HARRISBURG, PA. (Erie News Now) – The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania heard oral arguments in the school mask mandate case on Wednesday.
Arguments lasted roughly an hour as counsel for the appellants and appellees made their cases.
The school mask mandate was originally signed by Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam on Aug. 31.
On Sep. 7, Appellees including, State Senate President Pro Tempore, Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) lawmakers, parents, and schools, filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court challenging the mandate absent formal rulemaking
The Commonwealth Court concluded the Acting Health Secretary lacked the authority and declared the mandate void ab initio.
Beam and the Health Department appealed by arguing that she has broad statutory and regulatory authority to implement measures to prevent the spread of infectious disease, including requiring masks in schools.
Appellant, Sean Kirkpatrick from the Office of The Pennsylvania Attorney General said today that Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam’s mask mandate was authorized and legitimate. He’s asking the State Supreme Court to reverse the Commonwealth Court’s ruling.
Kirkpatrick argued that the mandate qualifies as a “modified quarantine,” under Pennsylvania code.
Kirkpatrick argued that the “modified quarantine” under Section A, can include restricting people from entering schools without a mask, or in simpler terms, the school mask mandate.
Kirkpatrick also argued that Beam had the regulatory authority to implement the mandate because of rising concern surrounding the COVID-19 Delta Variant at the time.
Opposing counsel disagreed.
Appellee Thomas Breth, on behalf of Sen. Corman and others, argued Beam’s mandate not only violated the regulatory review act, but it also does not qualify as a “modified quarantine.”
Regardless of what the court decides, some Pennsylvania superintendents say it might not make a difference.
“The Erie County Department of Health has a mask mandate as well, so until that is lifted, we are going to continue to abide by that,” said Brian Polito, Superintendent of Erie Public Schools.
Polito says the School Board for Erie Public Schools has been following CDC guidance and will continue to do so, even after the Jan. 17 statewide school mask mandate expiration date.
“Our board has, throughout the pandemic, followed the guidance from the CDC, which right now does recommend masking in all of our schools. I anticipate that we will continue to do so after Jan. 17,” Polito added.