Jul 28, 2021 - COVID

School masking reemerges as pandemic fault line across Florida

Families protest masks outside the Hillsborough County school board meeting. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Despite Hillsborough County's COVID positivity rate hitting an all-time high, many families and students are demanding that masks stay optional for the coming school year.

What’s happening: Public testimony at the county's school board meeting on Tuesday was largely dominated by people opposed to a mask mandate, even though no mask decision was on the agenda.

  • And on the other side of the state, anti-mask protesters also disrupted Broward County's school board meeting — stopping a discussion about masks in schools, per the Miami Herald.

State of play: Right now, around Tampa Bay, masks are optional in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Manatee County schools.

  • As of Monday, Manatee County Schools had planned to return in August with "normal pre-COVID conditions," per the Bradenton Herald.

The big picture: The CDC amended its guidance yesterday to recommend universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools this incoming school year, regardless of vaccination status.

The other side: Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran have repeatedly voiced their opposition to masks in classrooms.

  • In a closed-door meeting on Monday, DeSantis said there was "no evidence" linking a lack of masking in schools to COVID outbreaks, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
  • Last week, DeSantis also suggested he would call a special legislative session if the federal government mandated masks and school districts followed.
  • In April, Corcoran sent a memo to school superintendents asking them to make masks optional for the 2021-22 school year.

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