The delta variant is causing a significant rise in COVID cases across our state, and children are more vulnerable to the variant than the previous strain. The number of children contracting COVID has increased in both quantity and in severity, with those under 12 having even less protection because they are not eligible for a vaccine.
As students return to school this fall, an important way to mitigate spread is universal masking – as evidenced in this blog, written by a Florida pediatrician and school board member. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal masking in schools for similar reasons. Pediatricians and other medical experts across the state are requesting the same.
Parents and other concerned citizens are asking their school districts to implement mask mandates (see Duval, Alachua, and Hillsborough for example). However, the Governor recently released an Executive Order that threatened to remove funding from districts that do so. According education attorney Ron Meyer, it’s questionable whether the Governor has the authority to do this: “The state no longer is under a state of emergency, Meyer noted, meaning the local boards have the constitutional power to operate, control and supervise schools in their districts.”
Meanwhile, one of Governor DeSantis’s largest corporate donors, Publix, recently announced that they are requiring their employees to wear masks again. This begs the question why Publix believes masks work enough to protect their employees, but yet they contribute financially to a Governor who doesn’t believe children should be afforded that same protection.
Many believe this goes beyond political motivations, and is part of the end game to privatize public education. As more parents are driven from their public schools temporarily due to lack of safety precautions, they may decide to choose alternatives in the long-term. In fact, private schools that receive public dollars through vouchers, as well as charter schools that are publicly funded, are permitted to require masks.
Call to Action
The Governor doesn’t seem to be listening to citizens and the medical community, but he might listen to his donors. Reach out to Publix CEO Todd Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org and @Publix on Twitter) and ask him to influence the Governor to protect children as much as Publix is protecting its employees.
Continue to contact our state leaders as well. Everyone in charge of education in our state should be concerned about the health and well-being of all children in schools and do everything they can to protect them.