Pennsylvania court throws out governor’s school mask mandate

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — An order by Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary that requires masks inside public schools was thrown out Wednesday by a state court that said she lacked the authority.

Commonwealth Court sided 4-1 with the ranking Republican in the state Senate and others who sued to challenge the masking order that took effect in early September.

The judges said Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam’s mandate did not comply with the state’s laws about reviewing and approving regulations and was adopted without an existing disaster emergency declared by the governor.

The state’s Disease Control Law does not give health secretaries “the blanket authority to create new rules and regulations out of whole cloth, provided they are related in some way to the control of disease or can otherwise be characterized as disease control measures,” wrote Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon, a Republican, for the majority.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday announced he would return authority over masking decisions to local school districts in January. His spokeswoman said Wednesday a comment from the Democratic governor was being prepared.

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