Does Pennsylvania’s new school mask mandate apply to high school athletics?

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania has re-issued a mask mandate for all K-12 schools while indoors regardless of vaccination status. According to the Department of Health, this will not apply to student-athletes while they are at practice or event, whether indoors or outdoors.

The order will take effect Tuesday, Sept. 7, a day after Labor Day, and will require students, teachers and staff to wear masks when inside.

The joint announcement said this measure is crucial to preserve things like high school athletics from being shut down. ELCO/Susquenita & Annville-Cleona/Schuylkill Valley were both cited as Friday night football games postponed due to COVID-19 situations.

It does apply to both public and private institutions. Answers to more frequently asked questions can be found on the Department of Education website by clicking here.

Exceptions to mask order

The following are exceptions to the face covering requirements listed by the Department of Health on its website. All alternatives to a face covering, including the use of a face shield, should be exhausted before an individual is excepted from this Order.

  • If wearing a face covering while working would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
  • If wearing a face covering would either cause a medical condition, or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues that impede breathing, a mental health condition or a disability.
  • When necessary to confirm the individual’s identity.
  • When working alone and isolated from interaction with other people with little or no expectation of in-person interaction.
  • If an individual is communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing-impaired or has another disability, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • When the individual is under two (2) years of age.
  • When an individual is:
    • Engaged in an activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, such as eating and drinking, or playing an instrument that would be obstructed by the face covering
    • Participating in high intensity aerobic or anerobic activities, including during a physical education class in a well-ventilated location and able to maintain a physical distance of six feet from all other individuals.
  • When a child/student is participating in a sports practice activity or event, whether indoors or outdoors.

Details on mask mandate

Governor Tom Wolf joined the Department of Health, Department of Human Services and Department of Education to discuss the current state of the pandemic and the 2021-2022 school year.

“While the majority of children cannot be vaccinated yet, we know there are other reliable ways to keep them safe, including wearing a mask,” said Gov. Wolf on Tuesday afternoon.

Less than a month ago, Governor Wolf had ruled out the possibility for a statewide mask mandate for schools after requiring them last year. But the highly contagious delta variant has changed the administration’s calculus about what is needed to keep students in class.

“My office has received an outpouring of messages from parents asking the administration to protect all children by requiring masks in schools,” said Gov. Wolf. “The science is clear. The Delta variant is highly transmissible and dangerous to the unvaccinated, many of whom are children too young to receive the vaccine. Requiring masks in schools will keep our students safer and in the classroom, where we all want them to be.”

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended masks in schools for students, staff and teachers.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) did not want to respond to the new mask mandate as they say the order was very clear about masks and high school sports.

This is a developing story. Stay up to date on the latest from abc27 News on-air and online.

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