Hundreds of physicians have signed a letter addressed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calling on him to repeal the executive order banning local education officials from implementing mask mandates in schools, Axios reports.
Last month, DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting Florida’s local school districts from requiring students to wear masks once classes resume in September. He later threatened to withhold pay from school superintendents and members of school boards who impose mask requirements in schools.
Florida is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and an increase in hospitalizations that has been attributed to the Delta variant of the virus.
"What’s heartbreaking and infuriating for us as doctors is watching children needlessly suffer while Gov. DeSantis rejects simple protections such as masks and vaccinations," reads the letter, which was released by the advocacy group the Committee to Protect Health Care and signed by more than 800 physicians.
"Fewer than half of eligible Floridians are fully vaccinated," they add. "At the same time, COVID-19 vaccinations are authorized for use only in people ages 12 and older -- meaning 120,000 pre-K- to fifth-graders in the Tampa Bay area can’t be vaccinated.
"To protect the health of vulnerable Floridians, we are calling on Gov. DeSantis to do three things immediately," the letter adds.
"One, Gov. DeSantis must repeal his reckless executive order and allow and encourage local school districts to implement safeguards that can minimize COVID-19 spread such as mask-wearing. Two, his administration must resume reporting COVID-19 daily data in full. And three, Gov. DeSantis must do much more to get vaccinations in people’s arms," it continues.
"Physicians across Florida are concerned about Florida’s children and their risk of COVID-19 infections," the letter reads. "As the virus burns through Florida, health care providers feel we are fighting this fire without any leadership from Gov. Ron DeSantis. Blocking communities from making local decisions to protect themselves with his top-down, one-size-fits-all edict will only make matters worse.
"His executive order prohibiting local school districts from implementing COVID-19 safeguards exposes every child to a virus that is deadlier than the flu, as contagious as smallpox and preventable with two basic mitigation measures: Mask use and vaccinations. Gov. DeSantis has effectively outlawed the former, and all but ignored the latter. With schools resuming and children returning to classrooms, Gov. DeSantis’ anti-safety strategy puts people at risk, including children."
The physicians note that more than 19,000 Floridians have contracted COVID-19 every day of the past week, which is "the worst weekly infection rate since the pandemic began," with an average of 1,800 hospitalized in the state each day.
The Committee to Protect Health Care has advocated for fully publicly funded care, routinely criticizes DeSantis as well as laws restricting abortions.
Gov. DeSantis' office was not immediately available for comment.
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