State Watch

More than half of Florida students covered by mask mandates despite DeSantis threats

Ten Florida school districts, which account for more than half of the state’s enrollment, have imposed mask mandates in their schools despite threats from Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) against doing so, The Washington Post reported.

Those school districts include Miami-Dade County, Alachua, Palm Beach, Broward, Leon, Duval, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Indian River and Orange, the latter two of which voted Tuesday to implement face covering requirements, the newspaper reported. The two districts voted to require masks be worn to mitigate the spread of the delta variant.

Orange County announced Tuesday that its mask mandate would be effective for 60 days and would be applicable for all staff and students, WESH reported. The policy allows for medical exemptions but does not allow for parents to opt their children out of the protocol.

WESH noted that the district serves 1,800 students, and there have been 2,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year.

The move also goes head to head with DeSantis’s July executive order, which protects “parents’ right to make decisions regarding masking of their children in relation to COVID-19.”

DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told The Hill in a statement, “There is no empirical evidence to support the assertion that the benefits of forced masking of schoolchildren outweigh the potential harms. Masking kids under 12 is not recommended in many EU countries, because their health authorities have found that the risks are not well understood — and the data shows that forced masking of young children has a negligible impact on covid prevalence and spread.”

Pushaw said that it was “disappointing that any school district would violate Florida law by reversing its mask policy, which had previously protected parents’ rights and complied with state law by offering an opt-out provision.” 

The Sunshine State has seen an overwhelming surge of new COVID-19 cases, including 21,208 cases on Monday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In comparison in June, more than 1,000 cases were typically reported daily.

At least 72 percent of people aged 12 years and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about 59 percent have been fully vaccinated.

But with the spread of the delta variant among unvaccinated communities, efforts to mitigate the spread have become more difficult. 

— Updated 10:50 p.m.

Tags COVID-19 Florida mask mandate Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis

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