Two Florida school districts have rescinded face mask mandates after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order threatening funding, Newsweek reported on Tuesday.
Florida’s Broward County School Board and Gadsden County school district enacted mask mandates last week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines recommending localities encourage all teachers, staff and students in schools to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status due to the highly contagious Delta variant.
But DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order aimed at blocking school boards from requiring students to wear masks when the academic year begins in August after he mocked the CDC recommendations and attributed the rising numbers to “a summer COVID season."
DeSantis also praised Florida’s rejection of mask mandates and school closures, saying “it is very important that we say unequivocally no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no to mandates.”
Following the governor’s executive order, both school districts, fearing a cutoff of funds from the state, said they were reversing their decision to require masks.
Broward County Public Schools said it would comply with the governor’s executive order, but insisted that “safety remains our highest priority. The district will advocate for all eligible students and staff to receive vaccines and strongly encourage masks to be worn by everyone in schools,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Gadsen County school district officials said they would follow as much of the CDC guidance as DeSantis will permit.
The Florida Hospital Association reported a record 10,389 hospitalizations in the state on Monday, while over the weekend Florida registered 21,683 new cases, breaking its previous record of 19,334 that was reported on January 7, according to Newsweek.
The worst affected areas in Florida for new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are Miami-Dade County and Broward County. Last week they reported 15,541 and 9,094 positive tests respectively, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The Florida Education Association teacher's union said it opposes DeSantis' executive order, saying the governor “has made clear he does not respect the freedom of locally elected officials to do what they feel is best for their communities."
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