Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning mask mandates in K-12 schools the same day a record number of daily COVID-19 cases were reported in the state. On Friday, July 30, 2021, the governor’s directive orders the state’s health department to issue emergency mask rules.
“Effective immediately,” decisions over whether students wear masks in the classroom will be made by parents instead of school officials — even unvaccinated individuals. DeSantis’s order included the threat of losing funding if the schools did not comply.
While the governor explains this is the fairest way to handle the problem, some might question the decision to ban mask mandates for children and staff in classrooms where the common cold rapidly spreads from one person to another. This is especially concerning after 21,683 new COVID cases were reported on Friday within the state — predominantly Delta variant infections.
As the highly contagious COVID-19 variant sweeps through the United States, infecting whatever host is susceptible, medical officials in states with low vaccination rates are overwhelmed. As a result, their ICUs are filled up, they have had to reopen COVID wings, and their emergency rooms no longer have beds for illnesses or injuries, according to dozens of nurses pleading for people to take the shot.
But children under 12 cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19, and unlike its origin, the Delta variant does not discriminate against any age. On Friday, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami-Dade County reported an increase in children admitted to the facility with COVID.
The hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Marcos Mestre, said of the 17 hospitalized children who are positive for the virus, six are in the ICU, and one is on a ventilator.
Another children’s hospital, Holtz in Miami, is also seeing more children with COVID-19 infections. Dr. Barry Gelman says they currently have five pediatric cases — two in the ICU. In addition, Gelman, the hospital’s CMO, reports more kids of all ages, from infant to adolescent, are testing positive. He explained:
Our positivity rate in the Holtz emergency department in the month of June was 2.4 percent. And by the of July, we are at 14 percent, so the virus is circulating more and kids are getting infected.
Jackson Health System issued a COVID-19 update that went into effect on July 21, limiting visitors at their hospitals to keep patients, guests, and healthcare workers safe.
The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its guidance on safe schools on July 18 encourages children’s in-person attendance. In addition, since a large portion of students is not COVID-19 vaccine eligible, all kids over 2, teachers, and staff should wear masks while indoors at school.
Nonetheless, Gov. DeSantis’ press release announcing the order said:
The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day.
Health officials strongly recommend everyone 12 and older should be vaccinated against COVID-19. They are free for everyone regardless of insurance or immigration status. Moreover, HIPPA protects patients’ medical records, and state-based health department COVID-19 vaccine databases use codes rather than names, further assuring privacy.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
AAP News: AAP urges in-person learning, masking in updated guidance on safe schools; by Trisha Korioth
Local 10 News: South Florida children’s hospitals report uptick in COVID-19 cases; by Christina Vazquez
Business Insider: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs order that would strip schools of funding for imposing a mask mandate for students; by Connor Perrett
AP: Florida breaks record with more than 21,000 new COVID cases; by Mike Schneider
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Inset Image Courtesy of Rae Allen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License