State Senator Judy Ward discusses masks and vaccine mandates

September 29 – Pennsylvania schools are still waiting to hear what will come out of a commonwealth court case about the legality of mask mandates in schools and the waiting game is leaving everything up in the air.

State Senator Judy Ward joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen on First News this morning to discuss issues facing constituents.

In regard to the mask mandate, Ward said, “We should be hearing something here very shortly. This has just been very difficult and God bless the school boards and the school administrators and there’s such passion on both sides of this issue. Senator Mastriano and I teamed up on a bill that would allow parents to make the decisions as to whether they feel their child needs to be masked or not and what is best for their students because there are some reports of some children not doing well masking.”

The bill has passed out of the Education Committee in the Senate and it demands that students not be discriminated against or put in a separate area for their choices.

Ward said, “I wanted to just update you…in caucus yesterday we got a report from Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh and they talk about the pediatric admissions, pediatric ICUs being full of children, but not all of them are COVID. Many of them are RSV…many children get this. It is Childhood Respiratory Disease. Running nose, fever, cough, shortness of breath, wheezing. When you think about it, our kids have not been around other children or been out in places to get immunity. They’ve not been able to develop immunity to many illnesses so these hospitalizations are up, but not all of them are COVID. So we need I think to ask more questions when they tell us all the pediatric units are full of children, but not all of them are COVID so we do need to ask for more clarification on that.”

Ryan said, “It’s passed out of committee, this bill that you’re working on with Mastriano and thanks for that work. It eventually makes it to Governor Wolf. He’s not going to sign it.”

Ward said, “No most likely he won’t, but this is something I think we felt we needed to take a stand on and many of our parents want their voices heard and this is a way to do it. I’m happy it’s moving forward and we’ll just see how things roll on it.”

Jansen said, “I actually fully support that. It’s kind of like us going up against the borough council. We know they were going to vote for something that happened here and some people said well why are you even fighting? Because you have to make people’s voices heard.”

Ryan added, “And that goes to the other point here is how much do you hear from people, Judy? Do you get a lot of phone calls? Do you get a lot of emails? When it’s really something passionate, it turns up here. Have you had anything really passionate that’s gone, oh my goodness, this one, we need to move up the agenda on this.”

“Oh my heavens yes,” Ward said. “Emails. Phone calls. Phone calls from other parts of the state.”

Ryan pointed out, “If you’re hearing it, then I can’t help but think that the rest of the lawmakers are hearing the same thing, and then why wouldn’t you be able to come up with some sort of majority override when the governor comes along and says veto you’ve got the juice to go, I don’t think so governor. Here’s all the constituents coming out of the woodwork saying no the decision should be left with the parents.”

Jansen asked, “Are there moderate Democrats who will listen to the emails and phone calls they’re getting?”

“A few,” Ward said. “And I mean like one or two. The rest will carry the water for the governor.”

In terms of vaccination rates in Pennsylvania, our area isn’t fairing too well.  

Ward said, “My district was the lowest vaccination rate in the state, but you have to remember my district’s very rural and one size should not fit all. We’ve said this over and over again. I think people in a more rural community, you’re not around a lot of people. A lot of farmers and agriculture. So I’m not surprised, but again, to force this on people, that is part of why the vaccination rate is so low. I mean lower than they wanted it to be overall in my district. It should be a personal choice and there’s personal choice, personal responsibility and to mandate this, I just think is wrong. People tell me, they’re very vocal about what they want and what they don’t want and this mandate of a vaccine is just wrong.”

Jansen pointed out, “What’s really interesting to me, if you look at the map, the color-coded map of this, it’s obvious how politicized this whole thing has gotten. I mean the colors on the map almost match exactly what you would expect for Democrat versus Republican concentrated centers of our population. And no, it’s not because people who support Republicans aren’t as smart, which is of course a lovely talking point, but it has more to do with who they trust. I think that comes down to it.”

Ward said, “We want less government. We don’t want government telling us what to do and that’s what this speaks to in my mind. They don’t want their government telling them what to do and I respect that. I respect that.”

Jansen said, “Let’s be honest. They’ve changed the way they do things. We know Governor Wolf, they just came out, the horrible way he did the waivers for businesses. We understand now that was so arbitrary and it hurt our economy so badly. Destroyed so many small businesses and a lot of those small businesses were in areas like ours and of course that doesn’t lend itself then to listening when Joe Biden says oh I’m losing my patience with you when it comes to vaccinations and then we see the vaccination rate dropped even harder and faster after such comments. How much responsibility to those who are doing these kind of ridiculous, hard to explain, illogical things to us explain why people are not getting vaccinated?

Ward said, “I think it speaks to the fact that if you give people information and you allow them to choose, they will do the right thing. They will do what’s right for them. They will do what’s right for them and their families, but to mandate this has just been crazy. Getting back to the districts and the vaccination rates by House and Senate districts, don’t think the governor won’t use this to be political. They’re going to run people against us saying, see, these Republicans kill people. You wait and see. You wait and see.”