Florida and Texas have banned schools and businesses from requiring that people wear masks or be vaccinated.
The Dallas Independent School District on Monday announced that "to protect staff and students from the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, Dallas ISD is temporarily requiring all staff, students and visitors to wear masks when on district property."
The decision is in direct opposition to Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates in public schools and government entities in the state. Abbott announced the ban in May, saying that any government entity that required people to wear masks would face fines of up to $1,000 per offense.
The Dallas school district said in a statement, "Governor Abbott's order does not limit the district's rights as an employer and educational institution to establish reasonable and necessary safety rules for its staff and students."
The district is the latest organization or business to defy the efforts of Abbott and other Republican governors, such as Florida's Ron DeSantis, to block such safety measures as vaccine requirements and mask mandates as the highly contagious delta variant sweeps across the country, already overwhelming hospital systems.
Some school districts in Florida are refusing to comply with DeSantis' executive order against mask requirements. That includes schools in Leon County, which includes the city of Tallahassee, where cases are skyrocketing and where intensive care unit beds are nearly all full, according to data from the New York Times.
Parents of students in public schools in Florida filed a lawsuit on Friday that challenges DeSantis' ban on mask mandates, saying it puts their children, some of whom are not old enough to be vaccinated, in danger. DeSantis' ban threatens schools that require masks with losing state funding.
On Sunday, a federal judge ruled against DeSantis, and granted a temporary injunction in a lawsuit against Florida's ban on so-called vaccine passports filed by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which owns a number of cruise ships that sail out of Florida and faced millions of dollars in fines if it required passengers to show proof that they'd been vaccinated before allowing them to board the ships.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams wrote that lawyers for the cruise line had "demonstrated that public health will be jeopardized if it is required to suspend its vaccination requirement," and that lawyers for Florida had shown "no public benefit from the continued enforcement."
As the delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the United States, largely in places where vaccination rates remain low or below the national average, Republicans have continued to fight back against vaccine requirements that experts say could help keep the number of cases lower and end much of the suffering and death.
And as numbers of cases rise, those same Republicans are also against mask requirements that experts say would help prevent the spread of the virus from the unvaccinated and protect people who still cannot get the vaccine, particularly children under 11 for whom the vaccine is not yet approved.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said that wearing masks is especially important in schools for that very reason. Jha tweeted on Sunday about the tools that can be used to prevent the spread of the virus:
And if we use some combination of them, we can get all kids back to school safely, full-time
So what are they?
Serious about safe in-person education?
Mandate vaccines for all adults in schools (with standard exceptions)
there is increasing consensus on this
And consider mandates for kids over 12
This would protect kids who can't get the shot
This is unnecessarily controversial
People – can we please stop fighting about this?
Cloth masks help a little
Higher quality masks (KF94, etc.) should be considered in high transmission areas
They are cheap and widely available
As schools start their academic year in some parts of the country, many states in the South are seeing massive spikes in COVID-19.
Louisiana is seeing the worst outbreak, according to data from the New York Times, with 99 out of every 100,000 residents currently testing positive for the coronavirus. Florida is not far behind, with 90 out of every 100,000 residents testing positive.
Florida also has the highest hospitalization rate, with 61 out of every 100,000 residents hospitalized, overwhelming hospitals, which do not have enough beds to care for COVID patients in addition to all their patients with other health issues.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.