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Mask Mandate Coming for All PA K-12 Schools, Child-Care Centers

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021   

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Face masks will be mandatory at all public and private K-through-12 schools in Pennsylvania, starting next week.

Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement just as many schools are returning to fully in-person classes for the first time since the pandemic began. Pennsylvania is seeing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases as the COVID Delta variant spreads throughout the state.

In his remarks Monday, the governor said he'd prefer to leave this decision to local school boards, but his office received many calls from parents who were concerned about a lack of mask requirements.

"This is a necessary step to keep our students and teachers safe and in the classroom, where they all need to be, and where we want them all to be," Wolf said. "When students and teachers go home at the end of the day, it's going to keep their families safe too."

The order from the state Department of Health goes into effect next Tuesday, Sept. 7, after the Labor Day holiday. All teachers, students and staff will be required to wear masks. The decision also includes child-care centers.

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said one of the most concerning statistics to her is the number of COVID-19 cases among children, which has risen 277% in the Commonwealth between mid-July and last Saturday. Beam said she expects pushback against the order, but added that she believes it is critical for public health and safety.

"We are asking folks to keep it in perspective," she said. "Last year, when there was this level of community transmission, our students were learning virtually. The guidance has evolved based on lessons learned. Our goal is to keep students in classrooms and keep the surging delta variant out."

Pennsylvania joins more than a dozen other states with some form of statewide mask mandate in schools. Nearly 50 organizations from across the state had signed a letter urging the governor and secretary of health to institute a school mask mandate.


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