What there is to know
- The state Supreme Court has just released its reasons for ruling that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has no legal authority to require masks in Pennsylvania schools and daycares, even in the midst of a pandemic and an increase in COVID-19 cases.
- The court ruled 6-0 on December 10, immediately ending the statewide mask warrant.
- The judges’ 58-page opinion released Thursday says the Legislature’s decision in June to end Wolf’s declaration of emergency COVID-19 disaster also stripped any legal justification for a school mask warrant .
The state Supreme Court on Thursday released the reasons it ruled that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration had no legal authority to require masks in Pennsylvania schools and daycares, even in the midst of a pandemic and an increase in COVID-19 cases.
The Democratic-majority court ruled 6-0 on December 10, immediately ending the statewide mask mandate, except in school districts that still needed it. Judge Thomas Saylor was not involved in the decision.
The judges’ 58-page opinion released Thursday did not say whether school districts have the legal authority to require masks.
But the judges wrote that the decision by the Republican-controlled legislature in June to end Wolf’s declaration of emergency COVID-19 disaster also eliminated any legal justification for a school mask mandate.
The judges note that state law gives the health ministry broad authority to protect public health, but it does not allow the ministry “to act on whim or by decree in all matters relating to the disease” without specific regulations that allow a mask warrant, they wrote.
They also wrote that they doubted lawmakers intended to grant this kind of power in law, given the number of regulations in place that guide how the department exercises its authority.
Regulations under the state’s disease control law deal with quarantine and surveillance measures, but not a mask mandate that applies broadly and without a set time limit, the judges wrote. .
The lawsuit was filed by Pro Tempore Senate Speaker Jake Corman, R-Center; State Representative Jesse Topper, R-Bedford; two religious schools; three public school districts; and several parents of students.