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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%.

Go deeper

GE to mandate COVID vaccinations for U.S. workers

Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

General Electric will require all of its workers in the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, citing President Biden's executive order for federal contractors, the company confirmed to Axios on Tuesday.

Why it matters: General Electric is the latest in a slew of major companies to mandate the vaccine for workers, following in the footsteps of American Airlines, Tyson Foods and Microsoft, among others.

23 hours ago - Health

Puerto Rico leads U.S. COVID vaccination rates

A mass vaccination event at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 31. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Puerto Rico has the highest percentage of people fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in the United States as of Oct. 19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The island has managed to accomplish such feats amid frequent power outages, earthquakes and high dependence on imports of health technologies from outside the region.

Oct 19, 2021 - Health

Virginia governor has had long COVID for more than a year

Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam still has long COVID-19 symptoms more than a year after his initial infection, he said in an interview with the Virginian-Pilot.

Why it matters: The Democratic governor is one of millions of Americans suffering from symptoms of long COVID, which could have serious implications for employers and social programs if enough people can no longer work because of it, per Axios' Caitlin Owens.