Most school districts return to optional masking as COVID-19 outbreak grows

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

Most York County school districts have returned to making masks optional following the state Supreme Court's ruling, all while COVID-19 rates continue to increase in schools.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Friday that acting Health Secretary Alison Beam — who announced her resignation Monday — did not have the legal authority to impose the mandate, effectively removing the mandate statewide.

As of Monday, 15 out of York County's 16 public school districts made masks optional.

The only exception is York City School District, Superintendent Andrea Berry confirmed Monday. Three other districts — Dover, Southern York County and York Suburban — imposed their own mask requirements prior to the state order, but since then each district changed its health and safety plan to make masking optional in line with the state.

More:Pennsylvania high court throws out mask mandate for schools

Meanwhile, COVID-19 is spreading faster than ever in local schools. As of Monday, York County schools had recorded at least 3,983 cases during this school year, including 79 cases since Friday.

It's the ninth day in a row that daily cases in schools have exceeded the daily average. The spike is large enough that it has increased the rolling 7-day daily average from 48 cases to 52. 

York County schools have already surpassed last year's total case count by more than 1,000 cases. At this rate, local schools will triple last year's total by the end of this school year. 

Throughout York County, cases are also rising. The county has recorded 75,451 cases and 1,109 COVID-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic. That includes 1,370 new cases and nine new deaths logged over the weekend. 

York County has the highest daily cases per capita among its four neighboring counties, at 86 daily cases per 100,000 people, according to The New York Times. However, the rate of transmission is lower in York County compared with most of its neighbors. 

  • York County: 49% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Lancaster County: 59% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Adams County: 71% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Cumberland County: 31% increase in cases over the last 14 days
  • Dauphin County: 62% increase in cases over the last 14 days

Across all 67 counties, the state had recorded 1,843,137 cases as of Monday, including 34,618 deaths. In addition, there have been 5.9 million negative tests taken, with 200,274 of those coming from York County.  

COVID-19 data for York County as of Dec. 13, 2021

Local hospitals have passed 200 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, with 205 patients as of Monday, including six new hospitalizations since Friday. Of those patients, 43 adults are in the ICU, and 31 patients are on ventilators. 

More:York County districts pass last year's COVID-19 total less than halfway through school year

More:COVID-19 reporting varies widely among York County schools

No two school districts are tracking COVID-19 cases in the same way. 

Five districts — Dallastown, Hanover, Northeastern, Southern and West Shore — are not posting their total cases for the school year. Instead, some of them are only publishing cases recorded during the previous 14 days, while others are only posting active cases. 

Among other districts, COVID-19 tracking varies. Some districts don't include cases that were contracted while the students or staff were off district property. Some combine probable and confirmed cases, while others keep the two separate. 

It's impossible to know the exact number of COVID-19 cases linked to every school district in the county. But The York Dispatch will continue to keep track of the number of cases in each district to the best of our knowledge.

You can keep track of your district's recorded cases for the 2021-2022 school year here. We will continue to update on a daily basis as numbers change.