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School Officials In Miami-Dade County, Fla., Will Likely Defy Order And Require Masks

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In Florida, local school districts are facing off with Governor Ron DeSantis over a public health issue that has become political - whether students should be required to wear face masks. DeSantis signed an order banning school districts from imposing mask mandates, but some are defying the governor and imposing them anyway. From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Governor Ron DeSantis traveled to Broward County today with a message for those who don't like his approach to the resurgence of COVID-19 in Florida.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: This is no place for those phony narratives, for political posturing or for partisanship.

ALLEN: DeSantis has been promoting the use of monoclonal antibodies to treat people for COVID. But in Broward County today, he was asked about a vote taken last night by the State Board of Education. The board voted to begin the process of punishing school districts that adopt face mask mandates, including Broward County. Measures being considered include withholding state funds or removing officials from their positions. DeSantis said he supports the board's decision

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DESANTIS: Forcing young kids to wear masks all day - these kindergartners - having the government to force that, that's not defying me, that's defying the state of Florida's laws.

ALLEN: While DeSantis was talking, school boards in two more Florida counties were meeting to discuss adopting face mask mandates for students and staff. In the Tampa area, Hillsborough County adopted a 30-day mask mandate after several hundred students were infected and more than 10,000 were forced to quarantine. Board Chairperson Lynn Gray.

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LYNN GRAY: Because what we're doing right now on this dais, we're making a tough decision. And we're counting on those masks to make the difference.

ALLEN: In Miami-Dade County, where classes resume next week, district officials also approved a mandate today. Before the meeting, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho appeared before the State Board of Education and told them he wasn't concerned about the consequences.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALBERTO CARVALHO: I'm going to do that which is right, rightful and righteous. But right before getting here and just a few minutes ago, I spoke with a teacher who happens to be the daughter of another teacher, begging me to do the right thing for her mom who's about to be intubated at Jackson South.

ALLEN: School districts that have chosen to defy Florida's Republican governor are receiving encouragement from President Biden. His education secretary has sent a letter to districts promising to provide federal funds to make up any money that's withheld by the state.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

(SOUNDBITE OF RYAN HELSING AND MATTHEW SALTZ' "CASCADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.