Wolf reinstates school mask mandate, draws fierce criticism

Daily Item by John Finnerty/CNHI State Report, August 31, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf reversed course on Tuesday, mandating that students, staff and visitors to public and private schools and day care facilities will be required to wear masks beginning Sept. 7. Wolf said that the state has the authority to issue the mandate under powers granted to the Department of Health, regardless of the move by the General Assembly in June to end the state’s COVID disaster emergency. State Rep. Carl Metzgar, R-Somerset County, quickly criticized the mask mandate, calling it “absurd.” He said the state’s changing guidance has been difficult to manage. “For the last year and a half, Gov. Wolf has continually changed his mind on the well-being for Pennsylvanians.

We are exhausted from the whiplash, especially when it comes to our children,” Metzgar said. Wolf had previously said that his administration would let local officials decide whether to require masks, as the CDC recommends, or not. But Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said that the spike in COVID cases over the last month has changed the landscape, and justifies the statewide mandate. “The reality that we are living in now is extremely different than it was just one month ago,” Beam said. “Pennsylvania, along with the rest of the nation is seeing steep increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19. In July, we were seeing fewer than 300 new cases of COVID per day across the state. Now we are seeing more than 3,000 cases per day. Hospitalizations from COVID are up — 1,850 people are in the hospital just today because of COVID-19, versus 245 in mid-July.”

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