Class has been in session for just one week at Florida’s Hillsborough School District. Already, 1,800 kids have tested positive for COVID, and 10,000 are in quarantine
Despite surging COVID case numbers driven by the highly contagious delta variant, schools are reopening. And in Florida, where case counts are currently the highest in the country, disaster is already striking: In one Florida district, after just a week of classes, 1,800 kids have tested positive and 10,000 are in quarantine. In one district.
Florida’s Hillsborough School District is the seventh-largest in the U.S., with more than 200,000 students. As of Wednesday, the district had 10,384 students in quarantine, along with 338 staff members. In total, there were 1,805 confirmed COVID-19 cases among the district’s students and staff. Masks are required for students at Hillsborough district schools, but parents can opt out of the mask mandate. So far, more than 28,000 parents have opted out.
The district held an emergency school board meeting on Wednesday, which quickly became heated as parents argued for and against universal masking for kids in schools.
“Have any children died?” one mother shouted during the meeting. Several others shouted back that yes, COVID-19 has killed children in Florida and other states. A wife of a teacher who is immunocompromised spoke about her fear, and the double standards schools have employed in enforcing dress codes, but not mask mandates. “This tiny piece of cloth is not taking away your freedom. … Grow up,” she said.
The meeting ran nearly three hours over its scheduled time, and ultimately, the board voted on an emergency mask mandate to last at least 30 days, beginning today. Parents will still be able to opt their kids out of the mandate, but only with a note from a doctor. School officials told reporters that they felt crippled by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates in schools.
“As we work to create the safest environment for our students and staff, we also must abide by the governor’s executive order, as well as emergency rules from the Department of Health and state Board of Education. This requires our district to preserve a parent’s right to choose to wear a face covering in school,” a district spokesperson told ABC. “The Governor has been clear that if school districts do not abide by this order, they could face financial consequences.”
Florida currently leads the nation in both total cases, and cases in kids. Statewide, more than 55 kids are being hospitalized for COVID each day.
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