The order comes in response to “several Florida school boards considering or implementing mask mandates,” the governor’s office said, and is meant to “protect parents’ freedom to choose whether their children wear masks.”
But the governor has repeatedly doubled down on the fact that he will not let schools mandate masks for their students. On Monday, DeSantis met privately with a panel of experts who effectively reinforced his positions on mask mandates in school.
“Our view is this should absolutely not be imposed, it should not be mandated,” DeSantis said at the roundtable. “And our legislature feels strongly about it that if you started to see a push from the feds or some of the local school districts.
DeSantis kicked off the roundtable saying the event was about the science, but absent in the room, according to the transcript released by his office, were Covid-19 experts from his home state, including his own surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees. Those in attendance included Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford University professor of medicine who co-authored a declaration in 2020 that called for allowing the coronavirus to spread among the population to achieve herd immunity.
DeSantis referred to measures taken to stop the spread of Covid-19 in children as “unspeakable burdens on the most defenseless and least dangerous segment of our society in terms of this, the kids.”
In a statement following the CDC’s guidance, the governor said “masking children can negatively impact their learning, speech, emotional and social development, and physical health,” without citing any evidence.
DeSantis added that “COVID is not a serious risk to healthy children” — a statement which contradicts CDC evidence showing the virus can be a serious risk to children as well.
Additionally, there is no scientific evidence that the risk of wearing masks outweighs the benefits. There is no evidence masks affect learning, speech or emotional development or can cause bacterial infections.
CNN’s Maria Cartaya, Maggie Fox, Deanna Hackney, Brandon Miller and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.