The COVID-19 delta variant is stimulating discussions across the United States over revisiting pandemic mitigation measures like lockdowns and mask mandates, but in Pennsylvania, some lawmakers aim to keep masks off school children no matter what new mandates may be imposed.
“If a kid wants to wear a mask, let them. If not, they shouldn’t have to,” State Rep. Barry Jozwiak told The Epoch Times. “It should be a parent’s choice or a student’s choice.” Children are not at high risk of getting or spreading COVID-19, he reasoned.
Jozwiak has the support of 22 cosponsors for his anti-masking legislation, HB 1746, which is now in the House Education Committee. He envisions it overriding any future mask mandate.
“Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary,” the bill says, “students and staff of a school entity and nonpublic school shall not be subject to the masking order and may not be required to wear a mask or universal face covering at school.”
Gov. Tom Wolf said last week he is not considering reinstating a state-level mandate for mask-wearing in students K-12 schools. Wolf is more focused on getting the population vaccinated. However, the administration is recommending Pennsylvanians and schools follow federal guidance from the Center for Disease Control.
Current CDC guidance directs all people age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks at school. The vaccine is available for children starting at age 12 up.
Jozwiak says it is unnecessary to continue extended masking of children, which he says leads to headaches, fatigue, and mental health problems.
Numerous studies show children are significantly less likely to be infected with the COVID-19 virus than adults. Additionally, there is little evidence to suggest children are super-spreaders of the virus, a memo for the legislation said.
In April 2020, then-Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine started requiring masks. Pennsylvania ended its mask mandate on June 28. Levine has since been appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Jozwiak says it is time to get back to normal.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, and the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be readily available, it is critical for our children to return to school this fall without any undue burden,” Jozwiak said in the bill’s memo. “After disruptions in two consecutive school years, our students must focus on recovering from the adverse impacts of the pandemic, such as addressing learning loss, reengaging in extra-curricular activities, and addressing their mental health concerns. Our students need to advance their education and development, and not worry about masking.”