Florida school board defies governor’s mask mandate ban, Kentucky imposes mandate

 As students head back to school, Florida and Texas school districts are bucking their Republican governors’ bans on requiring masks for children and teachers as coronavirus cases soar in conservative areas with low vaccination rates.

But in Kentucky, a staunchly red state also experiencing a spike in infections, the state’s Democratic Governor has imposed a mask mandate in schools.

Florida’s Broward County school board on Tuesday (August 11) flouted an order by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that outlaws mask requirements in the state, prompting the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to say it was considering supporting the school districts financially if DeSantis retaliates against them by withholding funds from officials’ salaries.

The acts of rebellion by school officials come as these states — along with Louisiana, Arkansas and others — are flooded with new cases after people resisted vaccines and mask mandates. Teachers and administrators are seeking to protect students, many of whom are under 12 years old and cannot get vaccinated.

Fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, U.S. cases and hospitalizations have soared to six-month highs with no flattening of the curve in sight.

The head of the Broward Teacher’s Union, Anna Fusco, said that both teachers and students have died as a result of the latest surge in infections.

Imposing a mask mandate in schools is about safety, she said.

“We want to keep our students safe. We don’t want any child ever catching COVID, but we know it’s happening,” Fusco said.

Fusco praised the Broward Country School Board for pushing back at DeSantis.

“It was really important that our board member stayed strong, even though the threats and the intimidation tactics of our governor and our Department of Education and commissioner,” she said.

Over the past seven days, Florida had the country’s second-highest rate of new infections based on population, and nearly one out of every three hospital beds are occupied by a coronavirus patient.

DeSantis stood by his statewide order banning mask mandates on Tuesday, saying it would allow parents to decide whether to mask their children for class.

Broward Teacher’s Union president Anna Fusco said his comments were irresponsible.

“It’s kind of reckless and scary that an elected leader that has been elected to run our state and do his due diligence is making these kind of comments,” she said.

At Wilder Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky, students arrived in compliance with a mask mandate put in place by Democratic Governor Andy Beshear.

On August 10th, there were 2,366 new infections in Kentucky, according to the New York Times, more than a tenfold increase from the average a month earlier.

School Principal Bill Perkins said that there was increased concern for students’ safety this year because of the surge.

“More pressure to make sure we are following all of those guidelines really correctly and keeping kiddos safe so they can get back in the classroom and learn,” he said.

The mask mandate put has been put in place for 30 days, but Beshear has said it could be renewed.

Over 1,108 people are now hospitalized with COVID in Kentucky, according to the New York Times, more than double the amount from two weeks ago.

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