State Watch

Florida district drops mask mandate after DeSantis threatens funding cut


A Florida school district has dropped its mask mandate for schools after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an executive order that would cut off funding to schools that did so.

Broward County Public Schools said Monday it “intends to comply with the Governor’s latest Executive Order” but that it will “strongly encourage” people in its schools to wear masks and advocate for all eligible students to get vaccinated.

Children 12 years and older can get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Broward County Public School Board voted last week to require students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside its schools.

Two days later, DeSantis signed an executive order to “protect parents’ freedom to choose” if their children should wear masks at schools, a direct rebuke to districts that imposed mask mandates despite his public attitude against the measures.

The order gave the Florida commissioner of education the power to withhold state funds from schools that do not comply with the new policy.

Florida is seeing a huge surge in coronavirus cases because of the delta variant, which has taken hold in the United States. Cases in the state have risen to a level not seen since January, when the crisis reached a peak across the country. 

The majority of those getting sick and entering hospitals are people who have not been vaccinated. 

On Friday, the state recorded 21,683 new COVID-19 cases, according to The Miami Herald, which was the highest one-day increase in cases since the pandemic started in March 2020.

Students are set to return to Broward County classrooms on Aug. 18.

The CDC last week released new guidance urging vaccinated individuals to wear masks in “public, indoor settings” in parts of the country with “substantial” or “high” levels of transmission, reversing its May announcement that said inoculated Americans can nix face coverings.

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all students older than 2 years old wear masks in the classroom when schools open in the fall, regardless of their vaccination status.

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