Florida governor Ron DeSantis (R.) issued an executive order on Friday making mask-wearing optional in the state’s public schools after the CDC issued new guidance earlier this week recommending that teachers, staff, and students wear face coverings indoors — even if they are vaccinated.
“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”
The governor’s office said the directive was in response to local school boards weighing mask mandates because of the CDC’s “unscientific and inconsistent recommendations that school-aged children wear masks.”
“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a speech announcing the order.
The order overrules requirements issued by Broward and Gadsen counties that students wear masks when they return to school next month.
Mask orders and mandatory vaccines have been given renewed consideration as concern grows over the highly contagious delta variant. The new variant is spreading rapidly in areas with low vaccination rates.
While children under the age of twelve are not currently eligible to be vaccinated, National Review has previously reported that unvaccinated children have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID-19 than vaccinated people in their 30s do.
Meanwhile, vaccine mandates and mask requirements have drawn criticism from conservatives who argue that the mandates violate constitutional freedoms.
DeSantis has lead the charge against COVID-19 lockdowns and mask mandates during the pandemic. While many schools nationwide struggled to return students to in-person learning, schools in Florida have been open for in-person instruction since October 2020.