Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis aren’t exactly the best of friends – especially when it comes to Florida schools’ mask mandates. The superintendent and Governor have been at odds over masks in recent weeks. Carvalho is adamant students should be wearing masks. Gov. DeSantis is insistent children don’t need to cover their faces.
Despite continued pressure from Ron DeSantis, Carvalho decided to make masks mandatory for all students, teachers, and other staff. An exception to the rule will be a documented medical condition. He said that the mask mandate is intended to protect the students and staff.
Since Aug. 16, the Miami-Dade Public Schools have had 13 staff members die from the Covid-19 Delta variant. Three of those deaths were teachers. Seven of them were school bus drivers. All 13 were unvaccinated.
“I think this underscores the big tragedy that we see occurring across America,” Alberto Carvalho said Tuesday. “Even though in my community, 98% of individuals have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, there is still a lag specific to individuals that represent ethnic minorities in Miami-Dade.”
It is not legal to mandate the vaccine in Florida. But Carvalho is hoping that incentives like a $275 stipend will persuade staff members to get the shots.
The Miami-Dade school district is just one of many Florida districts that have decided to go against the Governor and require masks in schools. Currently, these districts include Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsboro, Alachua, and Sarasota. Miami-Dade is the largest district to join. Over 350,000 students will be affected by the mask mandate.
Alberto Carvalho said that “in Miami-Dade, the decisions we have made are well informed in medicine and public health. There is no compromising on the issue of health and the protection of their teachers.”
He said that he will continue to require masks in his school district and will wear any consequences as a “badge of honor.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to take away funding and remove superintendents that defy him. He believes a decision to mask should be left to the parents. He feels strongly that all parents should have an opt-out choice. If a school does not provide an opt-out choice, Gov. DeSantis says, then it disobeying Florida law.
The law that he is referring to is the Parents Bill of Rights which states that parents or legal guardians can “direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health,” of students.
The state is very split. Some parents feel strongly that their kids should be wearing masks. Other families feel adamant that a mask mandate is a violation of students’ rights.
Ron DeSantis’ supporters believe that masks do not protect against the Covid-19 Delta variant. They have cited statistics from the first wave of the pandemic. The statistics show Florida schools that required masks had positive Covid-19 tests for 48 out of every 1,000 students, while school districts that didn’t require masks had positive tests for 50 out of every 1,000 students.
With the new Delta variant, Florida has seen a surge of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. Many of the new cases are among children and teens, who now represent about 26.8% of daily Covid-19 cases. Florida has had over 3.36 million Covid-19 cases. While the state is seeing a downward trend, it is still averaging about 10,000-13,000 new cases a day.