State-Ordered Student, Staffs Masking Begins Tuesday

HARRISBURG PA – As area students return to classes Tuesday (Sept. 7, 2021) following the Labor Day holiday, they do so facing a protective mask order issued by the state Secretary of Health, a potential legal battle over that requirement filed in Commonwealth Court, and statistical evidence that the 14-day COVID-19 positivity rate in local school districts is quickly moving higher.

Tuesday marks the first day the mask order signed Aug. 31 by Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam takes effect, the Associated Press noted. It demands masks be worn regardless of vaccination status by students across grades K-12, as well as employees, in all Pennsylvania public and private schools, as well as child care facilities.

Beam’s order is opposed in a lawsuit filed by the Republican leader of the state Senate and a group of parents, who claim it isn’t valid because it didn’t go through the state’s regulatory review process. They also charge the order represents an end-run by Gov. Tom Wolf around “constitutional amendments limiting a governor’s emergency powers,” The AP reported.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the masking order. The court scheduled a hearing for Sept. 16 (Thursday).

Schools’, municipalities’ positivity rates

Meanwhile, in schools across western Montgomery County, positivity rates have risen precipitously from a “low” level of less than 1 percent on July 1 to what in some districts is deemed a “substantial” level of greater than 8 percent by Aug. 26, the most recent date displayed at county’s COVID-19 data hub. New figures are expected Wednesday (Sept. 8).

The 14-day rate is an accepted measure of coronavirus transmission within communities. A positivity rate of 5 percent or below is considered “low;” between 5 and 7 percent, “moderate;” between 8 and 9.9 percent, “substantial;” and 10 percent or above, “high.”

Here are the highest-to-lowest 14-day rates for school districts in The Posts’ coverage area:

  • Upper Perkiomen, 10.23% Aug. 26, up from 0% July 1;
  • Pottstown, 8.37%, up from 0.7%;
  • Pottsgrove, 8.33%, up from 0.4%;
  • Boyertown Area, 8.16%, up from 0.4%; and
  • Perkiomen Valley, 5.72%, up from 1%; and
  • Spring-Ford Area, 5.5%, up from 0.5%;

Current (again as of Aug. 26) 14-day rates in municipalities that comprise those districts are even more startling. They’re also presented in order from highest to lowest:

  • East Greenville Borough, 18.37%;
  • Green Lane Borough, 14.29%;
  • Salford Township, 13.04%;
  • Pennsburg Borough, 12.04%;
  • Upper Pottsgrove Township, 9.38%;
  • Upper Frederick Township, 9.35%;
  • Lower Frederick Township, 9.17%
  • Lower Pottsgrove Township, 8.92%;
  • Lower Salford Township, 8.74%;
  • New Hanover Township, 8.71%;
  • Pottstown Borough, 8.37%;
  • Upper Hanover Township, 7.83%;
  • Limerick Township, 7.07%;
  • Schwenksville Borough, 6.38%;
  • Douglass (Montgomery) Township, 6.37%;
  • Skippack Township, 6.30%;
  • Royersford Borough, 6.16%;
  • Upper Salford Township, 5.68%;
  • West Pottsgrove Township, 5.26%;
  • Trappe Borough, 5.10%;
  • Perkiomen Township, 4.98%;
  • Upper Providence Township, 4.37%; and
  • Collegeville Borough, 4.04%.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash, used under license