FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday accused the School District of Palm Beach County of being "anti-science" by imposing a new universal mask mandate for students.
All public school children are now required to wear facial coverings inside school buildings and on school district transportation without the ability to opt out. The only exceptions are for students with certain medical conditions.
Speaking at a new monoclonal antibody treatment center in Fort Pierce on Monday, DeSantis said the school district is violating state law by refusing to give parents the final decision over whether their children wear masks in school.
"I want parents to ultimately have the call on masks," DeSantis said. "I just ultimately think the parents have the best understanding."
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DeSantis said school districts like Palm Beach County are "anti-science" for not recognizing "immunity conferred through prior infection," referring to the notion that students previously infected with COVID-19 have a certain level of immunity to the virus.
"If a kid was infected this summer, that kid does not need to be in a mask, no matter what you think of the mask," DeSantis said. "That has immunity. And so, if you're not recognizing that basic, clear scientific fact at this point, that shows you that this is more political."
The governor then accused the School District of Palm Beach County of "not following the science" by enacting a policy of "quarantining a healthy kid who's already recovered from COVID in the past."
"You're not following the science," DeSantis said. "You're doing things more in-tune with your agenda."
That allegation, however, appears to be incorrect when looking closely at school district policy.
According to the School District of Palm Beach County's COVID-19 protocols, students who have had a prior COVID-19 infection -- meaning they've tested positive for the coronavirus within the previous 90 days and are currently not showing symptoms -- are not required to stay home and quarantine.
The same goes for children who are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, and it's been two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series.
DeSantis on Monday stopped short of announcing any potential punishments for the School District of Palm Beach County over its sweeping mask mandate.
Last week, the Florida Department of Education gave school districts in Broward and Alachua counties -- which are also requiring masks for students with no opt-out provision -- 48 hours to comply with state law or have the salaries of school board members cut.
Both districts stood firm and said they're not changing their mask mandates.
The Biden Administration quickly responded and said the U.S. Department of Education is "ready to assist any district facing repercussions for imposing CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies that will protect the health and safety of students, educators, and staff."
The Palm Beach County School Board is scheduled to meet on Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether the School District of Palm Beach County would be willing to join other school districts throughout the state to legally challenge the governor's emergency order regarding facial coverings in school.
There have been 1,424 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the school district since the 2021/22 academic year started on Aug. 10, including 1,234 students and 190 employees.
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DeSantis on Monday delivered his remarks at a new monoclonal antibody treatment center at the Havert L. Fenn Center, located at 2000 Virginia Avenue in Fort Pierce.
The site will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
Up to 320 patients will be able to receive the free treatments each day. Walk-ins are welcome, but you can also make an appointment by clicking here.
Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made proteins that help your immune system fight off viruses. DeSantis said the treatment is most effective for COVID-19 patients if it's given when their symptoms first surface.