The Lead

Pa. Sen. Corman, parents sue to overturn Wolf’s mask order

By: - September 4, 2021 7:52 am

Pa. Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre | Capital-Star file photo

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, and a group of parents are suing to overturn the Wolf administration’s mask mandate for K-12 students, according to a published report.

The lawsuit, first reported by the Associated Press, argues that acting Health Secretary Alison Beam doesn’t have the authority to issue the mandate, which applies to everyone indoors at K-12 public schools, including brick-and-mortar and cyber-charter schools, private and religious schools, career and technical centers, intermediate units, and early childhood education facilities, the Capital-Star previously reported.

The order was a reversal for Wolf, who had left it up to local school boards to make the call on whether to require masks.

“I preferred for local school boards to make this decision,” Wolf said earlier this week. “Unfortunately, an aggressive nationwide campaign is spreading misinformation about mask-wearing and pressuring and intimidating school districts to reject mask policies that will keep kids safe and in school. As we see cases among children increase in Pennsylvania and throughout the country, this is especially dangerous and challenging as we seek to keep kids in school and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.”

The state now averages more than 3,200 new, confirmed COVID-19 infections daily, about 20 times the number it was reporting on an average day in early July. Hospitalizations are up since July and deaths have doubled in two weeks, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh reported.

The administration dismissed the lawsuit as an “effort at undermining public heath,” the Associated Press reported.

The suit, filed in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, argues that the order is not valid because it didn’t go through the  regulatory review process. It also accuses the administration of trying to do an end-run on a pair of recently approved constitutional amendments limiting the emergency powers of Wolf and all his successors, the AP reported.

“The Secretary of Health’s order subjects healthy, non-infected teachers, children, students, staff, and visitors … to the wearing of face coverings,” the suit said. The plaintiffs, it said, are “not patients, they are healthy, non-infected children,” the suit alleges.

In addition to Corman, the plaintiffs also include Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford; two private Christian schools; and parents in three public school districts, the Associated Press reported.

Districts in most of the state’s largest cities — PhiladelphiaPittsburghAllentown, and Reading — already had mask mandates in effect before Tuesday’s announcement.

One analysis by University of Pennsylvania political science student Gianni Hill found that a majority of Pennsylvania public school students were already covered by some form of a mask mandate, the Capital-Star previously reported.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.