ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — As some students in Florida head back into the classroom, more than student safety is on the line for school districts trying to maneuver Gov. Ron DeSantis executive order on masks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke exclusively Tuesday with 10 Tampa Bay about the governor's public health decisions when it comes to kids, saying in short: it "doesn't make sense."
“Well, I’m not gonna say anything directly to Governor DeSantis cause he doesn’t ask me and he obviously has a campaign against me, as you well know, with his T-shirts and his mugs," Fauci said. "So, I’m not gonna get involved with Governor DeSantis, except to say, that it as public health doesn’t make sense when you’re trying to do everything you can to protect children, to do something that would interfere with the protection of the children.”
Under the order, the Florida Commissioner of Education is allowed to pursue all legal means to ensure compliance from school districts in letting parents determine if their children will wear masks in the classroom, including withholding state funds from non-compliant school boards.
That means school superintendents could risk their salaries if they violate the order giving parents the freedom to choose whether their kids mask up.
School districts also face an emergency ruling from the Florida Department of Education that allows students to transfer schools through the Hope Scholarship if their parents feel their children are facing "COVID-19 harassment."
Among the items that qualify as harassment under the ruling? Being required to wear a mask.
Kids under the age of 12 are yet to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, Pfizer is cleared for emergency use in those age 12 and up, while those who are 18 and up are only eligible for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines.
Fauci says he would like to see that age limit drop for all three vaccines "as quickly as [it] possibly can" in an effort to help protect children, but that it's a decision that is independently up to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
So, what can Floridians do in the meantime to help kids healthy and out of the hospital?
“There’s a solution to this problem and the solution is getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as you possibly can," Fauci said.
He adds that that sentiment is especially important for those around kids regularly like teachers and school personnel, as is mask-wearing.
“For the children who are not eligible yet, you can protect them by surrounding them with people who are vaccinated – so as to not to spread. But to also enforce mask-wearing as recommended by the CDC," Fauci said.
Visit the Florida Department of Health's website to find a vaccine location near you.
You can watch the entire interview with Fauci below: