Over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ objections, Florida school districts are imposing mask mandates

Florida teachers protest anti-mask mandates.

Florida teachers protest anti-mask mandates. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Several school districts in Florida are pushing back against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and his executive order prohibiting schools from imposing mask requirements for students.

On Tuesday night, the School Board of Alachua County voted in favor of requiring all students to wear masks during the first two weeks of school. In the last few days, two janitors in the district have died of COVID-19, and board member Robert Hyatt told Politico he doesn’t think “that we need to get in any kind of match with the governor. To me, it’s not being defiant. It’s being reactive to what the situation is.” There are also 15 active COVID-19 cases among district employees, and Superintendent Carlee Simon said they’re “running into a situation where we are literally losing our workforce.”

On Wednesday, Leon County — home to Tallahassee — said it wants to enact a mandatory mask rule for kids in pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade, and the Broward County School District announced it will keep its mask mandate, changing course from an earlier statement that it would comply with DeSantis’ order.

Florida continues to see a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases, with 16,935 reported in the state on Tuesday. There are a record 12,000 people hospitalized with the virus in Florida, The Miami Herald reports, with most of the infected patients younger and unvaccinated. With the Delta variant fueling the surge, Florida accounted for 16 percent of the United States’ new cases on Tuesday, with the state’s seven-day average of new cases up 700 percent on August 3 compared to July 3.

Still, DeSantis is resisting a mask mandate, and schools that keep them in place are at risk of losing state funding. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna on Wednesday said it may seem “controversial,” but “I absolutely believe” that having mask requirements for students “is the right thing to do temporarily until we have a better understanding of the Delta variant and the impact it has on school-aged children.”

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