Florida school district votes to extend mask mandate, defy governor

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Hillsborough County school board, which oversees the nation’s 8th-largest district, voted 5-2 Wednesday to adopt a stricter, 30-day mask mandate with a medical opt-out for students, teachers and staff.

The vote came a week after classes began and amid a coronavirus outbreak in which more than 10,000 students have been quarantined due to virus exposure.

The decision could set up a clash with the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials who argue such mandates are illegal and subject to punishment, said Hillsborough school board attorney Jim Porter. “There is a risk they will find us in non-compliance,” Porter said at a nearly five-hour meeting.

The main sponsor, board member Nadia Combs, said the virus outbreak poses “an immediate danger” to the school system and steps must be taken to contain it or the district might face a complete shutdown. “I am not on the board for political partisanship,” Combs said. “We have to keep our schools open. That is my goal.”

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