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Borough Council Passes State College Coronavirus Mitigation Ordinance

The State College Borough Council unanimously passed a new ordinance Tuesday night that gives it more power to enforce coronavirus mitigation efforts throughout the borough.

The ordinance addressed three big-picture coronavirus mitigation efforts to be utilized within the borough, including mask-wearing and limiting large gatherings both indoors and outdoors.

The borough would require face masks to be worn, with a few exceptions, anywhere in the borough where proper social distancing of 6 feet is not possible. Additionally, those who claim medical conditions or disabilities prevent them from wearing a mask must produce documentation verifying the condition within a few days of being cited.

The ordinance also limits gatherings at most residential properties to 10 unrelated people and public park gatherings at 25 people.

Finally, the ordinance will work to prevent lines from congregating outside downtown businesses. The legislation will restrict lines to no more than 10 people while spaced at least 6 feet apart in the public right-of-way (read: sidewalks).

New guidelines surrounding long lines and waiting outside businesses are likely a direct response to last month’s Arts Fest crowds. Although the annual festival’s in-person events were canceled, many traveled State College to hit up the bars and party with friends. Councilmembers were expectedly unenthused after that weekend’s events.

“I think [that weekend] was a dress rehearsal for the fall, and it went poorly,” Councilman Evan Myers said in July. “If it was a dress rehearsal, my question is will the play be closed before the curtain even goes up?”

Those found in violation of the ordinance in any way will be issued a civil infraction and a $300 fine. Property owners, tenants, and businesses will be subject to the same potential punishments should they fail to comply. Each day violations continue will be viewed as a separate offense.

The ordinance states infractions and fines will be enforced by “law enforcement and other public safety, health officers, ordinance enforcement officers, and emergency management personnel.”

The ordinance will take effect through January 31, 2021, or until the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centre Region Council of Governments rescind their respective emergency declarations, whichever comes first.

Ahead of the ordinance’s passing Tuesday, Penn State President Eric Barron published a brief letter supporting the legislation and encouraging State College to adopt it.

“If we are going to be successful in returning students to campus, returning employees to work and in safely bringing customers to businesses in our community, we must work together to not only encourage, but enforce, the best public health practices,” Barron wrote. “I view the draft ordinance being considered by Borough Council to be a strong and appropriate step in the right direction to maintain consistent expectations on both sides of College Avenue.”

Barron added the success of Penn State’s return to campus hinges upon students’ willingness to follow health guidelines and be cautious when out and about.

Penn State students will begin moving in on Monday, August 17 before classes officially start up on Monday, August 24.

To date, Centre County has reported 359 coronavirus cases and 10 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Department of Health. However, the Centre County Coroner’s Office has confirmed just seven.

Below, you’ll find a closer look at the approved mitigation efforts to be enforced throughout the borough:


The borough’s implemented mask-wearing guidelines largely follow the same established by Governor Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. Face masks will be required when individuals are within 6 feet of another person and under the following scenarios:

  • Inside any public building, including businesses and government facilities
  • On all public transportation, including CATA buses, shuttles, and services such as Uber and Lyft
  • While waiting to enter public buildings or board transportation
  • When coming into contact with individuals not of the same household or family, both indoors and outdoors, specifically including gatherings, curbside pickups, and deliveries
  • While working in any job that involves contact with the public unless separated by a physical barrier

There are, of course, a few exceptions to these rules. Those who are exempt from the order include:

  • Individuals with medical or mental health conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a face covering. If cited, these folks will need to provide documentation from a medical professional within five days.
  • Those whose religious beliefes prevent them from wearing a face covering
  • Those who are hearing impaired or rely on seeing a person’s mouth to communicate
  • Those who would be put at risk by wearing a mask at work
  • Those who are obtaining a service or treatment to the nose or face that requires the temporary removal of a face covering
  • Those properly distanced and seated at a restaurant or establishment that serves food or beverages

Individuals won’t need to wear face masks when at home, in their private vehicles, or participating in physical activities while distanced at least 6 feet from others.

Ultimately, the ordinance states it falls on parents and guardians to ensure children follow mask-wearing procedures.

Gathering Restrictions

The ordinance will limit gatherings of individuals not from the same household to:

  • 10 people at residential properties, both indoors and outdoors
  • No more than 10 in households that exceed 10 people
  • 25 people at public parks and other municipal properties
  • 25 people at indoor gathers on private commercial property, as implemented by the Department of Health

Gathering size restrictions won’t apply to private businesses and offices, events like weddings, funerals, and protests, and at schools and religious functions.

Waiting Lines

Lines on sidewalks waiting to enter a business will need to consist of 10 or fewer people who are properly spaced out 6 feet apart and wearing face masks. Those waiting can’t idle outside a different business or property.

Additionally, businessees will be required to keep an eye on linese and notify State College Police if crowds refuse to disperse, wear face masks, or maintain proper distancing.

The ordinance’s draft originally included a restriction limiting line congregations to 15 minutes. However, Councilman Dan Murphy introduced an amendment to strike down the time restriction, which passed 4-3.

“I feel our local businesses are able to comply and assist with enforcement if we’re able to give them confines in which to do that well,” Murphy said. managing editor Geoff Rushton contributed to this report.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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