Fact Check: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Did NOT Issue This Document of Thanksgiving Rules

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Did NOT Issue This Document of Thanksgiving Rules Not From State

Did Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf finalize and issue on October 27, 2020, a list of 13 rules for Thanksgiving household visits? No, that's not true: The document offered in support of the claim is not an official state document. It is designed to resemble the format of PDF files that could be downloaded from an official state website, but no such document was ever issued by Pennsylvania's Gov. Wolf.

The claim originated from a screenshot image of the document posted on Facebook (archived here) on November 24, 2020. It was captioned, "This is pure insanity." The document heading has contrived language that resembles what might found on official documents:

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf's Rules for Thanksgiving Household Visits / finalized 27 Oct- 2020
2020 Thanksgiving RULES in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
on October 23, 2020, 08:24:23
Gov. Wolf's Rules and Regulations for Thanksgiving Holiday Visitation and Social Gatherings
As Ordered by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Legislature October 27th, 2020 -est 27102020

Below the Document's heading is a list of 13 rules concerning Thanksgiving gatherings. Although clearly written, the language is not the type of language found on official state documents.

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

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Nov 25 14:51:45 2020 UTC)

This list of rules did not originate with Pennsylvania's governor, but came indirectly from California. On October 9, 2020, the California Department of Public Health released guidance regarding Mandatory Requirements for All Gatherings. This guideline has since been superseded by an update on November 19, 2020. The new guideline is the CDPH Guidance for the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission for Gatherings. When the original October guidance was released it garnered quite a bit of attention. The Los Angeles Times published this article summarizing the rules, "California unveils new rules on gatherings, social events"

It appears that back in October, an individual summarized the rules from the California Department of Public Health in their own language and published them on Facebook. For the most part, the summary is true to the California rules, and in the same general order, with a small amount of editorializing from the author. An example of this editorializing stands out at rule #8 with the person adding a parenthetical reference to turkey -- there is no such reference in the official list:

8. You should only use single serving food. (No Turkey or bowls of mash potatoes or cranberry salad.)

The way this is presented by the California Department of Public Health is:

  • Shared items should not be used during a gathering. As much as possible, any food or beverages at outdoor gatherings must be in single-serve disposable containers. If providing single-serve containers is not possible, food and beverages must be served by a person who washes or sanitizes their hands frequently, and wears a face covering. Self-serve items from communal containers should not be used.

This list is typed up neatly but is not presented to fool people that this is an official document from the State of California. Below is a copy of this summary that was shared as a screenshot in a post on Facebook on October 27, 2020.

TdayNewsom.jpgThis screenshot was used to make the hoax document. The color tone heading boxes make it look like an authentic document from a government website and obscure the California origin, changing it to Pennsylvania.

Lead Stories contacted Pennsylvania's media contact office, which confirmed the post was not authentic. That office directed Lead Stories to official releases concerning Thanksgiving celebrations.

A release from Pennsylvania governor's Office on Monday, November 23, 2020, titled, "As COVID-19 Cases Reach Critical Levels, Wolf Admin Announces New Mitigation Efforts" explains the current situation:

In a November 19, 2020, document from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, titled, "Department Of Health Encourages Food Safety, COVID-19 Precautions For Thanksgiving Holiday And Reminds Pennsylvanians Of Travel Mitigation Effort," state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine advised:

The holidays are a time for togetherness, but this year, we must rethink what that looks like. This Thanksgiving, choose to celebrate with the people in your household and virtually connect with your loved ones. If you plan to leave your home to celebrate the holiday, please follow the travel mitigation order, wear a mask and stay six feet apart from others. Weather-permitting, sit outside and enjoy the day. Do whatever you can to limit the spread of COVID-19 at this critical point of the pandemic.

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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.

  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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