Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling that ends the Secretary of Health’s order that masks must be worn by children over two and educators and staff at child care settings. Please note that this decision does not impact the Federal directive requiring all Head Start and Early Head Start programs or passengers and drivers to wear a mask on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems; these requirements remain in effect.
While we are disappointed by the Court’s ruling, this ruling does not prevent providers from setting their own health and safety policies for their staff and children in care in line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s guidance for child care facilities at this time still recommends universal masking for children age 2 and older and staff regardless of vaccination status, specifically:
“Indoors: CDC recommends universal masking in ECE programs for everyone two years of age and older, regardless of vaccination status.
Outdoors: In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. CDC recommends that people age 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during activities that involve sustained close contact with other people.”
COVID-19 is still a threat, and I strongly urge all providers to continue requiring mask use for children age 2 and older and educators and staff. Consistent and proper mask usage can limit transmission, protect individuals inside the facility and their families, and reduce the need to quarantine or consolidate entire classrooms due to exposures. Masking can help us continue some level of consistent and normal operations that provides stability to children, their families, and educators and staff. Especially in light of new variants, we must all continue to do our part to keep the children and families we serve as well as educators and staff safe in child care settings. Encouraging and supporting staff to get vaccinated and sharing resources about vaccination for children 5 and older is also important, especially while a vaccine is not available to our youngest children.
Thank you for your support,
Acting Secretary, Department of Human Services