts, the hospitalization rates, the death counts, they've all been trending very much down for the past several months. Here in Washington County, we had 11 total positive cases reported today, so the data is certainly showing it. In addition to that, and as you know, Meghan, yesterday, the states hit 70% of adults that were vaccinated.

18 and over that were vaccinated with the first dose of one of the vaccines, which was a remarkable number. That 70% goal is the goal we've been trying to attain since very early on in the vaccine rollout.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: So, what do you think is going to happen first, hit the goal or reach the state?

TIM O'NEIL: Well, they should be right in line. There's a possibility that the 70% number of both doses is reached a week or so earlier, but it's really a factor of which shot people got. As we all know, there's different lengths between the first and second doses, of between the Pfizer and Moderna shot. Depending on the mix exactly of what's out there will really determine whether or not we have to wait all the way to the 28th or whether it could happen a little bit before that.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: Interestingly, this announcement does not affect Philadelphia where it's going to lift on June 11th. How has it been on the task force trying to balance the wants and the needs of every part of the Commonwealth?

TIM O'NEIL: Well, it's been difficult. As we all know, Pennsylvania is a very diverse state. The Philadelphia area is not the same here as in the Southwest, and we also have very rural areas across the state as well. So that's why the task force was actually really important in order to ensure that we have the perspectives from all across the state weighing in on these issues and how to address the issues with the more local perspective. That's been the key to the task force since it's been formed in February or so.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: My last question for you is, what would you say to people who are concerned about what will happen after this mask mandate lifts?

TIM O'NEIL: Sure. All of the data, all of the science is indicating that we're ready to do this, that we're able to do it. That 70% goal was goal because we've seen other countries actually reach that and their case counts go significantly down once that's reached, and that's why that's been our goal. But at the same time, don't go and immediately throw out your mask. You know, private businesses are still going to be able to enforce the rules that they feel comfortable with and their customers feel comfortable with.

They're still going to need it to jump on the plane, to go through the public transits, so those are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, but certainly good news for the rest of us.

MEGHAN SCHILLER: Representative O'Neil, thank you tonight.

TIM O'NEIL: Thank you.