Outdoors: 5-7.5% outdoor, in town. 0% outside of town

Indoors: Fast food and bigger chain restaurants, Walmart, Giant Eagle (think regional chain grocery store), public schools and the Catholic churches have the highest percentage of mask wearing I’ve seen. Everywhere else…just doesn’t. Some people do of course, but it’s optional and there is not enforcement, with a critical exception: socioeconomic status as evinced by personal appearance.

Two other exceptions: There is a small regional chain gas station that is very popular for their breakfast sandwiches locally that is being boycotted because they started denying service to folks *after* someone snitched on them and the state threatened to revoke their liquor license. My family is in construction and there are several local competitors looking to build a gas station directly by this gas station to drive them out of business. People feel very strongly about this.

In the Pittsburgh area, which I go to about every week, it’s about the same. Middle-class shops (ie Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, the mall) that are usually frequented just by women are the main exception to this that I have found.

Schools (In Person At Time of Interview)

Some of the public schools have done a weird dance of opening and then abruptly closing again several times throughout the school year. The one in my township, Clarion-Limestone, voted 5-4 in December to return to in-person on January 4. They then switched to 4 days in-person/1 day remote.

That continued until March 16, when they started having 5 full days in school. Parents had the option to choose, but once they chose in-person they did not have the option to switch back to remote unless they or someone in their household tested positive for COVID or were otherwise sick. Remote learners could switch back to in-person at any time. Classes stopped being recorded and were just done live through the school portal.

The board has gone through a lot of turmoil and the head of the board resigned in February, so many people feel the situation was bungled. People were especially upset over school sports and the region generally ignored the Governor’s warnings and the state sports board, so kids could play sports.

To my knowledge, the private Protestant schools do not require masks. This is not widely advertised and I certainly don’t want to snitch on them. That being said, I have driven past our public school and seen kids not wearing masks on the playground, so it’s hard to tell what the official policies are against what is being done in practice

What I can speak to is the homeschooled students and their co-ops. I know several families who have 6+ kids per family and nobody is masking anywhere at any time.

Also, there are a fair amount of Amish/Mennonites around and none of them mask either.

If there were more than 2 cases per school, they would shut down. To my knowledge this only happened a few times and the parents were in an uproar over the grade schoolers being closed but still having to take their kids to the high school and vice versa.


The restaurants are supposed to have capacity limits, but they are not being closely followed. People do not care unless they think someone will snitch on them to the state. There are a few college-oriented cafes in town that probably follow the rules. I am not sure because I stopped going there.

Religious Gatherings

Religious gatherings were cancelled at the beginning of April and resumed in June. The Catholic churches kowtowed heavily to the state. That being said, if you didn’t wear a mask and still looked fairly healthy no one would do anything to you. Every other pew was taped off.

The Protestant church I go to invested in a new HVAC system in their church with some new filtration system that is state of the art.

Movie Theaters

I believe theaters are open but don’t know anyone who goes to them anyways except teenagers looking to get out of the house. The local theater is open three days per week, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It’s dying to my knowledge, it’s part of a dead/dying mall that just lost their anchor stores (JCPenney and Kmart).

Businesses and Politics

I had a baby last year and didn’t wear a mask at any time at the hospital, nor did my spouse. We both have health conditions that preclude mask wearing.

I’ve been to the dentist regularly, they didn’t make me wear a mask at all. Their business was really hurt by the shutdowns.

My husband and I are small business owners who work across the entire state as well as WV, NJ, VA and OH, and we were screwed in a very political way by Governor Wolf. March 1 is the start of busy season for construction, and Wolf shut it down arbitrarily since it was well known the construction unions did not back him in the 2018 elections. We believe this was political payback. People are very bitter. Some of our contracts are still delayed because the local government permits (which were never used because of the lockdowns) have to apply for renewal and wind their ways through the molasses-slow local bureaus yet again. Same for real estate agents. I believe PA is the only state in the country to experience these two industries as nonessential during the lockdowns.

When I moved here in 2018 I was struck at how hardheaded and disagreeable these folks are. Very much the opposite of what I experienced during 10 years in the DC area and also my time in Austin where people would lie prettily and stab you in the back to get ahead as a matter of course. The landscape is fairly bleak and harsh (we just got snow for Mother’s Day) and local businesses were gutted after most manufacturing moved overseas in the 1980s and 1990s. Some businesses have reinvented themselves or have hung on, but most haven’t recovered and it’s Appalachian in regards to the opioid situation.

That being said, the Hollywood and media portrayals of rural America as essentially Deliverance lite are laughably ignorant. People here have been burned bad by corporations and/or the feds and they are not about to start now. It has been quite a transition for me to focus on people’s competence instead of appearance and ability to make pretty speeches and schmooze, and I am still seen as the *outsider* in many ways, although this is mitigated by having married “a local boy.” I am fascinated because I never really knew this perspective existed, except when parodied as “Trump country” in SNL skits. Both my husband and I have travelled and worked extensively nation-wide and internationally, and we are content to stay here long-term now that we have kids (a two year old and a one year old). The number of new houses being built in the area suggest that we are not the only ones. However we are not advertising. People are generally not welcome unless they know someone here already.