Sep. 02, 2021

HARRISBURG – Reps. Dave Zimmerman (R-Lancaster), Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) and Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) today expressed deep concern that the legal pillars Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Alison Beam used at their Tuesday press conference to institute a new statewide mask mandate for K-12 students are based on demonstrable untruths. 

Beam cited a law from 1929, which she and Wolf say gives the Department of Health (DOH) the authority to mandate masks in K-12 schools. That law essentially states that the Department of Health has the authority to step in with mandates during a clear and present viral outbreak.

The problem is, no such outbreak has occurred.

“It is an understatement to say I was surprised when Sec. Beam cited Eastern Lancaster County and Annville-Cleona school districts as among the four school districts with viral outbreaks that trigger DOH’s authority under the 1929 law,” Zimmerman said. . “Sec. Beam said the ‘lights were off and football fields were empty’  last Friday because of coronavirus outbreaks in those schools. But I know for a fact ELANCO has not canceled any classes or school days and its football team did indeed play a game against Twin Valley last Friday night.” 

Reps. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) and Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), who represent Annville-Cleona School, issued a joint statement to say the high school in question has not canceled any classes or events due to any viral outbreak either:

“We checked with school officials at Annville-Cleona School District, and they confirmed that while they did cancel a game, they did not have a COVID-19 ‘outbreak.’ The acting secretary of Health’s assessment was wrong and caused undue concern,” said the lawmakers. “School officials said they had ONE confirmed case of COVID-19 that did not originate at the school. Out of an abundance of caution, school officials took quick and decisive action to quarantine the football team and cancel last Friday’s game to prevent further spread. 

“The Annville-Cleona School District exercised prudence and good judgment and demonstrated the effectiveness of local control. We believe in local control - giving parents and our school districts the power to decide what policies and actions are appropriate to protect our children. It works and our school officials just proved it,” they concluded.

Reps. Zimmerman, Diamond and Ryan concluded with the following statement:

“We believe the stronger legal precedent is set by a 1982 law, which specifically prohibits state-funded schools of higher education from establishing or mandating medical practices. This precedent is so strong that a 2002 meningitis outbreak in colleges and universities required the General Assembly to write and pass a law giving explicit permission for these schools to mandate a meningitis vaccine – and only that vaccine. 

“As we know that claims of actual school viral outbreaks cited by Sec. Beam are false, we must question whether masking has been as effective as the administration claims. This also leads not only us, but many of our constituents, to question what else during Tuesday’s press conference is untrue. Certainly, none of this ‘evidence’ is certain or concrete enough to require a new mask mandate at this time.”

Representative Dave Zimmerman
99th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Charles Lardner
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