Wolf administration requires masking in schools, early learning and child care facilities to ensure the safety of students in classrooms and the Delta variant outdoors

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – With a focus on protecting students and keeping them in classrooms, Governor Tom Wolf joined the departments of Health, Human Services and Education today to discuss the current state COVID-19 and a new order from the Secretary of Health requiring the wearing of masks inside K -12 school buildings, preschool learning programs and child care providers. The order takes effect at 12:01 am on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

“My office has received a wave of messages from parents asking the administration to protect all children by requiring masks in schools,” Governor Wolf said. “The science is clear. The Delta variant is highly transmissible and dangerous to unvaccinated people, 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.

“I preferred that the local school boards make this decision. Sadly, an aggressive national campaign is spreading misinformation about wearing masks and pressuring and intimidating school districts to reject mask policies that will keep children and school safe. As we see increasing cases among children in Pennsylvania and across the country, this is especially dangerous and difficult as we seek to keep children in school and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment. ”

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam was joined at a press conference today by Governor Tom Wolf, Education Secretary Noe Ortega, Acting Human Services Secretary Meg Snead and the President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Trude Haecker.

“The reality we live in now is very different from what it was just over a month ago,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “With the increase in the number of cases, the situation has reached the point where we need to take this action to protect our children, teachers and staff. The science is clear. If we are to keep our schools open, keep learning in the classroom, and allow sports and other activities to continue, masking greatly increases our chances of doing so. ”

Universal masking in schools, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend, reduces the risk of entire classrooms being quarantined due to a positive case of COVID- 19. This command ensures that children in Pennsylvania participate in classroom learning without constant interruptions.

The Delta variant has been a driving force behind the pandemic since the end of the previous school year. The variant is more contagious than the original strain of the virus, accounting for more than 92% of current COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Since July, when schools began discussing health and safety plans, the number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania has risen from less than 300 a day to more than 3,000 a day – cases among children of school age having increased by over 11,000 in the past month, and over 79,000 from January 2021 to August 2021.

Additionally, new cases of COVID-19 among children enrolled in licensed day care centers have increased dramatically in recent months, according to data reported to DHS by child care providers. For example, on June 4, child care providers reported eight cases of COVID-19 in children in the previous week. As of August 27, the number of new cases of COVID-19 among children in daycare the previous week was 162.

The Wolf administration continues to urge eligible Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated, as it is the best defense to stop the spread of the virus. However, there is currently no approved vaccine for children under 12. For eligible teens in Pennsylvania, 18.2 percent of children ages 12 to 14 are fully immunized and 38.3 percent of children ages 15 to 19 are fully immunized.

“After months of hiatus, students and educators are eagerly returning to classrooms across Pennsylvania for the new school year,” Education Secretary Noe Ortega said. “Unfortunately, we’ve already seen schools across the country shut down due to COVID-19. Wearing masks is a proven strategy that will help Pennsylvania schools reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect their communities, and keep our students and educators where we know it’s vital for them to be – teach, learn and grow together safely in their classrooms. ”

“An early childhood education experience can shape a child’s educational, social and emotional development throughout their life. Science has shown us that the first five years of life are essential for brain development, influencing an individual’s life trajectory for many years afterward, ”said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead. “A thriving child care industry is also fundamental to the rest of our economy, and this industry and the dedicated educators who come forward every day to help our children grow up will be essential to our recovery from this pandemic. Simply put, without access to safe child care and early learning programs, many parents cannot work.

Acting Secretary Beam signed the order under her authority under the Disease Prevention and Control Act.

The Order applies to everyone inside public schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12, including physical and virtual schools, private and parish schools, vocational and technical centers (CTCs) and units. intermediaries (UI). The order also applies to preschool learning programs and child care providers aged 2 and over, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The ordinance describes the situations in which a mask must be worn and includes limited exceptions to the requirement to cover the face. The decree does not apply to school sports or outdoor activities.

Failure to comply with or comply with the ordinance may expose a person to penalties under the Disease Prevention and Control Act of 1955 and to incur personal liability.

Last week, the governor sent a letter asking Republican legislative leaders to immediately work with him to pass legislation requiring masks to be worn in schools and daycares. Because Republican leaders have refused to act, the acting secretary is taking action to help keep students in classrooms, which is the best place to learn.

The departments also provided a first round of responses to frequently asked questions about the Health Secretary’s hiding order.

To view photos and video from today’s event, please visit PACast.

CONTACT WITH THE MEDIA: Lyndsay Kensinger, Governor’s Office, [email protected]

Mark O’Neill, Health, [email protected]

Kendall Alexander, Education, [email protected]

Erin James, Social Services, [email protected]

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