Pennsylvania Issues Stay at Home Order Covering Numerous Counties

Apri 1, 2020 Update: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine amended their stay-at-home Orders, extending them to all 67 Pennsylvania counties, effective April 1, 2020, 8:00 p.m.  The entire Commonwealth is now subject to the governor’s and secretary’s stay-at-home orders.

March 30, 2020 Update:  Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, M.D., amended their prior Stay at Home orders by extending them until April 30 and expanding them to cover 26 counties in the Commonwealth.  The covered counties re: Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Pike, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, and York Counties.

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On March 23, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Rachel Levine, M.D. issued two stay at home Orders mandating that residents in seven counties—Allegheny (Pittsburgh), Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery, and Philadelphia—“stay at home or at their place of residence except as needed to access, support or provide life-sustaining business, emergency or government services.”  The Orders took effect on March 23, 2020 at 8:00 EDT.  They will remain in effect through April 6, 2020.

The Orders are in addition to the governor’s March 19, 2020 Order mandating that all business in the Commonwealth that are not “Life-Sustaining” shut down their business operations. 

The governor and secretary of health issued guidance on the scope of the stay-at-home Orders.  Under the guidance, individuals may only leave their residence to perform certain allowable, individual activities and allowable essential travel:

Allowable Individual Activities

  • To perform tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies needed to work from home.
  • To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as getting food and household consumer products, pet food, and supplies necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.  These activities include volunteer efforts to distribute meals and other life-sustaining services to those in need.
  • To engage in outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing.
  • To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business.
  • To care for a family member or pet in another household.

Allowable Essential Travel

  • Travel related to the providing of or access to the allowable individual activities or life-sustaining business activities as provided by the governor’s March 19, 2020 Order and the guidance issued under it.
  • Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons.
  • Travel to or from educational institutions to receive materials for distance learning, to receive meals, and to receive other, related services.
  • Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction.
  • Travel required by law enforcement or court order.
  • Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the Commonwealth.

Government Services

The guidance directs local governments and government agencies to use their best judgment to implement the Order while ensuring that the government and its contractors deliver critical services and functions.

Other Exceptions

The Orders permit certain childcare facilities that serve employees of life-sustaining businesses to remain open:

  • Group and family child care providers in a residence;
  • Child care facilities operating under a waiver granted by the Department of Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning; and,
  • Part-day school age programs operating under an exemption from the governor’s March 19, 2020 Order.

The guidance issued with the Orders also exempts international students, foster youth, and any other students who would otherwise experience displacement or homelessness because of campus closures, noting that they may remain in campus housing.  It also notes that homeless individuals are exempt, but it urges governments to try to provide them with shelter.

The guidance also notes that the Orders do not apply to the news media, law enforcement, the federal government, or religious institutions.


In announcing the Orders, the governor explained that law enforcement will focus on ensuring that residents are aware of the Orders and informing the public of social distancing practices rather than enforcement.  The governor did, however, release enforcement guidance that provides law enforcement with a list of various provisions of the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, the Administrative Code, and the Liquor Code that may be used to impose criminal penalties and fines on individuals and business that violate the Orders. 

What Should Businesses and Residents Do?

Individuals in the seven affected counties should limit their activities outside of the home to those expressly permitted by the Orders until at least April 6, 2020, or until further guidance is issued.  Life-Sustaining businesses with employees who live in these counties should ensure that their employees are aware of the restrictions in the Orders and remind their employees to follow social distancing practices.  They may want to encourage their employees to carry some form of proof that they work for a Life-Sustaining business—such as their building access card, business card, or pay stub—with them when commuting to and from work.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.