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Lawsuit challenging Florida's mask mandate ban in schools wraps day two

'We're throwing our children into a Petri dish right now,' said parent Lesley Abravanel says
Posted at 9:06 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 09:06:00-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As more districts flout the governor's mask mandate ban in public schools, the lawsuit challenging it continued Tuesday.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs, a group of concerned parents across the state, wrapped up their arguments. They believe the governor's order is preventing districts from operating safely by allowing access to non-medical masking opt-out.

At least eight districts are now violating the executive order and risking a financial penalty for doing so.

Among the final testimony for attorneys bringing the suit was mother and plaintiff Lesley Abravanel. The Boca Raton parent told the court she feared for the safety of her two 10-year-old twins, who are too young to get vaccinated.

Lesley Abravanel
Lesley Abravanel of Boca Raton testified virtually on Aug. 24, 2021, concerning the lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis and his anti-mask mandate.

"We're throwing our children into a Petri dish right now," she said. "I'm terrified, and so is every other parent I've spoken with."

Joining Abravanel on the stand were several Florida physicians. All of them testified they had seen COVID-19 cases among kids rising in their private practice as the more infectious delta variant continues to spread.

Dr. Tony Kriseman, a pediatric pulmonologist, said recent research continued to suggest masks prevent infection. He called them a medical decision rather than a personal one.

"If this were a noncontagious disease, like tetanus, you could say to a parent, 'You're free not to get a shot for your child,'" Kriseman said. "But the parents' choice doesn't only impact the child -- it's a global decision."

Dr. Tony Kriseman, a pediatric pulmonologist, testifies in Florida's anti-mask mandate hearing
Dr. Tony Kriseman testified that data suggests masks prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Attorneys for the governor countered with their expert, Stanford Medicine Professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.

He's a controversial figure who has advocated herd immunity and dismissed masking. That's despite the CDC's recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, use a face covering in school.

"Certainly, there is no high-quality evidence to support the assertion that mask stops the disease from spreading," Bhattacharya said. "Sometimes, you'll hear about people saying, 'My mask protects you even if it doesn't protect me.' I'll say there is no randomized evidence in the literature, at all, that supports that notion."

Stanford Medicine Professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya testifies in anti-mask mandate hearing on Aug. 24, 2021
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya contends that masks only have a marginal effect on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have tried to discredit the doctor, who has never been a practicing physician. He is, however, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

DeSantis has hosted at least two roundtables with Bhattacharya to discuss masking in schools. One of the meetings, held in March, was pulled from YouTube for misinformation.

Defense attorneys will offer further testimony Wednesday. The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. with closing arguments expected later that day.

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