Aug 12, 2021 - Health

Over 800 physicians call on DeSantis to repeal anti-mask order in schools

Picture of Ron DeSantis
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 800 physicians signed a letter on Thursday calling on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to repeal an executive order that prohibits local officials from requiring masks in school.

Driving the news: The Republican governor is threatening to withhold pay from superintendents and school board members who mandate face masks in schools, even as Florida experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the Delta variant.

What they're saying: DeSantis' executive order "exposes every child to a virus that is deadlier than the flu, as contagious as smallpox and preventable with two basic mitigation measures: Mask use and vaccinations," the doctors said.

  • "What’s heartbreaking and infuriating for us as doctors is watching children needlessly suffer while Gov. DeSantis rejects simple protections such as masks and vaccinations."

State of play: The physicians are asking the governor to "allow and encourage" local school districts to implement mask-wearing for in-person learning.

  • They are also asking DeSantis to resume reporting COVID-19 daily data. Florida became the first state to provide only weekly updates, citing decreasing cases.
  • DeSantis must also do "much more" to encourage Floridians to get vaccinated, the physicians said.

Catch up quick: DeSantis said in his executive order that parents should be able to decide whether their child should wear a mask, claiming that guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "lacks well-grounded scientific justification."

  • Several local school districts have defied DeSantis' order, requiring students and school staff to wear masks.
  • By the numbers: Between July 16 and 24, infections among Florida youths increased by 34% and hospitalizations were up 23%.
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