Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that he won’t be requiring masks in Pennsylvania schools, drawing a sharp contrast with New Jersey’s move to mandate masking ahead of the new school year.
Asked at a news conference outside St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church in East Mount Airy whether he was considering a school mask mandate, Wolf said: “No.”
“I think the school districts in Pennsylvania have to decide what they want to do,” Wolf said. “I think the CDC guidelines strongly recommend that schools do that. They’re not mandating it and neither am I.”
The Democratic governor’s comments came as Gov. Phil Murphy announced to New Jerseyans that all students and staff in K-12 schools would be required to wear masks come fall amid a rise in coronavirus cases and the fast-spreading delta variant.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended universal masking in schools, but many Pennsylvania districts have yet to require masks or are still on the cusp of making decisions for the fall.
As the state tries to fend off the increase in cases, Wolf’s acting health secretary said earlier this week that “all bets are on the table” when it came to a possible school mask mandate.
Wolf, however, said Friday that schools “make up their own mind,” and that he didn’t see it as the state’s role to order masking. Asked whether he had made up his mind, he said: “Yeah, I have.”
“I’m not so rigid that I never change my mind. So I’ll never say never,” the governor added. “But I don’t see why we ought to do something CDC is not.”
Masking has become a bitter debate in many school communities, with parents voicing strong opposition to mandates, and others pleading for the requirement as a safety measure.
Some area schools are planning to require masks — the largest being Philadelphia, which will require all students and staff to be masked. And some others have announced requirements at specific grade levels — targeting younger grades, since children under 12 are not currently eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.