High COVID-19 cases call for universal masking in Florida schools

Ready to go to School – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Volurol

Districts are sticking with their plans to return to in-person learning, but some school mask rules may be subject to change. 

In the last week, the state of Florida has reported more than 73,000 COVID-19 infections.

This is the highest number of cases since January, causing several Floridians to rectify calls for universal masking when students return to school in the fall.

Pressure is building on Florida school districts, which are fighting to balance personal choice and safety.

In April, Florida’s Department of Education asked school districts to make mask mandates voluntary for the 2021-2022 school year. 

With no required mask mandate, those who have not been vaccinated are still encouraged to protect themselves by wearing masks while following district dress code guidelines. 

Protocols are subject to change throughout the year depending on governmental mandates, health updates, and new advice from medical professionals. 

In Tallahassee, masks will be optional once they return in the fall.

“There is no good reason to not have a mask mandate,” said Leon County English teacher and parent Sarah Marquez at a Monday rally in front of the Tallahassee City Hall.

Activists, members of the community, and teachers encouraged elected officials to continue to follow the universal masking recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

 “Putting a group of unvaccinated and unmasked people in a room is a potential super-spreader event,” said Leon County parent Isabel Ruano.

Rocky Hanna, Superintendent of Leon County, said his decision on optional masking was based on local health data. 

“Zero hospitalizations from that age range of five to eleven who are not eligible for vaccines. Zero hospitalizations and zero deaths between the ages of twelve and eighteen,” said Hanna.

But the Florida Education Association noted that school officials who may be in favor of the use of universal masks were up against a governor who promised to hold a special meeting to revoke the power to wear masks if districts enforce it.

“He’s saying he doesn’t want the federal government telling Florida what to do, but he’s gone out and said no district may do that,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar.

If the Delta variant continues to spread throughout Florida, districts may announce universal mandates. 

Like Hanna, the Florida School Boards Association favors local control over the issue.

“Let communities decide what’s best for them, best for their community,” said Hanna.

If the Legislature decides to strip districts of their right to regulate masking in schools, Hanna swore he’d take charge in taking the issue to court. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, seven children have died from the virus.

More than 250,000 in that age range have been infected. 

Stories that matter are our priority. At Florida Insider, we make sure that the information we provide our readers is accurate, easy-to-read, and informative. Whether you are interested in business, education, government, history, sports, real estate, nature or travel: we have something for everyone. Follow along for the best stories in the Sunshine State.