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Pennsylvania's high court throws out mask mandate for schools

A masked woman receiving a COVID shot in the arm from a nurse
Matt Rourke/AP
In this March 15, 2021, file photo, Nurse Monique Bourgeois, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Diane Kay at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's highest court is throwing out a statewide mask mandate for schoolchildren, raising the prospect that at least some students in the state may soon be allowed to attend classes without a face covering.

The state Supreme Court announced its decision on Friday, but the court didn't issue a full opinion that explains their reasoning. The justices upheld a lower court decision that the masking mandate, which also applies to child care facilities, is not valid because it was imposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s acting health secretary without legal authorization.

The practical impact of the decision will depend on which schools and school districts impose their own masking requirements.

The decision comes on a day when the number of COVID-19 cases reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health increased by 11,628, the fifth-largest increase since the pandemic began. The biggest increase came about a year ago, on Dec. 5, 2020, when 12,884 cases were reported.