Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp users are busy forwarding messages of Pennsylvania slapping a fine of $500 and imprisoning those who do not wear mask, while there is no such public announcement made by Pennsylvania authorities.
These claims have been making rounds in social media, some even demanding similar action in other states of the US.
Making a similar claim, Twitter user LTreat wrote tagging Mayor Bowser, "People out for exercise, walks, are not using masks, why is this acceptable? Pennsylvania has established a $500 fine, or 6 months in jail for no mask. What will it take for DC?
Another Twitterati MarkieJP added a specific day to the message and tweeted, "Staring Monday in Pennsylvania- $500 fine and up to 6 months in jail if caught in public without a face mask. Face with medical mask. Every single state should implement and enforce this law."
After reading a string of such news regarding fine and imprisonment, another Twitter user expressed her fear and wrote, "I don't want to go to jail for not wearing a mask in my apt elevators and lobby, and while shopping in Pennsylvania, which I dread. Everyone is so depressed. This has to stop."
A post with similar message was shared by a Facebook user Will Kerper on April 26, 2020. The message has been shared 29,000 times on Facebook (as of May 6).
However, it is true that the Pennsylvania authorities have asked people to wear mask while out in public. The action is considered a precautionary measure against COVID-19, but the state has not imposed any fine or announced a jail term to those who are found not wearing mask.
According to the fact check done by AFP, the Pennsylvania health and law enforcement officials said there was no penalty warning issued. Replying to AFP by email, Nate Wardle, press secretary for Pennsylvania's health department said residents of Pennsylvania are expected to do the right thing (referring to wearing masks). But the authorities do not intend to fine or otherwise penalize an individual if they are not wearing a mask. But "all are expected to wear a mask if they will be out in public and supposed to interact with any individuals while out."
Pennsylvania's health advisory asks people to wear mask if they have to interact with anyone including while visiting the grocery store, while visiting a healthcare provider, when feeling ill, have coughing or sneezing, and while using the public transportation.
However, speaking to AFP, Ryan Tarkowski, Communications Director at Pennsylvania State Police said that if people are walking by themselves to get some exercise and not in the public place, there is no need to wear mask.
Pennsylvania authorities have clarified that the state will not impose any fine or imprison residents who go out without wearing a mask. But the authorities said that despite no penalty, residents are expected to wear mask while in public places.