Officials, parents across the tri-state area debate mask mandates for students this fall

Gov. Wolf's comments come the same day as New Jersey's governor declared a mask mandate for schools there.

6abc Digital Staff Image
Saturday, August 7, 2021
Gov. Wolf says he will not mandate masks in schools
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday he will not mandate masks in K-12 schools this fall. His comments come the same day as N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a mask mandate for schools.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The debate of whether or not to mandate masks for students and staff as they return to school is heating up.

By the numbers, when it comes to school-aged children not eligible for the vaccine, cases rose dramatically last month in the region.

On Friday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy made masking in schools mandatory state-wide for the foreseeable future.

"It's due to the recent and rampant spread of the delta variant and fact that no child under the age of 12 is yet eligible to be vaccinated," said Murphy.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said Friday he will not mandate masks in K-12 schools this fall.

The announcement came during a press event as he toured a vaccination site in Philadelphia's West Oak Lane section alongside democratic local, state, and federal leaders.

"The school districts in Pennsylvania have to decide what they will do," said Wolf. "I think CDC guidance is they strongly recommend schools do it, but they're not mandating it, and neither am I."

The School District of Philadelphia has already announced that all students and staff will have to wear masks when the new year begins.

In Delaware, Governor John Carney hasn't made a decision yet. But one is expected soon.

RELATED: Gov. Murphy announces masks will be required for K-12 students in New Jersey

Despite not mandating masks, Wolf urged more Pennsylvanians to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite not mandating masks, he urged more Pennsylvanians to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

"I'm proud of all of the Pennsylvanians who have stepped up to get their shot and I am grateful to everyone who has had a hand in organizing and running vaccine clinics like the one we're visiting today," Wolf said.

"Your hard work saves lives, and we cannot thank you enough for all that you do. Pennsylvania has had a lot of success rolling out COVID-19 vaccines over the past several months. Unfortunately, despite widespread vaccine availability, there are still many eligible Pennsylvanians who are unvaccinated."

The press event coincided with people opting to receive the vaccine at the site including Ayalah Richardson, 18, who is concerned about the delta variant.

SEE ALSO: 11-month-old with COVID sent to hospital 150 miles away due to lack of bed space in Houston

"With the delta variant, it was getting crazy. I was just like, 'I'm going to hurry up and get the vaccine. I was like y'all don't want to catch COVID again,'" said Richardson.

Congressman Dwight Evans spoke about what help federal aid is bringing to the vaccination effort.

"I was proud to vote for the American Rescue Plan, which is providing more than $23 billion in federal funding for vaccine efforts," he said.

CDC COVID-19 Transmission Levels by U.S. County

Map not displaying correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

State Senator Art Haywood, who sits on the state's bi-partisan COVID task force, said this particular portion of his district is showing favorable numbers as far as the number of people receiving vaccines, but the rest of his district and needs to catch up.

Health officials continue to say the best way to fight COVID-19 and return the country to normalcy is to get everyone vaccinated.