CAPE CORAL — Governor Ron DeSantis is promising parents their kids won’t have to wear masks in school.
He made that announcement in Cape Coral Friday morning, saying he would back up that promise with an executive order.
Despite the current surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida, DeSantis said he wants parents to choose whether their kid should wear a mask in the classroom. The room at the Two Meatballs in the Kitchen restaurant was filled with applause as Governor DeSantis made the announcement.
"I’ll be signing an executive order which directs the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to issue emergency rules protecting the rights of parents to make this decision about wearing masks for their children," said DeSantis.
"Kids less than 12 years of age cannot even get vaccinated, and so I think using of masks is one of several things one needs to do to mitigate any risk," said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida, and a member of the Florida Chapter of the AAP.
Dr. Rathore said those steps are even more important right now, given that Florida is seeing COVID-19 spreading faster than anywhere else in the country. According to the CDC, Florida had more than 100,000 new cases in the past week and a statewide positivity rate of more than 15 percent.
But DeSantis said, requiring masks in schools wouldn’t significantly change that.
"Many of these kids are already immune through prior infection. They’re at virtually zero risk for significant illness," said DeSantis.
That’s a statement Dr. Rathore did not agree with.
"We have had more kids in the hospital in the last couple of days than we have ever had throughout the pandemic. So that’s telling us something. Kids are at risk," said Dr. Rathore.
But that’s a risk DeSantis said parents should make the call on, not the State of Florida.
"We will protect the right of our kids to attend school in person," said DeSantis.