Pennsylvania Senate Group Makes K-12 Mask Mandate Removal Proposal


Republican state lawmakers seek ways around Pennsylvania K-12 mask mandate, including a bill whose main sponsor uses a discredited German study to undermine order and avoid questioning.

“Facts are funny things,” said Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, leaving Tuesday’s conference Senate Committee on Education Meet.

The 11-member panel had just voted on party lines to approve a invoice, sponsored by Mastriano, which would give parents the option to opt out of the Wolf administration’s most recent K-12 mask tenure.

The proposal requires districts to declare that a child exempt from the mask mandate will not be subjected to harassment or discriminatory treatment, including isolation from others.

A since-retracted German study served as the backbone of Mastriano’s opposition to the mask’s mandate and false claims that wearing face coverings has adverse health effects. JAMA Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed medical journal, withdrew its publication from the study in July, citing concerns about its methodology and reliance on public opinion.

“My office has literally received hundreds of calls over the past two weeks and emails from parents, as well as interactions on the street at events where I am on the go, describing the respiratory issues and the ill effects. increased health and psychological damage to their own children, as well as treatment and bullying in schools, ”Mastriano told the committee.

Acting Secretary of State for Health Alison Beam testified before the Senate panel at August and said there is no evidence to support the idea that wearing masks, especially in a classroom, impairs a child’s ability to learn or results in poor communication skills. At the time, Beam’s comments drew taunts from frustrated parents.

Dozens of medical experts, including the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention and the United States National Academy of Sciences – have published reports and Underline additional studies showing that wearing a mask reduces the spread of COVID-19. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents physicians specializing in children’s health, supports universal masking for those over 2 years old.

“Have you looked at any of the many other medical studies regarding the effectiveness of mask wear that haven’t been retracted? Senator Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, the Democrat ranked in the panel, asked Matriano.

Neglecting to give a straightforward answer, Mastriano dubbed the demystified German study, claiming he spoke German and only part of it was written in English.

He also noted a CDC to study, released in May, which reported a 21% lower COVID-19 transmission rate in schools where masks were required. Mastriano, however, falsely summed up the study’s results by saying that there is “no significant difference” in schools with opposing masking policies. The report notes that “multifaceted prevention strategies”, including masking, prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Ahead of the 2021-22 school year, the Wolf administration said it was leaving mask policies to be decided by local districts. Commonwealth school boards have faced controversial meetings and reluctance from residents when making decisions about mask warrants. Last week, a panel of educators testified before the Senate committee and described community divisions resulting from a change in policy.

The warrant, which came into effect on September 7, was enacted in response to the increase in the number of cases among school-aged children, the Wolf administration said last month. The measure is supported by the Education Law Center – a statewide legal defense organization – a number of popular education groups, the two largest teachers’ unions in the state.

“Universal masking in schools helps reduce serious health risks for students, staff and their families,” Chris Lilienthal, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania State Educational Associationthe Capital-Star said on Tuesday. “It also helps students stay safe and in the classroom by dramatically reducing unnecessary interruptions to in-person learning. “

Mastriano’s bill puts these priorities “at risk”, he added.

As of August 16, more than 32,633 school-aged children – aged 18 and under – have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state data which is updated weekly. From March 2020 to August 2021, 16 deaths occurred among 15-19 year olds, according to data provided by the state health department.

“That’s a lot of kids suffering,” Williams said of recent data. “That’s a lot of people getting sick and there are a lot of risks that I’m not prepared to take with our children. “

Mastriano, however, said children are the “least vulnerable”, comparing COVID-related deaths in children and adults.

“How much [deaths] should we change our minds about mask warrants? Williams asked in response.

Mastriano chose not to provide an answer and defended giving parents the option of deciding on masking in schools. The Senate could vote on the legislation this week, sending it to the House of Representatives for consideration.

If the bill lands on Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s desk, there will be a veto.

“The efforts of supporters of the bill would better serve their constituents and the Commonwealth as a whole by focusing on increase vaccination rates within their legislative constituencies instead of working on this unnecessary legislation, ”a spokesperson for the administration told Capital-Star in a statement. “We need Republicans to stop wasting their time undermining public health and instead encourage people to get vaccinated. “

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