Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania, unfazed by the fact that the people of Pennsylvania just stripped him of the emergency power he so grossly abused is at it again. He just had his Health Secretary issue an order directing that all school children in Pennsylvania wear masks in class.
Medieval European monarchs and the Pharaohs of Egypt believed their power came directly from God. Wolf may have a similar belief. That does not make it so. He only has what power the people’s duly elected representatives give him, and where he purports to have gotten the power for this latest order remains a mystery.
The order issued by the Secretary of Health runs to several pages. Most of it consists of conclusory remarks concerning the danger posed by COVID. It then concludes with this paragraph.
“COVID-19 is a threat to the public’s health, for which the Secretary of Health may order general control measures. This authority is granted to the Secretary of Health pursuant to Pennsylvania law. See section 5 of the Disease Prevention and Control Law, 35 P.S. § 521.5; section 2102(a) of the Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P.S. § 532(a); and the Department of Health’s regulation at 28 Pa. Code § 27.60 (relating to disease control measures). Particularly, the Department of Health (Department) has the authority to take any disease control measure appropriate to protect the public from the spread of infectious disease. See 35 P.S. § 521.5; 71 P.S. §§ 532(a), and 1403(a); 28 Pa. Code § 27.60. With the opening of the 2021 school year at hand, and case counts and hospitalizations continuing to rise, there is a need for additional action to protect our Commonwealth’s children.”
To begin with, the statement contained therein that the Department of Health “has the authority to take any disease control measure appropriate” is, from a legal standpoint, laughable. No agency or individual in the United States can claim to have somehow acquired the right to do “anything” they deem appropriate. There is no such delegation of power in any of the statutes cited, and if there were it would be unconstitutional on its face as overly broad.
More to the point, however, let’s dig into the details of the actual statutes cited by the Secretary of Health. Most of the detail contained in these statutes is contained in the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955. It is probably worth noting that it says something in and of itself that Wolf had to go back to a 66-year-old law to find anything he could even claim was a legal basis for his order.
This law and the other citations relied upon by the Secretary of Health say absolutely nothing about mask requirements or lockdowns. They speak only in terms of the authority of the Department of Health to impose “quarantines” and to “isolate” individuals.
As with any legal document the key is to understand exactly how these terms are used. What does the statute mean when it speaks of “quarantine” or “isolation?” These words are not used in some generic sense. They are terms of art. They have precise legal meaning. Fortunately, the legal meaning of these words is spelled out very clearly. Per the Pennsylvania Public Health Law Bench Book:
“A “quarantine” separates persons who have been exposed to, but who are not necessarily infected with, a communicable disease from those not exposed.”
“The Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 (“DPCL”) provides that The Pennsylvania Department of Health, County/Municipal health departments and local health authorities may order an individual quarantined if he or she has been exposed to a communicable disease and when quarantine is necessary to protect the public from the spread of the communicable disease.”
“Generally, isolation, in the public health context, separates persons infected with a communicable disease, in a communicable state, from those not infected.”
“The Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 (“DPCL”), authorizes public health authorities to order an individual isolated if he or she has been infected with a communicable disease and when isolation is necessary to protect the public from the spread of the communicable disease.”
In short, the statutes cited by the Secretary of Health as the basis for Wolf’s authority to order your children muzzled convey no such authority whatsoever. They give the Department of Health the power to separate people who had been identified as having been infected with a communicable disease from the healthy population. Period. Full stop. The statutes in fact convey no authority of any kind over individuals who have not been infected.
All of this is crystal clear on the face of the statutes cited by the Wolf administration. The real question, as it has been on many occasions for the last year and a half is – where is the leadership of the Republican Party? A handful of Senators and Representatives have spoken up in opposition and requested (or co-signed) amendments to Title 35 via PA House Bill 618. Otherwise, there is deafening silence.
How is it that the opposition party, in control of both houses of the legislature, is once again simply sitting on its hands and watching while a tyrannical governor invents new powers for himself and tramples on the civil liberties of Pennsylvanians? As election primary season approaches, everyone in the state who cares about liberty should be demanding an answer to this question and deciding for him and herself which of their elected representatives deserve to continue to hold their seats. Maybe some of them would best be “isolated.”
Editor’s note: There is an online petition asking that the students in Pennsylvania be unmasked. It states: “Overturn Governor Tom Wolf’s Mask Mandate for all students grades K-12.” Apparently, a message to the PA state legislators to overturn Wolf’s mandate however they find a way to do so…Below is the full text of the petition:
On Tuesday August 31, 2021 Governor Tom Wolf put into action a plan mandating all Pennsylvania students grades K-12 to wear masks inside all school buildings. We the parents of these children believe that due to health and social reasons this mandate must be overturned and wording changed to “at parents discretion”. We the parents should decide what is best for our children. Thank you!
Update: Parents and students are not done with their opposition to Wolf’s mandate and to school districts eager to endorse Wolf’s mandate.