TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Governor Ron DeSantis held what some call a secret meeting in the Capitol on Monday underlining his opposition to mask mandates for students as cases of COVID-19 rise and hospitals fill across the state.
"Well, hello, I'm Governor Ron DeSantis," the meeting began. "We have a panel here today to discuss unmasking our children in schools. As many of you know there's been talk among the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics to force masking on school children."
The press was not notified of the meeting until hours after it happened, but DeSantis’ office provided a video of the meeting afterward.
Florida school districts said masks will be optional for the 2021-22 school year. In Leon County, some parents, nonprofit organizations and activists are asking them to reconsider given the surge in Delta variant and new COVID-19 cases.
The Superintendent of Leon County Schools, Rocky Hanna, said if things get worse if hospitalizations of children go up, the district could look at bringing back their mask mandate.
DeSantis said if there are efforts at the federal or local level to impose a mask mandate for public school students, he would call a special session of the Legislature to prevent that from happening.
“Our view is that this should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated,” DeSantis said at the meeting. “And I know our Legislature feels strongly about it, such that if, if you started to see a push from the feds or some of these local school districts, I know they’re interested in coming in, even in a special session to be able to provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely and don’t want to be suffering under these masks during the school year.”
DeSantis has resisted any mask mandates in the general population, signing an executive order prohibiting local governments from collecting fines for those violating mask orders.
The Leon Classroom Teacher Association sent out a survey to teachers on Monday to ask them how they're feeling going back to school with masks being optional. Those results will be released on July 28 and presenedt to the school board.
Statewide, the Florida Department of Health reported 73,166 new COVID-19 cases last week, more than 27,000 than the week before. Test positivity is currently more than 15 percent, its highest rate since July 2020.