A Pennsylvania court has struck down Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and Health Secretary Alison Beam’s statewide mask mandate for schools, but an appeal has already been filed and the mandate remains in place — for now.
According to the Associated Press, the Commonwealth Court voted 4–1 that a statewide mask order was unconstitutional because the health secretary did not have the authority to issue it. The ruling came in response to a suit filed by state Senate ranking Republican Jake Corman and other individuals when the mandate was imposed in September.
The court pointed out that the mandate didn’t comply with state laws about reviewing and approving regulations, since Beam adopted it in the absence of an existing disaster declaration by the governor.
Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon (R) wrote that the state’s disease control law does not give health secretaries “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,” according to the AP.
Mandate to remain in place until appeal
Cannon said the ruling was not an opinion by the judges about the “science or efficacy of mask-wearing or the politics underlying the considerable controversy the subject continues to engender,” the AP added.
According to Fox News, the Wolf administration immediately filed an appeal that will stay the court’s ruling until the appeal can be heard, keeping the mandate in place for now.
Wolf announced earlier in the week that he would return school mask guidance to individual districts in January as cases leveled off or dropped in the state.
It is likely that by the time the appeals court rules, it will be a moot point and the mandate will be over.
This means the governor and health secretary have effectively gotten away with another illegal mandate by using delay tactics and forcing opponents to battle it through the courts, at least for now.
Children and the risk of COVID-19
The masks have seemed to make schools and some parents feel better about children being in school in person, but other parents are just as adamant that students should not have to wear them.
Of the 750,000 deaths that have been identified as related to COVID-19, less than 700 have been children under 18, according to USA Today.
Until last week, children could not be vaccinated against the virus, but now they can receive the Pfizer vaccine if parents so choose. According to CNBC, the White House has said nearly 1 million kids rolled up their sleeves in the first week the shot was available to them.