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Wolf reimposes school mask rule after GOP refuses

Plus, Milton Hershey School spat boils over in court.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
September 1, 2021
School masks, Hershey feud, police challenge, another candidate, universal income, the last soldier, and it's probably raining. Welcome to Wednesday.
Masks will again be mandatory in Pennsylvania's public and private K-12 schools as of Sept. 7, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday.

Spotlight PA reports the public health order, issued by Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam, will also apply to early learning and child-care facilities. 

It comes days after students across the state returned to in-person learning, and on the heels of Wolf's failed bid to get the Republican-led legislature to take identical action.  

"The science is clear," Wolf said Tuesday. "The delta variant is highly transmissible and dangerous to the unvaccinated, many of whom are children too young to receive the vaccine. Requiring masks in schools will keep our students safer and in the classroom, where we all want them to be." 

THE CONTEXT: School boards and administrations statewide and nationwide have grappled with how to manage local mask rules in response to rising cases of COVID-19 fueled by the aggressive delta variant.

Several Pennsylvania districts have already been to court over their policies, as some parents questioned the districts' authority to implement mask mandates, while other parents have sued over school mask guidelines they felt weren't strict enough.

The Wolf administration initially deferred to localities but said just 59 school districts out of 474 that submitted health and safety plans to the state had mandatory masking policies at the end of July.

That led Wolf to urge the state legislature to intervene. Six days after that failed, Wolf intervened himself, saying parents, teachers, pediatricians, and others who have contacted his office overwhelmingly support a statewide mask requirement in schools. 

"This isn’t going to be an election year when you can win on a fluke." 

—Martha McKenna, formerly of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, on the party's crowded primary for Pa.'s open Senate seat

COVID-19 UPDATE: Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Florida, and Arkansas have less than 10% of their ICU capacity left; spotty vaccine record keeping has Philadelphia hospitals unsure of who received COVID-19 shots; and the pandemic is highlighting a suicide crisis in communities of color. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS: Join us Thursday, Sept. 9 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on addiction treatment oversight issues in Pennsylvania and how the state can keep people safe as they pursue recovery. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
"A sharp contrast between an elegant egret at home in Harrisburg's Wildwood Park marshland with one of that city's industrial corridors," said PA Poster Robert SSend us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
NOT SO SWEET: The mounting feud between the Milton Hershey School, Pennsylvania’s wealthiest charity, and board member Bob Heist was on full display in a Harrisburg courtroom Tuesday, as a judge pressed attorneys for each side on the details of a monthslong fight over internal spending details, Spotlight PA and The Inquirer report. 

HE'S RUNNING: A former state lawmaker who posted videos outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 plans to run for lieutenant governor, the AP reports. Republican Rick Saccone was an early supporter of former President Donald Trump and urged Mike Pence to reject the electoral votes for Joe Biden on the day of the insurrection.

LEGAL CHALLENGE: York City's government wants a lawsuit brought by a suspended police officer thrown out. The York Dispatch reports Officer Clayton Swartz was accused of "jokingly" reenacting George Floyd's murder at a graduation party.

20 YEARS LATER: Former President George W. Bush will deliver the keynote address next week at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, according to The Hill. More than 73 million Americans have been born since 9/11, and WITF reports on efforts to teach that generation about the terrorist attacks.

BARE NECESSITIES: Outgoing Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wants to use $2.5 million in federal relief dollars to establish a universal basic income program. TribLIVE reports the pilot would focus on Black women. Other details have yet to be finalized. 
THE LAST: A Chambersburg native was the "last American soldier to leave Afghanistan," PennLive reports, as the U.S.'s longest war comes to an end. Meanwhile, hundreds of evacuees are arriving in Philadelphia each day.

'LIBERAL LION': State lawmakers are remembering former Philadelphia Rep. Babette Josephs, who City & State reports died last week at 81. Josephs served 14 terms and was known for backing progressive causes. 

GO AWAY: If you're reading this Wednesday, it's probably raining. Ida could bring between 3 to 6 inches of rain in some parts of our state. PennDOT says not to drive, and PEMA has some tips about how to be prepared.

PREPARE TO BUNDLE: If you like your precipitation fluffy and cold, then you're ... kind of in luck. The Old Farmer's Almanac, per York Daily Record, predicts average snowfall but colder and drier conditions this winter.

CONSOLATION PRIZE: A judge has signed off on a plan to compensate customers who were affected by a massive Wawa data breach in 2019. In most cases, customers won't get cash, but $5 or $15 gift cards instead
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.
Yesterday's answer: Philosophy

Congrats to our daily winners: Mike B., David I., Susan F., Craig W., Michelle T., Irene R., John W., Russellen C., Brian B., Barbara F., Marty M., Doris T., Susan N., Eddy Z., Judith D., Bruce T., Don H., Eugene L., Connie K., Beth T., Briann M., Susan D., Suzanne S., Patricia M., Maureen G., Kevin M., Mary Kay M., Becky C., Deborah A., Craig E., Steve D., Heidi B., Scott R., Guy M., George S., Jodi R., Fred O., Tish M., William M., James B., Rob W., Johnny C., Dennis M., Kimberly B., Kim C., Neal W., Cynthia P., Catherine J., Dianne K., Kevin H., Joel S., Geoff M., John P. (double winner, left off Tuesday's list), Elaine C., Bill S., Elizabeth W., Karen W., Carol B., Patricia R., Bruce B., Carol D., John A., David W., Skip B., John H., Bruce F., Lex M., and Myles M.
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