Orange County schools monitor dozens of COVID-19 cases as other Florida school districts announce mask mandates


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Orange County Public Schools have yet to open their doors to students and they are already monitoring dozens of cases of coronavirus.

The school district already has 28 cases of COVID-19 with 23 of those being faculty members, according to a report from WESH. While the school district is not imposing a mask mandate for its students, noting an executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that threatened the funding of any school who put such a mandate in place, they are incentivizing their teachers to get vaccinated. County schools are offering teachers $200 to get the jab before Halloween. In addition, they are requiring faculty and visitors to mask up.

"We continue to strongly encourage parents to consider using face masks for their children while inside our schools," Superintendent Barbara Jenkins shared in a recent statement. "I am making face masks mandatory for all OCPS employees while inside our facilities or vehicles and in the presence of another individual. This mandate is effective Friday, August 6 and for the next 30 days."

Orange County's half-measure is something, but it looks awful cowardly when held up to what schools are doing around Gainesville. Alachua County essentially dared the state government to strip their funding, putting a mask mandate in place for the first two weeks of school to slow the spread of coronavirus. The school board unanimously approved the temporary measure this week.

Putting the squeeze on public schools would always be an unpopular position. When it comes to mask mandates, that goes double. A recent poll found that 62% of Floridian voters support requiring children in school to wear masks as a preventative measure against coronavirus. 

In spite of this current (and a national dressing down from the president), DeSantis has held strong to his anti-mask positions. The governor called the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations and the record numbers of new cases in the state a media-fueled "hysteria" earlier this week.

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