Ron DeSantis Gloats Over Mask Mandate Ban As Kids Die At Record Rates

by Julie Scagell
Joe Raedle/Getty

DeSantis continues his war on mask mandates as COVID deaths in his state rise

Ron DeSantis is back at his abhorrent messaging about mask mandates after a court temporarily overturned a judge’s orders that he did not have the power to ban mask mandates in local school systems. Thanks to the ruling, the Florida governor can continue to withhold school board members’ salaries in districts where they defied the governor over making masks mandatory for students and school staff.

DeSantis continues to preach his messaging about masks taking away people’s freedoms, saying of the ruling: “No surprise here – the 1st DCA has restored the right of parents to make the best decisions for their children.I will continue to fight for parents’ rights.”

His self-congratulations comes at a time when the number of COVID-related child deaths in Florida more than doubled. Ten children under the age of 16 have died since July 30, bringing the total number of child fatalities to 17. While this is a relatively low number compared to the overall COVID-related deaths in his state, the impacts of the Delta variant on children are still not fully understood.

The Delta variant is impacting kids in all states. “Pediatric hospitalizations, driven by a record rise in coronavirus infections among children, have swelled across the country,” the New York Times reported. Approximately 30,000 kids were admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 in the month of August.

DeSantis has been fighting with school districts over their resistance to his ban on mask mandates. This comes as Miami-Dade County Public Schools reported that at least 13 school employees have died “from complications of COVID-19” since August 16, NPR reported. “It is a big number. It is a bruising statistic that we need to absolutely internalize,” Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told them.

Regardless of DeSantis’ temporary win in the courts, school districts are continuing to fight back to protect students and staff. “We will continue to implement our current face covering policy. Our school board will continue to review that policy in an upcoming meeting because the decision is based on the moment of now and what is occurring on boots on the ground, our local community,” Broward Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright told reporters during a press conference Friday afternoon. “Therefore, as a result of that, we will have ongoing reviews of the information through a variety of different data sources in order to make a scientifically based decision.”

That means the state can effectively punish local educators for trying to protect their students as they return to classrooms amid “a variant that’s more infectious and more dangerous to children than the one we had last year,” as Florida judge John Cooper put it last week when he overturned DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates.

The Florida Department of Education is already withholding state funding from Broward and Alachua counties (where DeSantis is holding a press conference today) which equates to the same amount of their school board members’ salaries.

In response, the Biden administration announced his administration is developing a grant to cover fines or other funds withheld from school districts over current or future mask policies.