Pennsylvania K-12 mask mandate rejected by state court

Pennsylvania K-12 mask mandate rejected by state court
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A Pennsylvania court on Wednesday rejected a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools and child care facilities, claiming that acting Health Secretary Alison Beam did not have the authority to issue the measure.

Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon wrote in the Commonwealth Court's decision that existing disease control law “does not provide the Acting Secretary with the blanket authority to create new rules and regulations out of whole cloth, provided they are related in some way to the control of disease or can otherwise be characterized as disease control measures.” 

The legislation “does not, on its own, provide the Acting Secretary with the authority to impose the Masking Order’s non-isolation, non-quarantine control measure of requiring all individuals to wear masks or face coverings inside Pennsylvania’s School Entities to combat reports of COVID-19,” Cannon, who is conservative, added.

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In September, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfBiden visits site of collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania court strikes down state's mail voting law as unconstitutional Pennsylvania governor vetoes GOP-approved congressional map MORE’s (D) administration announced that it would require students, staff and visitors in K-12 settings to wear masks as well as at child care facilities in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

On Monday, Wolf announced that starting on Jan. 17, schools would be allowed to end their mask mandates or modify them. 

Wolf’s press secretary, Elizabeth Rementer, said in a statement on Wednesday that the state has filed an appeal against the decision.

"The Secretary of Health's authority is clearly outlined in existing law. An appeal has been filed. Filing of the appeal immediately stays the Commonwealth Court’s decision. Schools have been notified," Rementer said.

However, several state Senate Republicans applauded the decision.

“Today’s ruling validates what we have said all along – mask decisions should be made by parents and school boards, NOT unelected bureaucrats. A blanket mandate does not address the unique needs and circumstances of individual communities, and it takes power away from the people who are in the best position to protect our kids,” Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R) said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Corman, along with state Rep. Jess Topper (R) and several others, had sued against the state’s mask mandate, according to The Associated Press. 

—Updated at 6:09 p.m.