Battle over Florida mask mandate ban continues

Southeast

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho spoke out Sunday against the ban on mask mandates for Florida schools, as the battle between several school districts and Gov. Ron DeSantis continues.

Carvalho said this is not the time  “to relax the protocols,” especially after 13 unvaccinated employees in his school district recently died from COVID-19.

Earlier this week, a Florida appeals court ruled in favor of the governor’s ban, blocking local school requirements for now. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating whether the rule violates the civil rights of children with disabilities.

The state is threatening to withhold funding from districts that violate the ban on mask mandates. So far, 13 Florida school districts have instituted policies requiring students to wear masks without offering a parental opt-out.

DeSantis believes mask wearing should be a parent’s personal choice.

“How about keeping the power with the parents?” DeSantis said. “Those school districts are violating state law and they are taking—they’re overriding what the parents’ judgment is on this.”

Carvalho says the choice should be solely in the hands of local school leaders.

“I believe that the recent actions taken in Tallahassee are contrary to the expert advice of public health and medical entities that declare that mask mandates are protective measures that serve a compelling public interest,” Carvalho said. “Look, I’m the superintendent of a district that has lost 13 employees since August 16th. Yes, all of them were unvaccinated..”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that as more people get vaccinated, hospitalizations are on the decline.

According to CDC data, Miami-Dade County has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, with more than 84 percent of residents having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Still, as of Wednesday, 525 people, including 330 students and 195 employees, have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 13.

Carvalho said local leaders need push for even more people to get vaccinated..

“I understand, and that’s why local governments that are usually trusted. School districts, teachers, educators, superintendents, school board members, community-based organizations need to step up to provide an echo and a course of reason in our communities,” Carvalho said.

Read the latest news on the coronavirus

NewsNation spoke with Dr. Mobeen Rathore, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at UF Health Jacksonville and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, about COVID-19 risks in schools.

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