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Does Masking Students Make a Difference? Florida’s Policy Patchwork Offers Some Answers

Student wearing masks attend class on the first day of school amid the coronavirus at St. Lawrence Catholic School in North Miami Beach, Fla., August 18, 2021. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

In late summer, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus surged through the American South, Victoria Defenthaler kept a close eye on the data in her Florida community. Cases of COVID-19 had spiked about 600 percent since June. Defenthaler was worried.

A member of the Martin County school board on the state’s Treasure Coast, Defenthaler warned that the district’s mitigation efforts might not be enough. She tried and failed to convince other board members to bring in health-department officials to provide counsel.

And she urged her colleagues to defy Governor Ron DeSantis and reinstitute a school mask mandate. Neighboring school districts were

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Ryan Mills is an enterprise and media reporter at National Review. He previously worked for 14 years as a breaking news reporter, investigative reporter, and editor at newspapers in Florida. Originally from Minnesota, Ryan lives in the Fort Myers area with his wife and two sons.

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