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Gov. DeSantis signs executive order ensuring parents can choose if their kids wear masks

The governor doubled down on his opposition to mask mandates in schools during a press conference Friday.

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — “In Florida, there will be no lockdowns. There will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions and no mandates."

That's the message Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeated time and time again in discussing the state's coronavirus response.

The governor doubled down on his opposition to mask mandates in schools during a press conference Friday at a restaurant in Cape Coral.

As coronavirus cases surge in the state, DeSantis said he would work to protect Floridians' right to work and the rights of kids to attend school in person.

And he plans to do that through new legislation that gives parents the right to reject mask mandates in schools. HB 241, otherwise known as the "Parents' Bill of Rights," was signed by Gov. DeSantis last month. It protects parents' rights regarding a child's education, upbringing, and health care.

Under this bill, DeSantis signed an executive order which directs the Florida Department of Education and Department of Health to issue emergency rules “protecting the rights of parents to make this decision about wearing masks for their for their children.” 

The governor's order says it was issued in response to several school boards either considering or implementing mask mandates for students. His action comes anywhere between two to four weeks before students across the state are set to return to school.

"Given the historical data on COVID-19 and the ongoing debate over whether masks are more harmful than beneficial to children and to school environments in general, we should protect the freedoms and statutory rights of students and parents by resting with the parents the decision whether their children should wear masks in school," the order reads.

DeSantis' order also allows for the Florida Commissioner of Education to pursue all legal means to ensure compliance from school districts, including withholding state funds from non-compliant school boards.

The executive order is effective immediately. You can read the full order here.

Earlier Friday, Florida House speaker Chris Sprowls showed his support for DeSantis' action in a tweet.

"While there are some public officials who will seek to use the power of government to compel uniformity and adherence to their preferred course of conduct, that approach is not in keeping with Florida values," the statement said in part.

The Florida Education Association said health and safety decisions for schools across the state should not be "one-size-fits-all."

“Whether it is mandating a pay plan that requires teachers with 15 years of experience to be paid the same as a first-year teacher or telling locally elected officials they cannot enforce recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Gov. DeSantis continues to think that Tallahassee knows best what all Floridians need. We reject that kind of thinking. Instead, we ask Gov. DeSantis to allow all Florida’s citizens to have a voice by empowering the elected leaders of cities, counties and school districts to make health and safety decisions locally based on their unique needs and circumstances,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said.

Florida's surge in COVID-19 cases appears to be happening faster and more dramatically than previous increases throughout the pandemic, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The state reported a total of 16,038 new cases to the CDC for Tuesday, July 27. It was back on Jan. 15 when the state last reported a day with more than 16,000 cases.

The seven-day moving average of new cases tops 13,502 cases — a moving average not seen since the middle of winter when Florida experienced its worst outbreak of reported coronavirus cases.

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