Florida and Texas currently lead the nation in COVID-19 cases. One of the most troublesome statistics associated with Florida’s newly found distinction is the fact COVID rates are impacting the younger population in alarming numbers.
School is starting across the state, and county school boards are faced with a hue and cry from some parents demanding mask mandates and others, including the governor of the state, insisting mask mandates are a violation of their rights.
Governor DeSantis issued a directive prohibiting school districts from requiring returning students to wear masks and announced districts who defy his order will suffer financial consequences. News accounts report superintendents and school board members may have their salaries docked if they defy the governor and issue mask mandates. He is currently being sued by parents who contest his order.
During the week of July 30-Aug. 5, COVID-19 cases for children less than 12 years of age were extremely high (187,935). For those in the age group 12-19 years of age, 256,380, were infected with COVID. In Pinellas County, Johns Hopkins All Children Hospital reported 181 positive COVID cases in July. Florida currently has the highest number of school aged children in the nation hospitalized with COVID.
Some courageous school district leaders have chosen to follow CDC guidelines, science and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ medical advice, insisting it is their responsibility as public servants to protect the children and scholars in their schools. They issued mask mandates. These districts include Leon, Broward, Alachua, Palm Beach, Duval, Orange, and Seminole Counties.
I am pleased to report School Board member Caprice Edmond is valiantly pushing the Pinellas Board to take affirmative steps to mandate masks and protect the scholars in our district. She made a cogent argument for the mandate at a workshop on Aug. 9 and was supported by board members Laura Hines and Dr. Nicole Carr.
Kudos to board member Edmond for her leadership and to members Carr and Hines for their support. Although they haven’t prevailed, they are on the right side of a health and safety issue others are trying to politicize.
Republicans are vociferous about their commitment to local control but for some reason, Republican leaders in Florida and Texas are not committed to allowing leaders at local levels to administer their districts according to their individual unique characteristics.
Hopefully, Gov. DeSantis will relent and allow the local school boards to reflect the will of their constituents and more importantly, protect the most vulnerable among us. COVID has no regard for red states or blue states. Rather, the only opponents are good science, vaccinations, masks, and progressive health care practices.
If our school board won’t protect our children, we must. Petition Pinellas County School Board and insist on your child wearing a mask to school, out in public, and in enclosed spaces such as stores, restaurants and other establishments.