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delta covid

Spike in Covid-19 cases persuades Hillsborough County (Fla.) district to impose stricter mask guidelines in defiance of governor's mandate

Aug. 20, 2021
As of Wednesday, 1,421 students and 537 staff had been diagnosed with the virus since Aug. 2. Another 10,384 students and 338 staff members were in quarantine.

Faced with rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and thousands of students quarantining at home because of contact with the virus, the Hillsborough County (Fla.) School Board has voted to buck the governor’s order and mandate masks for all students and staff.

Fox 13 News reports that the vote eliminates the option for parents to immediately opt their children out of the mask mandate and instead require a doctor’s note – a move that may result in repercussions from the state. 

Board members said school board members said they felt they had to defy Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order.

"There is an immediate danger to the public health, safety, and welfare," board member Nadia Combs stated,

As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,421 students and 537 staff had been diagnosed with the virus since Aug. 2. Another 10,384 students and 338 staff members were in quarantine because of possible exposure of Covid-19 at school.

Earlier: With increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases reported in the Hillsborough County (Fla.) district during the first week of classes, the school board has scheduled a special meeting to discuss additional protections against the virus.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that as of Monday, 5,599 students and 316 employees were either in isolation, having tested positive for Covis-19, or in quarantine, which means they had close contact with a positive case.

School Board Chairperson Lynn Gray says the board will meet Wednesday to discuss whether to mandate masks beyond the current policy, which allows parents and staff to opt out of wearing the face coverings.

Gray says board members must weigh the financial risk in light of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ threats to withhold funding from districts that defy his executive order that forbids full masking mandates.

Miami-Dade, the state’s largest school system, has joined other large districts including Broward County in pushing back against the governor. Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says he will require masks when classes in his district start on Aug. 23. Students could opt out, but only for medical reasons.

Carvalho says he fully supports a task force recommendation to mandate masks in schools because Miami-Dade County continues to be hard hit by the delta variant of COVID-19, The Miami Herald reports.

Earlier in the day, the Manatee County School Board, in its own emergency meeting, wound up where masking is now in Hillsborough: mandatory, unless a parent asks to have their child opt out.

. Both Pinellas and Pasco counties are mask-optional, and do not require opt out forms.

In Pasco, superintendent Kurt Browning says he is disappointed in what he called “sporadic” use of masks and recorded a new public message that strongly encourages students and staff to wear face coverings in schools. After four days, the district reported 145 student cases resulting in 148 quarantines, and 46 employee cases leading to two quarantines.

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