Pennsylvania governor allowing school districts to modify, end mask mandate

Pennsylvania governor allowing school districts to modify, end mask mandate
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfEd Gainey sworn in as Pittsburgh's first Black mayor The COVID-19 endgame may be here Pennsylvania GOP Senate votes to bar school children from COVID-19 requirement MORE (D) intends to allow school districts to modify or end mask mandates for K-12 students starting on Jan. 17. 

Wolf’s administration imposed a statewide mask mandate in September, citing the surge of infections and hospitalizations from the highly contagious delta variant of the novel virus, according to The Associated Press.

“Now, we are in a different place than we were in September, and it is time to prepare for a transition back to a more normal setting,” Wolf said in a statement on Monday. 

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“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus is now a part of our daily lives, but with the knowledge we’ve gained over the past 20 months and critical tools like the vaccine at our disposal, we must take the next step forward in our recovery,” he added. 

The existing order from Health Secretary Alison Beam requires students, school personnel and visitors at K-12 schools and child care facilities to wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. 

The move to end the statewide mandate comes after federal officials approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 5.

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“While we continue to monitor data such as pediatric hospital capacity and case counts, we want to give local leaders plenty of time to prepare for the anticipated expiration of the order," Beam said in a statement. 

Beam encouraged schools to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep their educators and students safe, and encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated. 

“As we have stated from the beginning, the best approach to protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians from COVID-19 is a personal and local decision," state Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R) said in a statement. "Today’s decision by Gov. Wolf is a step in the right direction for Pennsylvania as we continue to manage out of crisis and focus our efforts on moving our state’s economy in the right direction.”

The Wolf administration said that more than 70 percent of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated against the virus.

—Updated at 4:19 p.m.