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Fla. judge allows mask mandates in schools as Gov. Ron DeSantis appeals

Fla. judge allows mask mandates in schools as Gov. Ron DeSantis appeals
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has appealed a circuit judge's ruling that his ban on mask mandates in schools is unconstitutional. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 8 (UPI) -- A Florida judge on Wednesday ordered that schools can issue mask mandates while a court case challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on such mandates makes its way through the courts.

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper said school districts can have control over whether they require face coverings while DeSantis appeals the judge's August ruling saying the ban on mask mandates is unconstitutional, WESH-TV in Orlando reported.

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The Tallahassee Democrat reported that Cooper tossed an automatic stay of his August order, an unusual move.

"We're not in normal times," he said. "We're in a pandemic."

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DeSantis signed an executive order in July prohibiting schools from requiring students to wear masks on the grounds that it violates the rights of parents to decide how to protect their children.

His administration began withholding funds from schools violating the ban on masks last month. The Alachua and Broward county school districts have led the fight against the mask mandate ban and their school board members have had their salaries withheld. At least nine other districts have also implemented mask mandates.

President Joe Biden in August called on DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to lift their mask mandate bans and directed the Department of Education to take action against such bans.

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"Our priority must be the safety of students, families, educators and staff in our school communities," Biden's order said. "Nothing should interfere with this goal."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially said vaccinated students didn't have to wear masks in school, but later tightened recommendations when the more virulent Delta variant caused a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases.

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