The masks are back.
Today, school districts throughout the Commonwealth opened their doors following the Labor Day holiday. And for the first time in the 2021-22 school year, students were required to wear masks.
Some parents have protested the requirement, insisting that children aren’t at risk when it comes to COVID-19 and the deadly Delta variant.
However, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health data, more and more children are getting ill from COVID-19. The case counts from Aug. 16 through Sept. 1 are climbing. In Clinton County, there have been five reported cases in children ages 0 to 4. In ages 5 through 18, there have been 17 reported cases of the deadly virus. During that same time frame in Centre County, there have been six reported cases in children 0 to 4. In ages 5 through 18, there have been 99 cases. Finally, in Lycoming County, there have been six cases in children ages 0 to 4. In ages 5 through 18, there have been 71 reported cases.
The numbers are significant because children 12 and under are not eligible for the vaccine.
Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Department of Health interim secretary Alison Beam announced that there would be a mask mandate for K-12 schools and daycare centers. The mandate came on the heels of a lawsuit filed by parents of special needs children. The group sued a suburban Philadelphia school board that refused to require masks.
Less than a month ago, Wolf rejected a statewide mask mandate for schools, although they had been required last year. The governor has now changed course as the highly contagious Delta variant threatens students and teachers alike, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending masks for students, staff and teachers.
The issue of masks in classrooms has been highly contended, with parents at school board meetings arguing in favor and against them. Pennsylvania’s two statewide teachers unions urged K-12 schools to require masks.
Students 13 and up are eligible for the vaccine. Vaccines are readily available from healthcare providers and local pharmacies. To find a provider, visit vaccines.gov.
For more information about COVID-19 in children or to take a closer look at the numbers, visit health.pa.gov.