Wolf: No Mask Mandate for Schools

August 7, 2021

HARRISBURG – During a news conference Friday, Governor Tom Wolf said he does not intend to issue a mask mandate for Pennsylvania schools this year.

According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Wolf said “no,” when asked whether he was considering a mask mandate.

“I think the school districts in Pennsylvania have to decide what they want to do,” Wolf said. “I think the CDC guidelines strongly recommend that schools do that. They’re not mandating it and neither am I.”

The CDC issued a recommendation this week that schools should have everyone over the age of 2 (staff, students and visitors) wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.

Wolf said that he could change his mind, especially as COVID case counts continue to rise throughout the state, but was following the CDC’s lead for now.

“I’m not so rigid that I never change my mind. So I’ll never say never,” Wolf said. “But I don’t see why we ought to do something CDC is not.”

During its regular meeting July 26, the Warren County School District outlined its current mask policy in a Health and Safety Plan it was sending to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“As of June 28, 2021, students, staff and visitors will not be required to wear face coverings at school” the plan read. “The District will provide information and recommendations to parents and staff regarding face coverings from the CDC, but parents and staff will have a choice to wear a face covering at school.”

Though optional at school, students will be required to wear masks while on school transportation, in accordance with current federal mandates.

“Chris (Byham, WCSD solicitor) evaluated it and stated that yes, the order does, in fact, apply to us,” WCSD Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “So there is a mandate for masks on school buses.”

The Health and Safety Plan is one of the requirements the district must fulfill in order to receive Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Wolf’s comments came on the same day New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a mandate that staff, students and visitors to New Jersey schools must wear masks indoors once the new school year begins. California, Louisiana, Oregon and Washington have also expressed similar intent to issue mandates.

New York and West Virginia health officials are taking a similar approach as Pennsylvania as each school district will determine mask requirements. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan also said “no” when asked if a new mask mandate was forthcoming.

Other states, such as Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah have banned public school districts from issuing mask mandates.

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