Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Pennsylvania Governor Breaking His Own Social Distancing Rules

Fact Check

  • by: Mary Acosta
Fact Check: Photo Does NOT Show Pennsylvania Governor Breaking His Own Social Distancing Rules Old Photo

Is Pennsylvania's governor breaking his own social distancing rules in a photo? No, that's not true: A meme making that claim uses a old photo from a news conference held 11 days before Gov. Tom Wolf issued the first "stay at home" order for Pennsylvania and a month before a statewide order that required store workers and customers to wear masks.

The claim appeared in social media posts, including a meme (archived here) posted on Facebook on May 1, 2020, under the title "This Is The Governor That Says We Can't Reopen PA!" It read:

NOT One Mask and Surely NOT 6' Apart!!!! I shared this yesterday and it got removed!!! I will keep sharing it!!!

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

But according to a local news report titled Viral photo of Wolf, Levine shows pre-distancing time, not rule-breaking, the photo was taken on March 12, 2020. Pennsylvania's first social-distancing rules were put into place by Gov. Tom Wolf on March 23, 2020.

The governor's first directive, signed on March 23, 2020, issued stay-at-home orders for citizens of specific counties where the most coronavirus cases were being reported. On April 1, 2020 the governor updated that order to make it statewide: All citizens in the state were mandated to follow the rules.

Since then, the state has extended the stay-at-home order until June 4, 2020, for 43 counties considered to be in the "red phase." Other counties are now in the "yellow phase," which allows nonessential businesses to reopen, and permits gatherings of up to 25 people.

So in addition to the misleading photo in this meme, the claim that "the governor says we can't reopen PA" is also demonstrably false: The governor is reopening the state in phases -- a slow, measured approach to a pandemic crisis.

Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Mary Acosta

Mary Acosta, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is a former copy editor at CNN International.

She was based at the network’s headquarters in Atlanta. Prior to working at CNNI she was a writer, writer-producer, and copy editor at CNN. She was part of teams that won Emmy Awards for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terror attacks.

Read more about or contact Mary Acosta

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