Pennsylvania Health Department Updates Guidance on Wearing Masks in Schools

Pennsylvania Health Department Updates Guidance on Wearing Masks in Schools

Earlier this summer, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced the Order Requiring Universal Face Coverings. This stated that face coverings will be required to be worn in school by all students, staff, and visitors age two and older. With schools getting ready for in-person learning to resume in just a matter of weeks, The Department of Education updated its guidance for when students are able to remove the face coverings during school.

Schools in Pennsylvania are permitted to allow their students to remove face coverings under three circumstances:

  • When students are at least 6 feet apart during “face-covering breaks” that last no longer than 10 minutes
  • When eating or drinking if children are spaced at least 6 feet apart
  • When wearing a face-covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task

The Department of Health requires face coverings to cover the nose and mouth as well as be secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears. The new face covering rule must be implemented by all school districts immediately prior to the beginning of the school year. 

Discussing the update of guidelines, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine called the update a “clarification” of earlier guidelines the state released. Previously, some districts understood the guidance to allow the removal of face coverings when people are more than 6 feet apart. Levine stated, “It is very clear that young people can spread this virus, and we want to protect against anybody getting sick but particularly outbreaks, so that’s my biggest concern.”

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