The dogged obstruction on common-sense safety measures coming from both ends of the political spectrum is unnerving parents, many of whom still worry about the lack of data about the long-haul effects of Covid on children — particularly those under the age of 12, who are still not eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.
Florida’s Covid surge tests DeSantis
Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto last week that “our children’s hospitals are completely overwhelmed.”
“Our pediatricians, the nursing, the staff are exhausted, and the children are suffering, and it is absolutely devastating,” Marty said on CNN’s “AC360” Friday night. “Our children are very much affected. We’ve never seen numbers like this before.”
While some school districts in Florida are ignoring DeSantis’ order by requiring masks — daring him to carry out his threat to withhold funding from those that defy him — a group of parents with school-aged children from counties all over the state are now also challenging the constitutionality of his executive order in court.
DeSantis’ order, the lawsuit argues, “wrongfully assumes that state authorities can better determine the local health risks and educational needs of students and teachers than the local officials that were elected for that purpose.”
“The community spread that will inevitably result from the unsafe reopening of schools without a mask mandate will yield unfortunate and avoidable increases in disease, long-term health complications, and deaths across Leon County and the State of Florida,” the lawsuits says.
Some Florida school districts are trying to get around DeSantis’ order with verbal gymnastics. Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, for example, said on Saturday that the district will “require face coverings” when schools open, but they will allow parents to “opt out” if they fill out a form stating they don’t want their child to wear a mask.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber noted Saturday that in the beginning of the pandemic DeSantis told the state’s leaders he wanted local governments to make their own choices, but he has now reversed course.
“All we want to do is open up safely,” Gelber said Saturday on CNN’s “Newsroom,” “and all he wants to do is score political points with a very narrow swath of people who, by the way, are most likely not to be wearing masks and most likely not to get vaccinated.”
Trouble for school-aged children in other states
In some states where schools have already opened, the anecdotal results of students heading back to the classroom without masks in places with high community transmission are not encouraging.
In Arkansas, a judge has temporarily prevented the state from enforcing its law banning masks mandates in schools. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction last week in response to two lawsuits, one from officials from the Marion School District, which has more than 900 students and a dozen teachers in quarantine after discovering positive cases during the first two weeks of school.