HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A new ruling by the Pennsylvania Department of Education will require all school children wear masks when they return in fall, when they are unable to socially distance.

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) was an early supporter of face coverings during the pandemic. “If we’re all wearing masks — the data shows very clearly that — the ability of the virus to leap from one person to another is dramatically reduced.”

At the Pennsylvania Capitol, employees and staff must wear masks when moving around the building. Elected officials, however, are not technically “employees.”

They don’t have to wear masks but most choose to anyway. Most, but not all.

“In fairness, there are people on both sides of the aisle not wearing masks,” said Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware/Montgomery).

Vitali is a ‘yes-vote’ on masks. “I try to wear it when I’m around people. When I jog, I don’t wear a mask, but around people I do.”

New House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Mifflin/Centre) chooses to wear a mask but says he’s fine with members who choose not to.

“These masks are not necessarily N-95, protective against every kind of illness,” Benninghoff said. “It’s more of a courtesy to not be projecting saliva on other people. That’s an important thing.”

Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) cannot mask his disdain for face coverings.

“They could cause more harm than good,” Diamond said. “They can give people a false sense of security. People are fiddling with them all the time. They’re also touching their face which is a no-no as well. All in all, they cause more harm than good.”

While politicians are divided, physicians, increasingly, are not.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society issued a statement urging mask-wearing. The statement highlighted “masks reduce the spray of respiratory droplets.”

Doctors concede masks can be uncomfortable, although not as uncomfortable as catching the novel coronavirus.

“We have to remember these are not ordinary times. They are pandemic times,” said Dr. Raghav Tirupathi, an infectious disease expert in Chambersburg. “Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and responsibilities for all citizens.”

Experts say it’s not only important to wear masks but also to wear them correctly, which means covering the nose and the mouth and tucking it under the chin.

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