Throughout the pandemic, there's been a lot of uncertainty. Will we get a vaccine? Is this current wave over? And, what the hell is Trump up to? Thankfully, the last one is no longer a concern.
Despite all the uncertainty, one thing that's been constant in Florida is Governor Ron DeSantis' insistence on refusing to mandate masks.
From the first few months of the pandemic onwards, he's been a staunch critic of masks and has sought to downplay their significance. Despite evidence to the contrary, DeSantis hasn't wavered.
This has led to a standoff with Doctors and health officials and now it seems schools. DeSantis may be popular with the Republican rank and file, but his abrasive style of politics can rub some people up the wrong way. That's what happened with several school officials who are taking matters into their own hands.
On Wednesday, a Florida school board voted to require all students and faculty to wear masks inside schools for the fall semester. Broward County Public Schools decided to introduce the rule following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Production, which recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in areas where there are a high number of cases.
One of the school board members, Lori Alhadeff, was hesitant to bring in the rule, but with cases rising she felt she had no choice. She pledged to make the semester 'as normal as possible' for students when they return in the fall.
As you can imagine, Governor DeSantis took a different view and was firm in his stance on masks:
"Our view is that this should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated."
He also promised to "provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely." Though he didn't go into more detail about what these protections would be. Although the implication would be, they may be protected by Florida law from having to agree to the mandate.
The debate around masks has reflected the changing guidance from the CDC throughout the pandemic. But as one of the school board members stated, the guidance has been changing because the pandemic is dynamic and changes over time, Thus, guidance needs to be updated depending on the number of cases.
Board member Debbi Hixon, defended the CDC and their guidance:
"They weren't flip-flopping. They're using data and facts to make the best decisions for the time, and I think that we have to do the same thing."
With cases rising in Florida, 16,038 were reported on July 27 higher than the 12,775 cases the previous day, wearing a mask has become an issue again. If you live in a part of Florida where Covid is on the rise, it's wise to wear a mask. They'll stop you from infecting others if you have the virus and offer you protection too.
This is important in Florida because only 50% of the population is fully vaccinated. With herd immunity likely to require over 85% of the population to be fully vaccinated, the debate around masks could rumble on until that number is approached.
With Governor DeSantis mulling a Presidential run in 2024 and seeking reelection next year, he can ill afford more trouble and a sharp rise in cases and deaths. Still, it looks as if his tough stance on masks is here to stay for now.
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