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Pennsylvania Students Required To Wear Masks At All Times

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

HARRISBURG (KDKA) -- The Pennsylvania Department of Education and Department of Health are requiring students to wear masks at all times while in school.

The announcement came on Monday from state officials. Here's what state officials have to say:

"Yes, this order applies to all students, staff and visitors age two and older while in school entities, including public K-12 schools, brick and mortar and cyber charter schools, private and parochial schools, career and technical centers (CTCs), intermediate units (IUs); educational programming for students in non-educational placements such as residential settings (boarding schools), residential facilities, detention centers, and hospital settings; PA Pre-K Counts, Head Start Programs and Preschool Early Intervention programs; and Private Academic Nursery Schools and locally funded prekindergarten activities.

"The Order was effective July 1, 2020 and will remain in effect until the Secretary of Health determines the public health risk is sufficiently reduced so that face coverings are no longer necessary as a widely utilized public health tool. For the safety of students, staff and families and to avoid community spread of COVID-19, students and staff are considered to be members of the public who are congregating in indoor locations. As such, they are required to adhere to this Order.

The order is effective immediately and applies to all children aged two and older."

WATCH: KDKA's Kristine Sorensen Talks To A Pediatrician About Masks

Per the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, they said that this announcement is an update from prior recommendations. Eight leading education organizations, part of a back-to-school task force, helped guide the new requirements.

"The Pennsylvania Department of Education in cooperation with the Department of Health announced today, the requirement of all students to wear face coverings at all times, while in school. This is an update from the prior recommendation, in that, the requirement extends to instances when students and staff are able to maintain an appropriate six-foot social distance. The update is based on the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) updated guidance strongly recommending children age two and older should wear face coverings at all times to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus," PSBA said on their website.

This does slightly conflict, however, with state guidance that reportedly was updated on Monday. The only exceptions for students removing their masks in a school facility are listed below:

"Schools may allow students to remove face coverings when students are:

Eating or drinking when spaced at least 6 feet apart; or
When wearing a face-covering creates an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment or execute a task; or
At least 6 feet apart during "face-covering breaks" to last no longer than 10 minutes."

"I remember what it was like being a kid. I've seen enough adults have a hard enough time with it," said Thomas Velto.

Velto and his wife decided on an all-online option for their younger children. They said wearing masks in school was already weighing heavily among their concerns.

"It really wasn't something I was comfortable with making a teacher force on them. I have a hard enough time policing it if we have to run out to Target or something," Velto said.

"The disease spreads quickly so they need to have it on," parent Ryan Atkins told KDKA.

When cases of coronavirus are identified in a school, state, county or municipal health departments will guide administrators on cleaning, disinfecting, contact tracing, quarantine recommendations and closing certain areas of the school or entire buildings if necessary.

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