With a focus on protecting students and keeping them in the classroom, Governor Tom Wolf joined the Departments of Health, Human Services, and Education today to discuss the current state of COVID-19 and its mandate. New Health Secretary’s new requirement to wear masks inside K-12 school buildings, early learning programs and child care providers. The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

“My office has received a lot of messages from parents asking the government to protect all children by requiring masks in schools,” said Governor Wolf. “Science is clear. The Delta variant is highly contagious and dangerous to unvaccinated people, many of whom are children too young to be vaccinated. Requiring face masks in schools will keep our students safer and in the classroom, where we all want them to be.

“I want the local school board to make this decision. Unfortunately, an active nationwide campaign is spreading misinformation about mask wearing and pressuring and threatening school districts to reject mask-wearing policies that help keep children safe. and go to school. As we see child cases on the rise in Pennsylvania and across the country, it is especially dangerous and challenging as we work to find ways to keep children in school and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment. . ”

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam was joined at the press conference today by Governor Tom Wolf, Secretary of Education Noe Ortega, Acting Secretary of Human Services Meg Snead and President of the Pennsylvania Division of the American Academy of Pediatrics , Dr. Trude Haecker.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said: “The reality we live in today is much different than it was a month ago. “With the growing number of cases, the situation has reached a point where we need to take this action to protect our children, teachers and staff. Clear science. If we want to keep our schools open, maintain classroom learning and allow sports and other activities to continue, then wearing masks will greatly increase our chances . ”

The widespread use of face masks in schools, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, helps reduce the risk that entire classrooms need to be quarantined due to a COVID-19 case. positive. This order ensures that Pennsylvania’s children are engaged in classroom learning without interruption.

The Delta variant has been the driving force of the pandemic since the end of last school year. The variant is more contagious than the original strain, which accounts for more than 92% of current COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Since July when schools first began discussing health and safety plans, Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 load has increased from less than 300 a day to more than 3,000 a day – with cases in school-age children increased by more than 11,000 last month, and by more than 79,000 between January 2021 and August 2021.

Additionally, new COVID-19 infections among children enrolled in licensed child care facilities have increased significantly in recent months, according to data reported by childcare providers. report to DHS. For example, on June 4, childcare providers reported eight cases of COVID-19 in children in the previous week. On August 27, the number of new COVID-19 infections in children in the previous week was 162.

The Wolf Administration continues to encourage eligible Pennsylvanians to get vaccinated as it is the best defense to prevent the spread of the virus. However, there is currently no approved vaccine for children under 12 years of age. For eligible adolescents in Pennsylvania, 18.2 percent of children 12-14 years of age are fully immunized and 38.3 percent of children 15-19 years of age are fully immunized.

Education Secretary Noe Ortega said, “After months of being apart, students and educators are eagerly returning to classrooms across Pennsylvania for the new school year. “Unfortunately, we have seen schools across the country close because of COVID-19. Wearing a mask is a proven strategy that will help Pennsylvania’s schools reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect their communities, and keep our students and educators where we are. know that it’s important for them to be present – to safely teach, learn and grow together in their classroom. ”

“Educational early childhood experiences can shape a child’s educational, social, and emotional development throughout their life. Science has shown us that the first 5 years of life are critical to brain development, influencing an individual’s life trajectory for many years after that,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead . “A thriving childcare industry is also fundamental to the rest of our economy, and this industry and the dedicated educators who show up every day to help children Our growth will be essential to our recovery from this pandemic. Simply put, without access to safe childcare programs and early learning, many parents cannot work.”

Acting Secretary Beam signed the order under his authority provided by the Disease Control and Prevention Act.

The Order applies to everyone in the home at K-12 public schools including traditional and online charter schools, private and parish schools, career and technical centers (CTCs), and intermediate units (IU). The order also applies to early learning programs and child care providers for children 2 years of age and older, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The order outlines situations in which face coverings are required and includes limited exceptions to the face covering requirement. This order does not apply to school sports or outdoor activities.

Failure to perform or comply with the Order may subject a person to penalties under the Disease Control and Prevention Act of 1955 and to personal liability.

Last week, the governor sent a letter asking Republican legislative leaders to immediately work with him to pass legislation requiring face masks in schools and child care facilities. em. Because Republican leaders refuse to act, the rights secretary is acting to help keep students in the classroom, which is the best place to learn.

The departments also issued a series of initial responses to frequently asked questions about the Health Secretary’s order to wear masks.

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