Governor says he won't require masks in Pennsylvania schools

The Associated Press
Gov. Tom Wolf adjusts his mask while speaking to media during a visit to Family First Health in York City, Thursday, March 11, 2021. Gov. Wolf praised the health center for their diligence during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as for their efforts to get the COVID-19 vaccine to the members of the eligible and sometimes vulnerable members of the community. Dawn J. Sagert photo

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday ruled out a mask requirement for Pennsylvania schools as the academic year is about to begin, saying he will leave the decision to school districts.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said the Democratic governor told reporters outside a church in Philadelphia that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aren't mandating masks and neither is he.

“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.”

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He said he could change his mind, but didn't “see why we ought to do something the CDC is not,” the paper said.

At a Harrisburg legislative hearing Friday, Wolf's acting health secretary, Alison Beam, said limits on the governor's pandemic powers under a Republican-pushed constitutional amendment that passed in the fall are making it more of a challenge to issue school mandates to battle the coronavirus.

“Respectfully, I would ask, how do you and your colleagues in the Legislature anticipate protecting students and teachers and the tireless volunteers that are actually educating our students to make sure that we can preserve the in-person education?” Beam said.

Rep. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, told Beam that “the parents need to be able to make the choice. They know better than you or anyone else.”

The CDC recommends universal masking in schools and, on Friday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said students, teachers and visitors in schools must wear masks indoors once that state's academic year begins.

California, Louisiana, Oregon and Washington state also intend to require masks for all students and teachers regardless of vaccination status. But Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah are banning mask requirements in public schools.