Pennsylvania will be mandating masks in all K-12 schools, early learning programs and child care providers across the state, effective Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 12:01 a.m.

This is after Governor, Tom Wolf joined the departments of Health, Human Services and Education on Tuesday to discuss the current state of COVID-19 and a new Secretary of Health order mandating masks in schools.

Governor Wolf says he has been getting many calls from parents in support of mask mandates in schools. This decision was made in regards to the delta variant and children under age 12 being ineligible to get vaccinated. 

"The science is clear. 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," Wolf said.

The delta variant has accounted for more than 92% of new COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's COVID-19 caseload has increased from less than 300 cases per day in July to more than 3,000 a day, with cases in school-aged children increasing by over 11,000 within the last month. 

Acting Health Secretary, Alison Beam was joined at a press conference on Tuesday by Governor Wolf as well as Education Secretary Noe Ortega, Human Services Acting Secretary, Meg Snead and President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Trude Haecker.

Beam says a mask mandate in schools would be the best way to keep students in school, as well as allowing extracurricular activities and athletics to continue.

"If we want to keep our schools open, maintain classroom learning and allow sports and other activities to continue, masking significantly increases our chances in doing so," Beam said.

The mandate will not apply to school sports or outdoor activities. Schools who do not implement the mandate may be subject to penalties under the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 and exposure to personal liability.

Governor Wolf encourages eligible Pennsylvanians, including K-12 students who are age 12 and over to get vaccinated if they haven't already. Currently, 18.2% of children aged 12-14 are fully vaccinated and 38.3% of those aged 15-19 are fully vaccinated.