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The Battle Between GOP Governors and School Districts Over Mask Mandates in Hot Spot States

As students are going back to class while the pandemic is still raging on, students in Florida, Texas and Arizona are now required to wear masks in class as school boards in Democratic areas went against their Republican governors and made face coverings mandatory. In the country’s recent COVID-19 surge, Florida, Texas and Arizona are all hot spots for cases as Florida and Texas combined make up 28% of the nations recent COVID-19 cases, despite only making up 15% of the U.S. population. Arizona’s COVID-19 cases have increased sixfold since June, according to AP News.  

Defiant boards in Miami, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, and other urban areas are arguing that requiring masks will protect students, teachers and staff from contacting and spreading the virus. They cite the CDC’s recommendation for teachers, students, and staff to all wear masks regardless of whether, or not they have been vaccinated. “I don’t want to see a kid die,” says Marcia Andrews, a member of the Palm Beach County, Florida, school board who just passed a mask mandate this past week, according to the Palm Beach Post.

On the other side, the governors are arguing that wearing masks stifles learning and does little to stop the spread of the virus, but children rarely get seriously ill from the virus. They also believe that it’s up to parents not the government to decide what’s best for their children. “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices,” Texas Gov. Gregg Abott said when he banned local mask mandates. Florida Gov. Ron DeSanties cited a Brown University study that examined schools in New York, Florida, and Massachusetts in a July executive order barring masks. It showed masks made little difference at schools. The only problem, it didn’t analyze case spread in schools, just cases associated with schools. And to add more doubt to DeSantis credibility in the executive order, Emily Oster, one of the study’s authors, said she wasn’t consulted by the governor and the data is dated in the fact that it relied on data from before the emergence of the more contagious Delta variant, which experts say infects children more often and makes them sicker than last year’s variants, according to AP News. She supports masks in school.  

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