Wolf asks Republican leaders to return to Harrisburg and pass school mask mandate

Few school districts are requiring masks inside classrooms, something the Democratic governor said it needed to ensure safety.

Gov. Tom Wolf, wearing a face mask, speaks to the press from behind a podium

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a press conference in Harrisburg. (Office of Gov. Tom Wolf)

This story originally appeared on Spotlight PA.

Gov. Tom Wolf is calling on the Republican-led legislature to return to the Capitol immediately to pass legislation mandating the use of masks in K-12 classrooms and child-care centers throughout Pennsylvania.

In a letter to legislative leaders in both chambers, the Democratic governor struck a note of urgency, noting that many public schools have already returned to the classroom — most without mask requirements — and that parents who contact his administration overwhelmingly support a statewide mask mandate in classrooms.

Just 59 school districts out of the 474 that submitted health and safety plans to the Department of Education had implemented mandatory masking policies as of the end of July, Wolf said in a letter sent Wednesday to Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) and House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R., Lancaster).

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“For most of the past 18 months, the legislature has asked for my administration to defer to local governments and local organizations when making mitigation decisions,” Wolf wrote. “It is clear that action is needed to ensure children are safe as they return to the classroom.”

He added: “With school having already started in many areas of the state, the time to act is now.”

Wolf could not be reached for immediate comment. Jason Gottesman, spokesperson for House Republicans, said in an interview that the chamber has no plans to immediately return, and reiterated the belief that masking decisions should be made at the local level.

“We’ve been for local decision-making since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Gottesman, who also noted that voters earlier this year voted to curtail Wolf’s emergency powers, which was largely viewed as a referendum on the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Spotlight PA logoSpotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media.

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