Gov. Ron DeSantis doubled last week on his opposition to mask mandates for public-school students during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying he would call for a special legislative session if the federal government moves toward requiring masks in schools.
“There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level, imposing compulsory masks on kids,” DeSantis said. “We’re not doing that in Florida, OK? We need our kids to breathe.”
DeSantis made the remarks while in Fort Pierce for a ceremonial bill signing with House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. DeSantis said he and Sprowls would back a special session if the federal government requires masks in schools, adding that Florida districts will keep masks optional for students.
Children under 12 are not yet eligible for covid-19 vaccines.
“As of right now, all the school districts are going in that direction. But there is going to be, it looks like, a campaign from Washington to try to change that. I’ve talked to Chris Sprowls, if we need to bring (lawmakers) back in to be able to do something from the legislative perspective, he’s all in,” DeSantis said.
The comments came as Flagler County, Florida and other parts of the country are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, at least in part because of the dangerous delta variant of the coronavirus.
Masks were mandatory in Flagler County schools last year. They are optional when school resumes for teachers on Aug. 3 and for students on Aug. 10. “Obviously we’re talking about it every day, but we’re holding steady with what we’re going with,” a district spokesman said this afternoon. Flagler schools will restart with all in-person instruction except for the traditional virtual school option, which was in place before the pandemic but became much more popular last year. The equivalent of a full school was attending virtual school at one point last year.
“We’re not getting a lot of guidance from the state so we’re having to hold steady with what we originally planned for. I think every district is in the same boat,” the district spokesman said.
The Flagler district also continues to oppose using readily available federal funds, through the Flagler Health Department, to enable rapid covid testing of students in schools. All private schools in the county are adopting the practice. But the district is finalizing its back-to-school protocols.
DeSantis on Wednesday endorsed Floridians getting vaccinated against Covid-19, but children younger than 12 remain ineligible for the shots. Last year, DeSantis pushed schools to reopen for in-person learning amid the pandemic.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about DeSantis’ opposition to mask mandates during a press briefing Thursday. Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration “would have concern about any step that doesn’t abide by public health guidelines.”
Psaki told reporters the administration’s decisions about public health are driven by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has issued guidelines advising that children younger than 12 should wear masks in schools. The federal government has not mandated that they do so.
“They did already announce that several weeks ago as a part of their CDC guidance for schools,” Psaki said. “Because anybody under 12 is not eligible to be vaccinated, so they would not be vaccinated, and therefore they should be wearing a mask.”
Psaki, who noted that she is a parent, said that “we know masks aren’t the most comfortable thing” but told reporters that her children “are quite adjusted” to wearing them.
“If I were a parent in Florida, that would be greatly concerning to me,” Psaki said of DeSantis’ mask-mandate opposition. “Because kids under the age of 12 are not vaccinated, they’re not eligible yet. As the president said last night, obviously it’s going to be led by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), but certainly we hope that will be soon.”
–Ryan Dailey, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive
Mary Koonce says
Don’t follow to hell. You need to protect our kids.
Mike Cocchiola says
Children may die but it’s a risk DeSantis is willing to take.
If schools can mandate a uniform, part of that uniform should be a covering for nose and mouth, NOT a neck decoration, to hopefully reduce the transmission of virus, for everyone’s sake. Far more important than wearing a specified color or style of shirt, pants and shoes.
Mary Koonce says
The Federal Government should stop playing politics and mandate the vaccine.
Trailer Bob says
I know this article may cause some to think it is foolish not to make your child wear a mask. Honestly though, one has to take into account that the vast majority of children do not die from Covid. Very young children and older adults ARE more likely to die or get very sick from the virus.
But in the end, we all need to make the decision we feel comfortable with. I just hope others do likewise.
Correct, the majority of kids will not die from COVID. But, like little kids throughout the world, they are carriers. They spend all day in school or on the bus without a mask and pick up the virus – they remain asymptomatic but go to grandma’s house a dew days later and infect her.
Again, while mask usage does have some benefit to the wearer, the biggest benefit is that me wearing a mask will help protect you from whatever I may have picked up. Additionally, society has a duty to protect those who cannot make informed decisions for themselves – I’m talking about kids here.
Oh, and don’t anyone start on the parents rights BS. This is not about 3 or 4 people in a family, it remains the need that we as a society, protect everyone. You’ve all heard it – “The greater good.”
I cannot believe Desantis has no regard for children or teachers! Disgraceful! Shame on him!!
Was losing one Principal in this county not enough?
Cases of a more dangerous and transmissible variant are skyrocketing.
Stay Blissfully ignorant, Florida and Flagler figureheads…
I have questions says
Does the Governor have a wish to see young children sicken and die of variants? Does he want votes from trumpers so bad that he’d risk the lives of children? This is beyond heinous. Is he sadistic? Trump is. When did people fall so in love with evil that they don’t even care about what happens to innocent children? I know that the maga mentality is “f” your feelings (which is a way of describing a sociopath) but who knew they extend this attitude to kids also? It is an abomination.
So is it safe to say Flagler Schools have harmful intentions towards are children? If they have no plans to keep them safe , isn’t that a nice way to say they have plans to put them in danger?
Mary Koonce says
Children’s hosp is full in Ks
Masks are not the answer! Just say no! CDC is a for profit entity. They want everyone scared.
The kids in school did better at wearing masks than most adults! DeSantis is so desperate to become the next President he’s willing to kill half the state.