Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday a mask mandate for all Pennsylvania K-12 schools. Wolf said he intended to have local school boards make the decision but changed his mind. The order will apply to private as well as public schools and will also apply to child care facilities.
According to a wytv.com report, the Department of Health order will take effect Tuesday, September 7.
“My office has received an outpouring of messages from parents asking the administration to protect all children by requiring masks in schools,” said Gov. Wolf in a prepared statement. “The science is clear. The Delta variant is highly transmissible and dangerous to the unvaccinated, many of whom are children too young to receive the vaccine. Requiring masks in schools will keep our students safer and in the classroom, where we all want them to be.”
Effective September 7, masks will be required in schools and early learning and childcare programs in Pennsylvania.
This will keep our students safer and in the classroom, where we all want them to be.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) August 31, 2021
The mandate requires students, teachers and staff to wear masks when inside, according to two people briefed on the plan. The order will not apply to student athletes while they are playing.
Less than a month ago, Wolf had ruled out a statewide mask mandate for schools after requiring them last year. But the delta variant has changed the administration’s projections about what is needed to keep students in class.
“I preferred for local school boards to make this decision. Unfortunately, an aggressive nationwide campaign is spreading misinformation about mask-wearing and pressuring and intimidating school districts to reject mask policies that will keep kids safe and in school. As we see cases among children increase in Pennsylvania and throughout the country, this is especially dangerous and challenging as we seek to keep kids in school and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.”
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The Wolf administration says failure to follow the new masking mandate may subject a person to penalties under the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 and exposure to personal liability.
Pennsylvania’s two statewide teachers unions had urged K-12 schools to require masks in school buildings, citing delta’s threat. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends masks in schools for students, staff and teachers.