Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam signed an order Tuesday requiring masks to be worn inside K-12 school buildings, early learning programs and child care providers. The order takes effect 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.
The pandemic has worsened in the past few weeks due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, which is dangerous to the unvaccinated, many of whom are children too young to get the vaccine. Requiring masks in schools will help to keep students in classrooms and the virus out and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The order was praised by medical and education experts across the state:
Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
“Masking is the best way to keep students in the classroom, pediatricians agree.
With our Chapter President Dr. Trude Haecker at the helm, PA AAP stood behind our state leaders in their announcement of a mask mandate in schools.”
Academy of Family Physicians
“Based on the current high levels of community spread of COVID-19, today’s decision by Sec. Beam and Gov. Wolf is timely and appropriate. The CDC has recommended that masks be worn in schools regardless of vaccination status and evidence suggests that masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The most important issue is keeping our children healthy and in the classroom.”
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
“The clinical experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, supported by CDC and AAP guidance, believe that in-school masking during times of high community transmission is an important mitigation measure in keeping schools open as children return to the classroom. With substantial community transmission, we support the requirement for indoor masking in schools and daycare settings across Pennsylvania.”
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
“UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recognizes the risk COVID-19 poses to children, especially the highly contagious delta variant circulating in our communities and the U.S. We want to help keep children safe from this virus and to ensure their educational, developmental, and social needs are met.
Our review of current evidence is that masks and face coverings are effective tools to reduce COVID-19 transmission. While COVID-19 vaccines also protect many and are safe and effective, they are not yet available for children younger than 12 years old. At UPMC Children’s, we follow the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and believe everybody should mask responsibly, particularly during school.”
Penn State Health
“Penn State Health’s chief concern is the health and well-being of the communities we serve. For that reason, we agree with guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which strongly recommends masking for children in schools and encourages those who teach and work with children to be vaccinated if eligible. Masks are most effective when everyone who is medically able is wearing one. Each child’s situation is unique, and parents of children with certain medical or developmental conditions should ask their primary care physician about whether masking is appropriate in those cases.”
The Western PA Regional Chief Medical Officers Consortium, which includes: the chief medical officers from UPMC, Allegheny Health Network, Excela Health System, Butler Health System, Heritage Valley Health System, St. Clair Hospital, Washington Health System, Pittsburgh VA Health System, Conemaugh Health System, Penn Highlands Healthcare, Indiana Regional Medical Center, and Armstrong Co Memorial Hospital
“On behalf of our hospitals and health care systems, we support the Governor and the Secretary of Health of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for creating a clear indoor masking requirements for our children in K-12 schools during this phase of the COVID 19 pandemic. Children get and can transmit COVID 19, and children under 12 cannot yet receive the protection of a vaccine to help create an immune response before infection.”
The science is clear: A properly made mask impairs droplet acquisition and sharing, the most effective way to thwart virus transmission including the new Delta variant. Masks do not create illness, threaten lung function, or impair immunity; successful masking will allow the learning and socialization that school in-person offers to happen much more safely.
Masking is a simple way to protect our children and those around them, and as we do this broadly and improve vaccination rates, we will be able to dampen the current COVID 19 threat to all.”
St. Luke’s University Health Network
“St. Luke’s believes masking helps create a safer return-to-school environment, specifically in our region, which has had one of the highest rates of transmission and community spread in the state.”
Philadelphia Health Department
“In Philadelphia, masks have been required in all schools, camps, and early childhood and child care settings since the original mask mandate was instituted. As children under the age of twelve cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19, it is imperative that we provide as many supplementary protections around them as we can. Masks have been proven over and over throughout the pandemic to provide protection indoors against COVID-19. We applaud Governor Wolf’s announcement today to require masks in schools.”
Chester County Health Department
“The mandate is another prevention measure layered with existing measures that is needed to keep students and staff safe, and schools/child care centers open for in-person learning. This announcement comes as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to rise in Chester County, the surrounding counties.”
Allegheny County Health Department
“Over the past few weeks and months, we have urged school districts to follow the CDC guidelines to require masking in schools. We have been fortunate that 26 of our districts have put full mandates in place and another six have some hybrid requirement.
In the last month, we have seen increasing cases of COVID-19 among children, especially those who are not yet eligible for vaccination. Today’s action by the state ensures that we are all taking the appropriate steps to protect our children while also providing for reasonable exceptions. I wholeheartedly support them in this decision and thank them for taking this step.”
Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers
“Pennsylvania’s Community Health Centers are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of all Pennsylvanians. We support any initiative that works to keep our neighbors, our communities and our families safe. We continue to urge eligible Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated, as it is the best defense to slow the spread of the virus throughout our communities and prevent serious illness and death.”
Wayne Memorial Hospital:
“Wayne Memorial Hospital supports in-school learning and all COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including mandatory masking. Studies show that while masks are not perfect, they can help reduce transmission of this terrible disease. Statistics at our own rural hospital this past year strongly indicate that masks also help decrease the likelihood of transmission of other respiratory illnesses, including influenza and RSV, a disease which affects mostly children. Masks and vaccines are the easiest, most accessible and most effective weapons in our arsenal right now against COVID-19.”
Pennsylvania Medical Society
“In reaction to Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam’s order mandating masks be worn inside K-12 school buildings, early learning programs, and child care providers, the Pennsylvania Medical Society continues to fully support the CDC’s COVID-19 mitigation guidance of masking, social distancing, and washing hands. These simple yet effective efforts have been proven to reduce the spread of disease. In fact, we saw a marked reduction in patients with the seasonal flu this year due to these measures. Children aged 11 and under aren’t able receive the vaccine yet, therefore, prevention measures are critical to keeping our precious Pennsylvania youth healthy.”
Committee to Protect Health Care
“Governor Wolf’s announcement that masks will be required inside all Pennsylvania schools is a welcomed one for physicians and parents as we continue to navigate this ongoing COVID-19 surge in the state. Now that the more contagious delta variant has taken hold, our children are unfortunately at a higher risk of getting infected and becoming seriously ill. Especially when children under 12 aren’t yet eligible for the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines, masks are a simple and important part of the safety strategy to keep students and educators healthy while learning in person – a goal we all should share.”
The Education Law Center
“We believe that issuing an explicit directive requiring schools to mandate masks is essential to ensuring the health and safety of all our students, teachers, parents, school staff and communities.
Such a directive is also vital to ensuring that widening disparities in educational opportunity suffered by Black and Brown students, students living in poverty, multilingual learners, and students with disabilities are not further exacerbated.”
We The People PA
“The We The People PA campaign strongly supports Governor Wolf’s decision to require teachers, staff, and students to wear masks in all K-12 schools and in child care centers. This is a critical step to protect school children and entire communities from the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, especially since children under the age of 12 cannot yet be vaccinated. The scientific data supports the use of masks to limit the spread of COVID-19. Taking this step will thus help keep schools open and limit disruption for working families, school communities, and local businesses. And the failure of the General Assembly to act on the governor’s request justifies his taking action on the basis of existing state law. We can protect our kids, keep them learning, and help parents and our communities by keeping our kids safely in school.”
The departments of Health, Human Services and Education provided a series of initial answers to frequently asked questions about the Secretary of Health’s masking order.