CAPE CORAL, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order directing the state departments of education and health to give parents the final say if their children should wear masks in schools.
The executive order comes as coronavirus cases in Florida are overwhelming hospitals and the delta variant is driving infections across the country. In Central Florida, AdventHealth elevated to “black” status as COVID-19 patients surpassed 1,000 greater than the peak in January.
Despite rising cases, the Florida Republican has been in avid opposition to any new COVID-19 safety precautions, essentially requiring masks in schools or any lockdowns. Earlier in the week, the governor spoke in Utah, mocking the updated mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which recommends those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated mask up indoors again.
On Friday, at a restaurant called Two Meatballs in the Kitchen in Cape Coral, DeSantis announced he would sign the executive bill. The governor’s office shared a copy of the executive order that showed he signed it at 3:45 p.m. Friday.
Last month, DeSantis signed the Parents’ Bill of Rights bill into law which provides parental rights relating to a minor child’s education and health care. DeSantis said this bill includes decisions regarding face masks for children.
“I think that this decision about whether parents want their kids to have to wear masks all day in school, I think that’s a decision that falls squarely within the contours of this Parents’ Bill of Rights,” he said.
DeSantis’ new executive order doubles down on the new law. According to the governor, the order “directs the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to issue, emergency roles protecting the rights of parents, to make this decision about wearing masks for their children.”
The governor and his wife, Casey DeSantis, have three children who are too young for elementary school but DeSantis said as a parent he would not allow his children to wear masks.
“My kids ain’t gonna wear that,” the governor said.
“It’s true that compared to adults that children often do not get as sick, but children do get sick, they do get admitted to the hospital, they do get into the ICU they do get intimated and put on a ventilator and they do die of this disease,” Dr. Mobeen Rathomore said, she is with the Florida Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics.
There have been 270,056 cases of COVID-19 for children under the age of 16 in Florida. The department of health reports seven children under the age of 16 have died from COVID-19 in the state.
“At this time there is absolutely no evidence that wearing masks has a negative impact on children,” Rathomore said.
While most school districts required masks for the 2020-2021 school year, the same school districts have now made masks optional for the coming school year starting in August. With the delta variant causing the recent surge in cases, districts have been assessing again whether masks should be required.
DeSantis’ remarks were followed by many parents and teachers who spoke out against masks in schools.
The latest guidance from the CDC recommends all students and staff at schools mask up indoors.