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Pennsylvania Continues Strategy for In-Person School

Testing, COVID-19 vaccination, masking are central to a healthy school year, state officials say

September 30, 2021

Pennsylvania’s education and public health officials today provided an update on their strategy to safely continue in-person instruction this fall.

State officials from the Departments of Health and Education said they continue to follow critical public health precautions to keep students in school. They also said they are facing a shortage of bus drivers due to the pandemic.

“The combination of ongoing testing, masking, and vaccinations will help keep students learning in the classroom this school year,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said during a press briefing today.

During the week of September 22, 2020, there were 745 COVID-19 cases in school-aged kids compared to 7,357 cases during the same week in 2021, Acting Secretary Beam said. She said the state is providing guidance to schools with the latest public health recommendations.

Here’s what you should know from today’s media briefing:

  • Bus driver shortage:  Pennsylvania has about 42,000 school bus drivers, which represents a five-year low and a 5 percent decrease from 2017. The state has launched additional recruitment efforts for bus drivers
  • Vaccines, testing at schools:  Nearly 22 percent of children between ages 12–14 are fully vaccinated, and 43 percent of children between ages 15–19 are fully vaccinated. About 400 schools are participating in a federally funded COVID-19 testing program
  • Additional age groups:  The nation’s public health agencies are evaluating data from Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, and students between ages 5–11 could be eligible as early as November
  • Mandates:  The state has no plans to mandate the vaccine in schools, Acting Secretary Beam said. The Department of Health looks at rates of community transmission when evaluating its school masking order, she said

HAP will continue to monitor COVID-19 public health developments and provide updates to members. More information about today’s briefing is available online.