HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Governor Tom Wolf is joining the Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam, Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead, and Department of Education Secretary Noe Ortega for a virtual press conference to discuss the current state of COVID-19 across the commonwealth and the 2021-2022 school year.
Governor Tom Wolf, along with the departments of health and education, are requiring masks to be worn in K-12 schools, early learning and child care settings. Wolf says this order ensures Pennsylvania’s children are participating in classroom learning without disruptions.
“My office has received an outpouring of messages from parents asking the administration to protect all children by requiring masks in schools,” said Wolf.
Wolf says the mandate is to ensure children stay in the classroom and the delta variant stays out.
The mandate goes into effect on Tuesday, September 7. Teachers, students and visitors will be required to wear a mask indoors.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said this situation is fluid and constantly changing.
“With case counts increasing, the situation has reached the point that we need to take this action to protect our children, teachers and staff. The science is clear. If we want to keep our schools open, maintain classroom learning and allow sports and other activities to continue, masking significantly increases our chances of doing so,” Beam said.
The Wolf administration says universal masking in schools is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It is also said to reduce the risk that entire classrooms will need to quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 case.
The PA Budget and Policy Center released a statement on the mask mandate saying:
“This is a measure that is necessary protect the of school children and entire communities in Pennsylvania from the threat of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19. Taking this step will also help keep schools open, which is important to both families and the education of our children. It will also limit disruption for working families, school communities and local businesses.”
We The People PA also releasing a statement:
“The We The People PA campaign strongly supports Governor Wolf’s decision to require teachers, staff, and students to wear masks in all K-12 schools and in child care centers. This is a critical step to protect school children and entire communities from the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, especially since children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated. The scientific data supports the use of masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. Taking this step will thus help keep schools open and limit disruption for working families, school communities, and local businesses. And the failure of the General Assembly to act on the governor’s request justifies his taking action on the basis of existing state law.”
Representative Jack Rader (R-Monroe) released a statement that read:
“Today’s announcement is yet another questionable order made by a governor and his administration who think they know what will work best for local school administrators, families and students. However, I believe the decision to mask or not to mask should be made on the local level by school boards working in conjunction with parents. After all, they are the ones who can truly determine how to keep students and faculty safe, while maintaining an effective learning environment at the same time.”
The PSEA says they welcome the announcement in a statement that said:
“Months ago, PSEA said a full, safe return to in-person instruction should be our top priority for the 2021-22 school year. Masking up in our schools is a simple, proven way to help make that a reality. Last year, we used maximum protective efforts – including masking – to minimize the spread of a dangerous but less contagious COVID-19 variant. Reports of schools in other states shutting down or quarantining large numbers of students because of the more contagious Delta variant show that it is just too risky to teach students in person with dramatically fewer protections than we used last year. This isn’t a choice between masking or not masking. It is a choice between keeping schools open for in-person learning or forcing far too many students to learn from the other side of a screen.”