State Rep. Russ Diamond tweeted a meme on Thursday, July 9, equating the wearing of a mask by a child to an act of child abuse.

The tweet came in response to another one posted by former Lebanon Daily News reporter John Latimer, who was commenting on a quote by Rep. Diamond in an ABC27 article about the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s recent decision to mandate mask wearing by students when returning to school this fall.

“They could cause more harm than good,” Diamond was quoted in the article as saying regarding masks. “They can give people a false sense of security. People are fiddling with them all the time. They’re also touching their face which is a no-no as well. All in all, they cause more harm than good.”

Diamond’s statements contravene prevailing public health guidance, including the statements of President Donald J. Trump, who said in a July 1 press conference that he was “all pro-masks” and that “masks are good.”

President Trump noted that he had worn masks previously, and would do so again if he was in a tight situation with other people who did not receive the typical screening that accompanies a visit to the President under present circumstances. “I thought it looked OK,” said Trump. “I looked like the Lone Ranger.”

Trump’s embrace of masks as a smart public policy measure reflects a (nearly) universal recognition that mask mandates would have significant payoffs in public health and economic recovery efforts. A recent Goldman Sachs report estimated the economic value of mask policies at 5% of the Gross Domestic Product, or $1 trillion, given the probability that such a measure would prevent the need of additional lockdowns in the future.

When LebTown polled Lebanon County’s elected officials in June regarding their stances on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding mask wearing, the response was clear from U.S. Senator Bob Casey, U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, and U.S. Congressman Dan Meuser – yes, wear the mask. Local GOP officials, however, remained mute on the subject.

Read More: Unanimous support for mask wearing from Lebanon County congressional reps, but local GOP officials hold back

LebTown was contacted by several readers, some educators, who said they were concerned by Diamond’s comments on Twitter. “I’m a mandated reporter. If I see a student with a mask on, my legislator is saying that’s abuse,” said one reader. “He’s literally saying people are abusing their children if they have them wear a mask,” said another.

LebTown reached out to Diamond on Thursday afternoon via his state email address with several questions.

  • Was this a tweet you sent or does anyone else have access to the account?
  • Do you believe that having children wear a mask is an act of child abuse?
  • Would you be able to provide any additional comments or context on this viewpoint?

Diamond responded, stating that, “Effective memes are self-explanatory.”

LebTown contacted Lebanon County Children and Youth Services Administrator Erin Moyer, a licensed social worker, for additional context on whether there could be any basis to Diamond’s comments.

“There is nothing related to a child wearing a mask in the Child Protective Services Law,” said Moyer. “As stated in the law, in order for an allegation to be considered child abuse it must cause the child significant pain, injury or impairment.”

“As the CDC and state officials are recommending mask wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19, there is no evidence that suggests a child wearing a mask in adherence to these guidelines would rise to the level of child abuse.”

Department of Health Spokesperson Maggi Mumma echoed Moyer’s comments regarding state recommendations. “The Governor recently announced Dr. Levine’s expanded masking order, which means masks are required when you leave your house and come in contact with others – as long as you can wear one,” said Mumma.

Read More: Pa. mandates masks for anyone who can’t maintain social distancing while leaving house amid pandemic

“Unless you have a medical condition, are unable to take the mask off yourself, or are under the age of two, you should wear a mask.”

Mumma emphasized that wearing masks, in addition to social distancing and maintaining other healthy habits, are the best ways for state residents to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services houses the state’s ChildLine Intake Unit, which handles reports of child abuse in accordance with state law.

“Masks can keep both children and those around them safe,” said DHS spokesperson Ali Fogarty.

“Likening this to abuse is a disrespectful misrepresentation of a separate, serious issue that further endangers both children and adults in the midst of a public-health crisis.”

Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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This article was updated with additional comment from the Department of Human Services.


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