Jones on masks: 'Ignore the order if you choose to'

Dispatch staff

A Republican state lawmaker from York County said Pennsylvanians should ignore Gov. Tom Wolf's new mask order if they so desire.

State Rep. Mike Jones' comments followed a revised order by the Wolf administration on Wednesday, which required masks to be worn in most situations anytime someone leaves their house. The move is part of the administration's attempt to tamp down the spread of the coronavirus and is in line with advice from most medical experts. 

"Enough is enough," Jones, R-York Township, posted Wednesday on Facebook. "Ignore the order if you choose to. This is not a Dictatorship."  

The order, issued by state Health Secretary Rachel Levine, does carve out exemptions for those able to socially distance or people with medical conditions.

State Rep. Mike Jones (R-York Township) is joined by restaurant owners to discuss safe business practices at The Paddock on Market in Springettsbury Township, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Rep. Jones is one of the leaders of the ReopenYorkPA movement. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Jones has been an especially vocal critic of Wolf's orders shuttering businesses, and he is a prominent backer of the few business that have flouted them.

Mask mandates nationwide have become more politicized in recent weeks. 

Republicans and men are significantly less likely to wear a mask in public, according to a recent nationwide Gallup poll. 

“I am not an anti-masker,” Jones told The York Dispatch Thursday. “But this is overkill. Reasonable people can disagree but when you mandate … what healthy people and businesses must do, it’s an overreach.”

Jones said he’s not opposed to people and businesses requiring guests to wear masks but said Levine’s order infringes on people’s right to personal choice.

“Never in history has a virus been defeated by ... quarantining healthy people,” Jones said. “I think this is one of the great defining times in our lives … and certain things warrant defying an order.”

Wolf's expanded mask order came on the same day the state Supreme Court rebuffed a lawsuit filed by Republicans in the state Legislature who sought to overturn Wolf's disaster declaration and business lockdowns.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf meets with the media at The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) headquarters, Friday, May 29, 2020 in Harrisburg, Pa. (Joe Hermitt/The Patriot-News via AP)

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Officials with Wolf's administration have consistently touted the governor's expansive authority, under state law, and lauded Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling.

Republicans, however, said the state's top court wrongfully centralized more power in the executive branch. Some, including state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, said Wolf has acted like a "dictator" throughout the pandemic.

The ruling "sets a a very dangerous precedent moving forward," Phillips-Hill said Thursday. "The governor can continue to operate like a dictator with zero requirement to consult with the General Assembly for sweeping changes that he believes are the law of the land." 

State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill speaks at President Donald Trump's "Keep America Great" rally at the Giant Center in Hershey Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Phillips-Hill also criticized Wolf's handling of the state's unemployment system, which has been strained under his lockdown orders and widespread layoffs. 

Nationally, the coronavirus has exploded in the Sun Belt and in western states. States such as Florida and Arizona, which reopened early or rebuffed closure orders altogether, have seen record day-to-day increases throughout the week.

Several Northeastern governors have responded with orders mandating travelers from those hot spots to quarantine for 14 days after entering their respective states. Travelers from 15 states, including California and Texas are required to self-quarantine under Pennsylvania's version. 

In Pennsylvania, cases of the coronavirus have spiked in Allegheny County, causing local officials there to impose new lockdowns.