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Gov. Wolf’s Health Department Mandates Masks For Schools, Child Care Facilities

Francisco Seco

On today’s program: The state Department of Health announced a mask order for people in schools and child care facilities that will take effect next Tuesday; Jewish Family and Community Services is helping Afghan refugees get settled in their new home; and we answer the question, why do songs get stuck in our heads?

An order from the state Secretary of Health calls for universal masking in schools
(0:00 - 8:08)

Gov. Tom Wolf, along with Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam, announced yesterday that masks will be required in K-12 schools and child care facilities. This order goes into effect next Tuesday.

“First, he says he wanted to give school districts the chance to do the right thing in his view, but he says most of the state’s 500 school districts made masking optional,” explains Michael Rubinkam, northeastern Pennsylvania correspondent for the Associated Press.

Rubinkam says Wolf also asked the Republican-controlled general assembly to mandate masks, but it did not, so Wolf moved ahead with a Department of Health order.

“They say their goal is to keep kids in class, they don’t want kids learning virtually this year … and masking, for now, is one of the best ways to make sure that can happen,” says Rubinkam.

The order covers public, charter, private, parochial, vocational and technical schools, and child care facilities. There is no end date for the order, but Wolf said in a press conference yesterday the policy will be reevaluated in a month.

Wolf clarified at a press conference yesterday that this order is not an emergency declaration, which would now be limited because of a constitutional referendum. It comes from the health secretary and is allowed under the 1955 Disease Prevention and Control Law, which provides for the prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases including venereal diseases.

The order does outline some exceptions where masks are not required, including while playing sports, eating or playing an instrument, or when someone is working alone with no in-person interaction.

Jewish Family and Community Services is resettling Afghan refugees in Pittsburgh
(8:16 - 17:36) 

Last Friday, the State Department recommended Pittsburgh and 18 other U.S. cities as resettlement locations for Afghans fleeing their country.

The department allows Afghans who have received Special Immigrant Visas because they worked with U.S. forces during the 20-year war to select one of those cities.

“In this month of August, we have helped three families,” says Ivonne Smith-Tapia, director of refugee and immigrant services at the Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS). “We suspect in the upcoming fiscal year about 200 families [will come to Pittsburgh].”

According to the State Department, Pittsburgh and the other cities are locations with reasonable costs of living, housing availability, supportive services, and welcoming communities with volunteers and resources.

Pittsburgh is already home to hundreds of Afghan immigrants, and Smith-Tapia says they have been extremely supportive in resettling the newcomers.

“Last night we welcomed a family and it was with hours of notice, so we quickly called members of the community so they helped us make a warm meal for the family,” says Smith-Tapia.

Why do songs get stuck in our heads?
(17:49 - 22:30)

The Confluence has been asking families for questions — those very good questions that a kiddo in your life might have that leaves you scratching your head.

As part of 90.5 WESA’s Good Question, Kid! Series, Eric Yttri, assistant professor of biological sciences and neuroscience researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, explains why songs get stuck in our heads.

If a kid in your life has a good question, you can fill out our form or send it to confluence@wesa.fm.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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