Aug 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP Sen. Cassidy breaks with DeSantis on banning mask mandates

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that he disagrees with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) executive order barring mask mandates in schools, adding that "the local officials should have control" over the decision.

The big picture: “Politicians should not kind of carte blanche accept what the public health doctor says," Cassidy told host Dana Bash. "But they shouldn't just gratuitously ignore it either."

Between the lines: Cassidy's comment stands in contrast with the position of many Republicans who have balked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance recommending that fully vaccinated people wear face masks in areas with high COVID transmission rates.

Catch up fast: DeSantis' order, signed in July, bars local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to the classroom next month. The order now faces legal challenges in state and federal court.

  • It has come as Florida, which has reported over 2.7 million COVID-19 cases so far, has seen an average seven-day positivity rate of between 20 and 25 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What they're saying: "[W]henever politicians mess with public health, usually it doesn't work out well for public health," Cassidy said. "And ultimately, it doesn't work out for the politician because public health suffers and the American people want public health."

  • “When it comes to local conditions, if my hospital is full, and my vaccination rate is low and infection rate is going crazy, we should allow local officials to make those decisions best for their community," he said.

Go deeper: DeSantis' order on mask mandates in schools sparks legal challenges.

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