A mask mandate for all Pennsylvania public and private schools and child care facilities goes into effect today.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced the new mandate on Tuesday, Aug. 31. The mandate comes as COVID-19 cases spike across the state and not long after many students returned to the classroom for the 2021-2022 school year.
Per the mandate, students, teachers and staff are required to wear face masks when inside buildings, regardless of their vaccination status.
Wolf's decision came less than a month after he ruled out a statewide mask mandate for schools after requiring them last year. Wolf reversed course as a result of the new, highly contagious delta variant spreading.
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said during Wolf's announcement that there was an explosive rise in the number of children testing positive — up nearly 300% in six weeks. She said nearly half of those pediatric infections were in children under 12, too young to be vaccinated.
There are some exceptions to the mandate, including if wearing the mask would worsen an existing medical condition or if it would make a task unsafe. Other exceptions include:
- When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity.
- When working alone and isolated from interaction with other people with
little or no expectation of in-person interaction.
- If an individual is communicating or seeking to communicate with someone
who is hearing-impaired or has another disability, where the ability to see
the mouth is essential for communication.
- When the individual is under two (2) years of age.
School officials and parents in Lancaster County had a mixed reaction to the mandate. On the same day Wolf made the announcement, Lancaster County's two Republican state senators vowed to take action against the mandate.