Pennsylvania Supreme Court debates state school masking mandates

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EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The debate on whether masks are required in schools across the Commonwealth continued on Wednesday and it’s been a heated debate, whether the mandate in schools is authorized by law.

At this time, there is no ruling from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as they grapple with the legality of the state’s school masking mandate.

A lawyer for Pennsylvania’s Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam defended the validity of the secretary’s order requiring masks inside K-12 schools to fight COVID-19.

The lawyer asked State Supreme Court Justices to focus on a single regulation from 2000.

It gives the Health Department authority to direct a “modified quarantine of contacts of a person” with a communicable disease or infection for the surveillance of disease needed to protect people from it.

In this case, having people wear a mask if they enter a K-12 school.

Beam’s mandate took effect in early September.

A lower court has ruled Beam lacked authority to require masks, didn’t follow state laws about enacting regulations and acted without a required existing disaster emergency.

According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health:

  • 3.6% of children ages 5-9 are fully vaccinated
  • 25.3% of children ages 10-14 are fully vaccinated
  • And 46% of teens 15-19 are fully vaccinated

Vaccinating Pennsylvania’s teachers was a top priority for the Wolf Administration in order to get children back to in-person learning.

In March, Governor Tom Wolf allocated the state supply of the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine to Pennsylvania teachers and staff.

The Wolf Administration’s mask mandate is set to expire on January 17, 2022.

The decision from the Supreme Court could keep the mandate in place or end it immediately.

Each school district can still make the call to keep it in place.

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