Pennsylvania to require all public schools to mandate face coverings

Pennsylvania is imposing a statewide requirement that public school students and staff wear masks as they return to the classroom, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

“As everybody knows, we’re not where we were two months ago. The aggressive Delta variant has changed everything for us,” Wolf said.

Pennsylvania has not been as hard hit by the Delta variant as states in the southwest. But Wolf cited their experience – of hospitals running out of space to treat children; of students forced to quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus just days into the new school year – to justify the new mask requirement.

As of August 30, the state was posting a seven-day average of more than 3,200 new cases each day, a 63% increase from two weeks earlier. Hospitalizations and deaths have also increased, but remain far below the January peak, illustrating the effect of vaccination.

Sixty-nine percent of Pennsylvania residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 55% are fully vaccinated. Both numbers are slightly higher than the national average.

Children over the age of 12 are now eligible to be vaccinated. But until it is authorized, children younger than 12 cannot.

“Wearing a mask in school is necessary to keep our children in the classroom and keep COVID out,” Wolf said. “Doing nothing is going to mean more sick kids.”