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Photo: Michael Reaves via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday issued an executive order that bars local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to the classroom next month.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has led to a spike in new infections across the United States, triggering another round of debate about COVID guidelines in schools.

  • DeSantis' announcement comes after the Broward County school board passed a mask mandate Wednesday due to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools this upcoming school year, regardless of vaccination status.

Details: The order directs the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to issue emergency rules protecting the rights of parents to make this decision about wearing masks for their children.

  • In his order, DeSantis said the CDC's guidance "lacks a well-grounded scientific justification." He also added that "forcing children to wear masks could inhibit breathing."

What he's saying: Wearing face masks is a parent's decision, not the government's, DeSantis told supporters at a restaurant on Friday.

  • "We think that's the most fair way to do it," he added.
  • "I have young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the masks with the kids ... I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun."

The Florida Education Association, which represents 150,000 public school employees, criticized DeSantis' "one-size-fits-all" policy.

  • "No matter if we live in urban South Florida, in the rural Panhandle or somewhere in-between, we all want our children to be healthy and safe,” the union said in a statement.
  • "Unfortunately, through his words and actions, Gov. DeSantis has made clear he does not respect the freedom of locally elected officials to do what they feel is best for their communities."

The big picture: School masking has reemerged as a pandemic fault line across Florida, Axios Tampa Bay's Selene San Felice writes.

Go deeper

Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Photos: Montinique Monroe and Win McNamee via Getty Images

The Education Department is investigating Texas' ban on mask mandates and its possible violation of disability rights.

Why it matters: Texas is one of several states under investigation for mask mandate bans that have impacted schools across the U.S.

Sep 21, 2021 - Health

D.C. school employees required to get vaccinated

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images

All D.C. school and daycare employees — public, private, and charter — must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 with no option to test out, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced today.

  • Student athletes over the age of 12 will also be required to get vaccinated in order to participate in after-school programs, the mandate says. 
Updated 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. to buy 500 million more Pfizer doses to share with the world — Fauci: Vaccine could be available for children 5–11 in "weeks" — Biden to get booster shot on camera.
  2. Health: Care for kidney disease plummeted in the pandemic — Manufacturers warn rapid test shortages are coming — Study: Pandemic cut U.S. life expectancy by more than 9 million years.
  3. Politics: Brazil's health minister tests positive during UN summit in N.Y. — Massachusetts State Police union sues over governor's vaccine mandate — Biden to push vaccine-sharing at UN, but boosters at home.
  4. Education: Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban — D.C. schools to require teachers, staff to receive vaccine without testing option — More schools using "test-to-stay" strategy to minimize quarantines.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.