Politics

800+ physicians sign letter calling on DeSantis to repeal anti-mask mandate in Florida schools

On Thursday, more than 800 physicians signed a letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, encouraging him to reverse a July executive order on masking in schools.

The letter, signed by doctors in numerous specialties and published through the Committee to Protect Health Care, opens by saying, “Physicians across Florida are concerned about Florida’s children and their risk of COVID-19 infections. As the virus burns through Florida, health care providers feel we are fighting this fire without any leadership from Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

The note continues on: “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.” Currently, less than half of the Floridians eligible for the vaccine are considered fully vaccinated (Axios).

DeSantis’ executive order, dated July 30, does not prohibit mask use for children in schools, but instead prevents school boards and other local officials from implementing mask mandates for schools under their jurisdiction. The order is intended to “protect the freedoms and statutory rights of students and parents by resting with the parents the decision whether their children should wear masks in school,” (FL Gov).

Additionally, failure to comply with the law, as the order notes, means the state’s board of education may withhold pay from school officials who enforce mask mandates in their localities. The physician signees, however, write that the public health matter comes before parental rights: “Asking local schools and jurisdictions to look the other way while COVID-19 tears through our communities, or lose funding if they implement safeguards, won’t protect kids.” They also criticize DeSantis for “waving the flag of personal choice.”  

The Pew Charitable Trusts reports that seven states – Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah – have passed laws or issued executive orders similar to that of Florida. Thirty-two states have left the decision up to parents and school districts, and ten states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington – and D.C. are requiring all students, teachers, and visitors, to wear masks in public schools.

Additionally, California has now become the first state to issue vaccine or weekly testing mandates for teachers and all school employees in both public and private schools. California Governor Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall election in five weeks, said, “We think this is the right thing to do, and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open” (USA Today).

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: AXIOS

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