State Watch

Florida county to require masks in schools, defying DeSantis

A Florida county school board voted on Wednesday to require students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside its schools, directly conflicting with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) stance that schools should not impose mask mandates.

The School Board of Broward County held a special meeting on Wednesday where members voted to require indoor masking inside schools, social distancing protocol inside classrooms and seating capacity limits on school buses that would be implemented at the beginning of the school year, which starts next month.

According to WLRN, the move was made due to school board members’ concerns over a rising number of COVID-19 cases in South Florida and in light of guidance recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommends even the fully vaccinated again wear masks inside in COVID-19 hot spots.

“I really wanted to start this school year as normal as possible,” school board member Lori Alhadeff said on Wednesday, according to WLRN. “And a few weeks ago, I thought that we were in a position to go back to school without wearing masks and giving parents a choice.”

“But now with COVID soaring, and the delta variant, a lot has changed,” Alhadeff said.

The news outlet said that school board members would revisit the mask mandate around Labor Day. 

DeSantis, a possible 2024 presidential candidate, has come out against mask mandates in schools, saying during a COVID-19 roundtable on Monday that “our view is that this should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated,” WPTV reported.

DeSantis said the state legislature could hold a special session on the issue to “provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely,” according to WPTV.

The comments come despite the fact that cases in the state have continued to surge while just half of all Florida residents are fully vaccinated. According to CDC data, Florida had 16,038 new cases on Tuesday, beating out Monday’s 12,775 cases.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that about 50 percent of people in Florida are fully vaccinated.

Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis, told The Hill in a statement Thursday that the governor believed that parents, not schools, should decide whether masks are necessary.

“Governor DeSantis’ position is that parents should be able to decide what’s best for their own children,” Pushaw said.

“Governor DeSantis has always followed the science and made data-driven decisions, and schools have been open in Florida since last year — to the enormous benefit of Florida’s children,” Pushaw said, adding that schools have not been “a significant source of COVID spread.”

Updated at 3:15 p.m.

Tags Broward County Coronavirus COVID-19 Florida Masks Ron DeSantis schools
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