Pennsylvania sets COVID-19 cleaning rules for big buildings

A line of shoppers wait for their chance to get into the Wilkes Barre Twp. Walmart, Saturday, April 4, 2020, as the business begins limiting the amount of customers allowed into the store as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. (AP)

HARRISBURG (AP) — Pennsylvania’s health secretary issued new standards Sunday for cleaning large buildings that remain open during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Dr. Rachel Levine’s order, which applies to building that are at least 50,000 square feet, requires building owners to maintain usual cleaning and follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to routinely clean and disinfect areas that are often touched.

The types of buildings covered by Levine’s order include warehouses, factories, offices, airports, grocery stores, government facilities, hotels, colleges and universities and residential buildings that have 50 units or more.

Building owners also must make sure there are enough workers to perform the cleaning properly and, if they have security, that they are sufficient to control access, keep order and enforce social distancing. The order takes effect early Monday.


There were more than 1,400 new cases overnight for a total of 11,500, the state Health Department said Sunday. Fourteen deaths were reported, making 150 people who have died in the state.

The agency said most deaths and most hospitalizations have been of patients 65 and older.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Pennsylvania officials have told residents to stay at home unless they are getting food, groceries or medicine, seeking medical attention or getting outdoor exercise without coming in close contact with others. There are also exceptions for those whose jobs require their attendance and other circumstances. Non-life-sustaining businesses have been ordered closed and schools have shut down statewide indefinitely.


Pennsylvania lawmakers return to session this week under emergency rules that permit senators and representatives to vote remotely.

In the House, which will be voting on Monday and Tuesday, the business includes swearing in three new members who won office in special elections last month. The Senate will be in on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Although the agenda is a work in progress, among the coronavirus response ideas that could be considered are setting up a task force to examine the pandemic’s impact in the state.

There are also pending bills with House Republican proposals to override some of the directives put in place by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. One GOP proposal would allow more construction sector employees to work during the statewide stay-at-home order. Another would permit retail stores to reopen if they can be run by a single employee and are set up to handle one customer at a time.


Charges are planned against two people accused in separate incidents of purposely coughing on a fast-food restaurant worker and employees at a doctor’s office while saying they have the coronavirus, according to state police in western Pennsylvania.

Police said a 48-year-old woman in Westmoreland County became upset at a drive-thru window of a fast-food restaurant and purposely coughed at an employee, saying she hoped they became fatally infected with the virus.

In the other incident, at a doctor’s office in Latrobe, police say a 53-year-old man told an employee her mask wouldn’t help her before he coughed on her repeatedly and said, “I guess we’ll find out.”