School districts in Florida have altered their mask mandates for students after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) issued an executive order that the state will deny funding to any districts enforcing such rules.
The Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) said in a statement on Monday it will reverse the mask requirement and “intends to comply” with the governor’s latest order, but they will keep encouraging everyone in schools to wear masks and get vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
At this time, children aged 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.
The school board, following a vote last week, mandated facial coverings when in-person learning resumes this month. DeSantis said he wants parents to decide whether their children should wear a mask to school.
“The District will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools,” BCPS said. “The District will also work to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our schools, physical distancing, hand washing, and staying home when sick.”
The school district in Gadsden County on Monday also reversed its mask requirement for students after classrooms will reopen in the fall, Fox 13 News reported.
A spokeswoman for the district said the decision came after the order, noting that the board will continue to follow “CDC guidelines as the governor will allow.”
In yet another reversal, the CDC said last week that fully vaccinated individuals in areas with “substantial and high transmission” of COVID-19 should wear masks indoors in some areas, including schools, citing new research into outbreaks from several states and other countries.
A law DeSantis signed in May gives him the authority to invalidate local emergency public health measures, including mask mandates and limitations on business operations. It also bans any business or government entity from requiring proof of vaccination documentation.
The Republican governor has credited his response to the pandemic, which has focused on vaccinating seniors and nursing home residents, for the fact that fewer Floridians are dying now than last August. A year ago, Florida was averaging about 180 COVID-19 deaths per day during an early August spike, but last week averaged about 55 per day.
“Even among a lot of positive tests, you are seeing much less mortality than you did year-over-year,” he said while speaking at a Miami-area press conference. “Would I rather have 5,000 cases among 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger.”
DeSantis added that “media hysteria” on the record hospitalizations will cause people who might be suffering from a heart attack or stroke to avoid going to an emergency room for fear of being infected, as statistics show happened last year.
“People were having heart attacks at home because either they thought there was not enough room at the hospital or get COVID and die,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.