Aug 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Two days into school year, 440 students in a Florida district are quarantined

Nearly 500 students in Palm Beach County, Florida, have been quarantined because of COVID-19 just two days into the school year, the district's superintendent said Thursday.

Why it matters: Superintendent Michael Burke's announcement comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has maintained his executive order banning school districts in the state from requiring the use of masks amid criticism and lawsuits.

  • Burke said that 51 cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in the district. Of the cases, 37 are students and 14 are employees.
  • While Palm Beach County public schools have now made masks mandatory for all students and staff, 6,394 of the roughly 167,000 students in the district have opted out of wearing them.

What they're saying: "The governor's got to take responsibility for establishing the ground rules we're operating under," Burke said. "And this ability for families to opt out is leading to more cases, which is ultimately going to send more kids home and deprive them of that traditional classroom experience."

  • "We can't completely mitigate the risk, but I think if we could mandate the face coverings, have our kids in the classroom, that would be the best shot," he added.

The big picture: Florida has reported over 2.7 million COVID-19 cases so far and currently has an average seven-day positivity rate of between 20 and 25 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Many children returning for in-person schooling this fall are not vaccinated, and children under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine.
  • The latest numbers from the American Academy of Pediatrics show nearly 94,000 cases of COVID among children.
  • DeSantis currently faces legal challenges over his order, with some districts mandating masks despite the ban.
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