- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 19, 2021

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates is being put to the test in Florida, where some school boards are refusing to comply with his order.

A surge in cases has Mr. DeSantis and governors grappling with new challenges as the school year gets underway with another round of political and legal clashes over how far schools should go to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


The Miami-Dade County School Board on Wednesday voted 7-1 in favor of imposing a mask mandate for students and teachers when schools reopen next week. The Palm Beach School Board also adopted mask mandates in a 6-1 vote, requiring all students and staff to wear masks on school grounds.

“For the consequences associated with doing the right thing, whatever that right thing is, I will wear [it] proudly as a badge of honor,” Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho Carvalho told the Florida Board of Education, according to the Miami Herald. “I’m going to leave here today and go to my own school board meeting and I’m going to do that, which is right, rightfully righteous.”

Florida has become a petri dish for coronavirus policy on Mr. DeSantis’ watch, helping raise his political profile and making him a standout among Republicans eyeing a 2024 presidential run. As such, he has been showered with praise from the right and criticism from the left.

Democrats have accused him of putting his 2024 ambitions ahead of the safety of school children, teachers and faculty.

Mr. DeSantis stood his ground Thursday.

“There is not a lot of data supporting forcing kindergarteners to be masked, and I think given that and given how significant this is to a lot of families I think parents ought to be able to make the decision,” Mr. DeSantis said at a press conference.

Miami-Dade school officials, however, said they are following the advice of a medical task force that advised them to move in this direction.

More and more schools across the country are requiring face covering to protect kids who aren’t eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

The decisions from school boards in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties came days after the state board of education voted unanimously to sanction Broward and Alachua counties for embracing mask mandates.

Mr. DeSantis last month issued an order barring Florida schools from mandating masks.

Mr. DeSantis said the decision of whether a child should be masked should be left to parents. He also said he has not seen studies showing that mask-wearing limits outbreaks in schools.

On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis said the federal government has more important things to do than imposing mask mandates on students, citing the unfolding mess in Afghanistan, problems at the southern border and surging inflation.

“As a parent, I am offended that the federal government thinks they know better than we do as parents,” he said.

The decision by the school boards in Florida follows the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends “universal indoor masking by all students, staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status” in response to the spike in Delta variant cases.

National Institute of Health Director Francis Collins has warned that children are at risk, pointing out that 400 children have died of COVID-19 and close to 2,000 children were being treated for the coronavirus in hospitals.

“Anybody who tries to tell you, well, don’t worry about the kids, the virus won’t really bother them, that’s not the evidence,” Mr. Collins said on Fox News Sunday. “And especially with delta being so contagious, kids are very seriously at risk.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.


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