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Defying ‘DeathSantis’: Another Red County in Florida Rejects Governor’s Anti-Mask Mandate

Florida’s Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, had banned mask mandates despite the surge of coronavirus in Florida. On Friday, the state’s Board of Education said the Broward and Alachua school districts would lose some state funding if they did not reverse their mask mandates within two days. Later in the day on Friday, the Sarasota County School Board enacted a district-wide mask mandate during a special board meeting. In their county alone, 166 school staff had tested positive during the first two weeks of in-person learning. Additionally, 683 students have tested positive and 1,421 students have been quarantined.

Under the new policy, all students and staff will be required to wear masks until Sarasota County’s COVID-19 positivity rate falls below 8%. The current rate of positivity, meaning the number of COVID-19 tests coming back as positives, was 23.06% as of Friday, according to health officials. It is not clear what will happen if students do not wear masks or how it will be enforced. The only exemptions are for medical purposes, and the policy takes effect immediately.

Take that, “DeathSantis”.

MIAMI, FLORIDA – JULY 13: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes part in a roundtable discussion about the uprising in Cuba at the American Museum of the Cuba Diaspora on July 13, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Thousands of people took to the streets in Cuba on Sunday to protest against the government. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The new policy raises the possibility that Sarasota could attract sanctions from the state Department of Education for deviating from state law in the Parents Bill of Rights and guidance issued by DeSantis and the departments of health and education. At a time where the residents of Orlando are being asked to conserve water in the event of more COVID patients stressing resources, it seems the state should be advocating for stricter protective measures, not against them.

But DeSantis, during an appearance in Bradenton to tout a new COVID-19 treatment site offering monoclonal antibodies, said he thought Sarasota’s mandate was illegal. “I think it violates the Parents Bill of Rights in Florida, which is state law,” DeSantis said in response to a reporter’s question about the new mandate. “And ultimately this is a decision for the parents.”

 

School Board attorney Patrick Duggan told the board he believed the proposal was inconsistent with state law, the governor’s executive order, and the state administrative guidance, and DeSantis on Saturday appeared to confirm that assessment. Duggan said there were good-faith arguments that could be made in favor of the School Board’s position, but advised the board that the proposal appeared illegal.

DeSantis spoke more about his philosophical stance against mandating masks in schools rather than articulating legal arguments. “The U.S. is the only major country that is saying this has to be forced on people by the government,” DeSantis said, adding later, “I think it’s something that the parents should be deciding. I don’t think it’s something the government should be deciding.”



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