Mask mandates are back in school

In a reversal from just last month, Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has issued a new mask mandate for all K-12 schools and childcare centers. The mandate goes into effect on Sept.7.

Wolf had said that it would be up to the individual school districts. Last week he asked the state legislature to enact a law for the mandates, but legislators declined. Next, he said he asked the school districts to institute the mandates, but they too declined.

"The Delta variant has changed everything," Wolf said during a press conference, "and medical infrastructure is crumbling. Wearing a mask in schools is the best way to keep schools open…This is necessary for our future as a commonwealth."

He said most Pennsylvanians are in favor of mandatory masking. "Parents are asking for our help to keep their kids in school…it's crucial to have students wear masks in the classroom…Doing nothing is not an option."

Dr. Trude Haeckers, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, called the move to mandate masks a "critical healthcare issue. A return to in-person school is crucial for emotional health, but without masks, there would be more quarantining."

State Secretary of Health Alison Beam also spoke during the press conference, saying there had been steep increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the state during the last month and a half. She cited a 10-fold increase in cases, from 300 new cases in July to 3,000 in August.

Hospitalizations have jumped from 245 to 1,850 during the same time frame, and there were 21 new fatalities versus 10 in July. She added that there had been a 300 percent jump in cases in children younger than 12.

"The Delta is extremely powerful and transmissible…As students return to school, we need to take extra steps to keep children safe."

Wolf said there are no formal penalties in place for districts that don’t comply, but that “The real penalties will come from parents who want the districts to do what’s best for the students.”

The Unionville Chadds Ford School District did not immediately issue a statement on the mandate.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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