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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Florida Board of Education voted Tuesday to sanction two public school districts for defying Gov. Ron DeSantis' order barring mask mandates in school, per NBC News.

Why it matters: It marks the first punishment doled out against school officials who have clashed with the Republican governor on the issue. Nearly 6,000 students and over 300 staff members have tested positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 in one district.

  • The DeSantis administration, which faces legal challenges over the ban, argues that the Alachua and Broward County public school districts went against the order by requiring a doctor's note for students who wish to opt out of mask-wearing. Other districts only require a note from parents.
  • The actual penalties had yet to be announced, but DeSantis has threatened to withhold pay from school officials as retaliation.
  • School officials who spoke before the board called the move necessary, especially in districts with vaccine shortages. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines.

The big picture: DeSantis is one of several governors who have signed laws or executive orders banning mask mandates, though Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, has said he regrets the decision.

  • The Biden administration has offered to step in with financial assistance if DeSantis follows through with withholding funding from schools that implement a mandate.
  • The state reported nearly 3 million cases as of last week and more than 40,000 deaths.
  • Several counties across the U.S. have temporarily suspended school because of a surge in coronavirus cases among students and faculty early in the academic year, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2021 - World

Italy announces new COVID restrictions for the unvaccinated

Doctors at work in triage before administering the third dose of the COVID vaccine in Molfetta, Italy. Photo: Davide Pischettola/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy announced new COVID restrictions on Wednesday — barring unvaccinated people from dining indoors, attending shows, sports events, public ceremonies and entering nightclubs starting in December, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: It follows a trend of public officials around the world imposing restrictions on unvaccinated people, as nations have struggled to get shots in arms, writes Axios' Shawna Chen.

Nov 25, 2021 - Health

U.S. to mandate COVID vaccines for all border crossers in January

President Biden speaks during an event at the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

The Biden administration will begin requiring essential travelers crossing U.S. borders to be fully vaccinated starting Jan. 22, a White House spokesperson told Axios Wednesday.

Why it matters: The move comes after the U.S. opened land borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel in November, but only to those fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Nov 24, 2021 - Health

European health agency urges expanding COVID booster shot access

A woman in Slovakia recieving the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19. Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP via Getty Images

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) recommended booster shots for all adults in a statement on Wednesday, as COVID-19 reaches new daily highs throughout the continent.

The big picture: Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Hungary all reported new daily highs in infections on Wednesday, Reuters reports.