White House spokesperson says DeSantis’ opposition to mask mandate in schools is ‘greatly concerning’

By: - July 23, 2021 3:49 pm
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Classroom. Credit: Pixabay.

Following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ comments that Florida will not require kids to wear face masks in K-12 schools, a White House spokeswoman pushed back against his stance, saying that would put children and families at risk of contracting COVID-19.

DeSantis has been against safety measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as lockdowns or mask mandates for schoolchildren, despite concerns raised about the upward trend in cases in Florida and the more transmissible Delta variant.

According to the latest data from the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Florida’s daily coronavirus cases climbed to 12,647, as of July 21. The previous report on daily infections in the state showed 8,988, as of Tuesday.

But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki argued against DeSantis’ opposition to mask mandates in schools, saying that guidance from federal health officials suggest that kids under the age of 12 should wear masks because they aren’t eligible for COVID vaccines.

“As a parent myself…if I were a parent in Florida, that would be greatly concerning to me. Because kids under the age of 12 are not vaccinated; they are not eligible yet,” Psaki said during a press conference Thursday.

“That puts kids at risk. It’s not in line with public health guidelines,” she said. “We know masks are not the most comfortable thing.”

The Phoenix wrote earlier that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all school teachers, staff and students age 2 and older and heading into the 2021-22 school year should continue to wear masks indoors at schools, regardless of COVID vaccination status.

The academy’s recommendation conflicts with a recent update from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that masks should be worn indoors by all individuals who are age 2 and older, who are not fully vaccinated.

The Republican governor said at a press conference Thursday that kids in Florida shouldn’t be required to wear masks. “We need our kids to breathe,” DeSantis said at the time.

Jose Dante Parra, spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party, said in a written statement on Friday:

“Nobody wants mask mandates, but should we be taking anything off the table at a time when Florida is leading the nation in new COVID-19 cases? DeSantis is putting politics over people’s health, and it’s the height of irresponsibility.”

Many Florida school districts have already dropped their mask policies or plan to discontinue them in the upcoming school year. Some districts never had a mask policy and others are pursuing a mask-optional approach, educators say.

Meanwhile, members of a federal advisory committee said that people who have comprised immune systems won’t be able to receive a booster shot until the FDA approves those shots, according to a POLITICO report.

People with health conditions, such as HIV or those undergoing certain cancer treatments, “have lower antibody protection” from vaccines, which puts them at a greater risk of becoming severely ill from COVID, POLITICO reported.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.