Court Rules PA Mask Mandate Must Expire Dec. 4

At Wilson High School in West Lawn, students in the audience listen as former NBA basketball player Chris Herren speaks on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

By Associated Press

November 17, 2021

The ruling comes a week after Commonwealth Court threw out the statewide mask mandate for school and child care facilities.

HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday said an order that requires masks inside K-12 schools and child care facilities to contain the coronavirus must expire Dec. 4, although that is unlikely to be the final legal development in the case.

The ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon comes a week after her court threw out the statewide mask mandate, and it lifts the automatic suspension of that decision granted when Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Cannon’s ruling, in theory, gives time for the state Supreme Court to take up the case, or for Wolf’s administration to write and enact a mask mandate through an emergency regulation.

In a 4-1 ruling last week, Commonwealth Court sided with a legal challenge to the masking order that took effect in early September amid rising coronavirus cases and concerns about the surge of the delta variant.

The judges agreed with the challengers that state law did not explicitly allow Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam to order a mask mandate to contain a disease, and the state never created a regulation under the state’s disease control law to allow it.

Two days earlier, Wolf announced he would return authority over masking decisions to local school districts on Jan. 17, but intended to continue masking in child care centers and early learning programs. 

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