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Jeff Vasilinda becomes the Vasilinda Family’s first published author!

Brain Injured Children Receiving More Cash

August 3rd, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida lawmakers this year revamped a 32-year-old program for people who suffer brain injuries at birth.

The plan know as the Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, takes care of brain injured children for life and was originally adopted to lower malpractice for doctors.

In 1988 hundreds of doctors marched on the State Capitol protesting skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates.

“And it has become a major health care threat,” said one doctor we spoke with at the time.

Born was the Neurological Injury Compensation Association.

Parents can’t sue but get care for life.

It is funded by an annual assessment on doctors.

The fund got lawmakers’ attention when it amassed more than a billion dollars in reserves.

“And they have apparently been not getting the support that they needed,” said State Representative Allison Tant.

The fund was accused of fighting parents over benefits.

“There is no cap on anything, so whatever the doctor says they need, based on that child’s condition, we pay for it,” said NICA Executive Director Kenney Shipley.

This year lawmakers ordered NICA to spend more money helping families.

The legislation increased the initial $100,000 payment to a quarter million and it applies retroactive to every family.

Dave and Ester Morgan’s daughter Melinda, was born in 1993.

“The doctors told us she probably had twenty four hours, and she’s twenty seven,” said Dave.

The Morgans initially wanted to sue.

“Knowing what we know now, I can’t tell you how thankful I am for NICA,” said Ester.

Still, the Florida Justice Association argued the changes don’t go far enough.

“The financial allowance for these families is still woefully inadequate,” said Association Treasurer Stephen Cain.

From now on, there will also be a parent and a physician on an expanded NICA board to advocate for children.

The Justice Association believes lawmakers aren’t done with NICA and expects benefit levels to be reexamined next year.

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Florida Sees Record COVID Hospitalizations

August 3rd, 2021 by Jake Stofan

As of this morning, a record 11,515 Floridians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 as the Delta variant continues to tear through the state.

Hospitals are reporting younger and healthier patients than in previous waves.

Florida COVID hospitalizations grew by more than 1,100 over night.

At Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in the state’s capital city, 66 of the 70 COVID patients are unvaccinated.

“We’re dealing with something that could have been prevented,” said Dr. Dean Watson with TMH.

And hospital officials said the demographics of the patients they’re seeing are quite different than they’d seen in past waves.

“It’s now attacking a younger population, individuals that are on the surface healthier,” said TMH Chief Clinical Officer Ryan Smith.

Mary Mayhew, President of the Florida Hospital Association told us the entire state is seeing a similar trend.

“It is absolutely attacking younger individuals more aggressively and putting them in the hospital than previous COVID,” said Mayhew.

According to the CDC 60 Floridians are dying a day from COVID.

While that’s about three times what we were experiencing at the start of July, it’s significantly lower then the almost 200 Floridians who were dying each day in last year’s summer and winter spikes.

“Hopefully we will not see the rate of deaths as we experienced in the previous surges,” said Mayhew.

As for how long this new wave will last, some medical professionals are looking to data coming out of the United Kingdom, which was hit by the Delta variant about a month before the US began seeing cases spike.

“You know they’re trending down now. We hope to see a trend down over the next four to five weeks,” said Dr. Watson.

And as cases and hospitalizations have increased the state has seen an uptick in Floridians getting vaccinated.

More than 330,000 got a shot last week.

Currently 61 percent of eligible Floridians have gotten at least one shot of the COVID vaccine.

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FAMU Clears $16 Million of Student Debt

August 2nd, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Florida A&M University said goodbye to the class of 2020 this weekend, not only with their degrees in hand, but also with an additional parting gift.

The university surprised students during commencement ceremonies telling them their outstanding debts from the 2020-2021 school year had been wiped clean.

FAMU graduates had something to cheer about besides their new diplomas at the conclusion of their college careers.

University President Dr. Larry Robinson had this bit of good news to share.

“There was some money on the account a week ago and now it’s gone. That was not a mistake,” said Robinson.

Using $16 million in federal stimulus funds, FAMU erased the debt students racked up over this past school year.

“During COVID many students had financial difficulties as well as their families,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. William Hudson Jr.

Hudson said the gesture will help ease the financial burden on students at the Historically Back University, which serves a population disproportionately reliant on student loans .

“A very at risk population due to socioeconomic circumstances. So many of the HBCUs across the United States are doing similar things,” said Hudson. “And we’re happy to be a leader in that area with HBCUs. And as the number one public HBCU, we take that very seriously in helping our students across this nation graduate.”

Federal data shows Black students leave college owing an average of $52,726, almost $25,000 more than their white peers.

According to Dr. Hudson, 90 percent of FAMU students receive some form of financial aid.

“As a student who took out student loans, and currently still paying on those student loans, I understand the burden of debt. And so being able to decrease the debt of students once they graduate is something that’s very important to Florida A&M University,” said Hudson.

And looking ahead the university says it hopes to replicate this year’s debt forgiveness for future classes.

Especially as the coming year also appears challenging, with Florida’s COVID cases continuing to spike.

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Universities Seek Creative Incentives for Student Vaccination

July 30th, 2021 by Jake Stofan
Graduation Ceremonies were held Friday at Florida’s colleges and universities as the summer semester came to a close, but the schools are already preparing for a wave of new arrivals this fall. 
 
Ensuring those students are vaccinated is their top priority.

Universities are prohibited from mandating students get vaccinated in Florida, so they’re having to come up with creative ways to encourage students to get the shot.
“Our numbers are such that we really, really need to push it,” said FAMU Student Health Director Tanya Tatum.
At FAMU, $1 million in federal relief funds have been put towards a vaccine raffle.
Students who get the jab can enter for a chance to win gift cards and even iPads.
“We actually had over 200 entries, so we’re pretty excited and we’ve actually seen a slight increase in the numbers of individuals at the vaccination site,” said Tatum.
Reactions to the vaccine raffle at FAMU were mixed. 
 
Even though all the students we spoke with were already vaccinated, they told us their unvaccinated peers are going to be hard to convince.
“When you think about the health aspect of it, to them it might be bigger than just a cash prize,” said incoming FAMU freshman Danielle Samuel.
FAMU student Deandre Frances told us parental influence may be playing a role.
“Parents don’t want their kids to get vaccinated cause they don’t know how it’ll affect them,” said Frances.
At FSU the strategy is centered around consistent public messaging.
“I have a vaccination, Jean and I both did. I believe it’s a safe thing to do,” said FSU President John Thrasher.
Thrasher joined the state’s eleven other public university presidents and signed onto a letter this week strongly urging students to get vaccinated.
“You know we have limited things we can do. We can recommend masks, we can recommend vaccinations, we can recommend social distancing, all of those things, but it comes back to individual responsibility,” said Thrasher.
Last year in the capital city, the return of students in August brought one of the highest local case spikes of the pandemic. 
Health officials hope they can avoid a repeat if their vaccination efforts are successful.
 
The FAMU campus vaccination site has so far administered more than 10,000 shots. 
 
FSU’s campus vaccination clinic has administered over 20,000 shots.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Counties Impose Vaccine Mandate

July 29th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

The county governments surrounding the state capital and Orlando, Leon and Orange Counties, are now both requiring every employee to show proof of being vaccinated.

Employees have until October 1st to prove they’ve had a shot or face termination.

In his memo to employees, Leon County Administrator Vince Long said his message is very simple and very serious: Unvaccinated employees pose a significant risk to spread the virus.

“I have to insure that we have a ready work force to respond to the needs of this community. Especially related to the COVID-19 variant as well a lot of other things like hurricane season,” said Long.

Long estimates that just half of the county’s 1,000 employees have had a shot.

“That number is just not acceptable, frankly,” said Long.

A May 28th memo from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gives employer mandates a green light.

There are just two exceptions to the vaccine requirement: Medical or religious.

Employees who have had COVID are not exempt from proving that they are vaccinated.

At the County public works site, we found mixed reaction.

“I have no problem because I’m vaccinated,” said Leon County employee Stevie Smith.

We asked how he felt about working alongside others who are not vaccinated.

“That’s their choice,” said Smith.

But the mandate leaves some in tough a tough spot.

One worker who remained unnamed told us he was not vaccinated.

We asked if the new mandate would drive him to quit.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.

At the Capitol Thursday, Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried once again called on the Governor make daily data available, but has not considered her own vaccine mandate.

“We have not gotten there yet. We are thinking again, of creativity,” said Fried.

If cases continue to spike, it’s likely more governments and private businesses to enact a vaccine mandate.

We reached out to the Governor’s Office.

Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us in a statement, “Governor DeSantis stands for individuals’ rights to medical privacy and opposes discrimination in all its forms. The provision that county employees who decline to show proof of vaccination will be fired is coercive and appears discriminatory on its face.”

She added the office’s legal team is looking at the policy.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

New Report Examines Utilities’ Efforts to Fight Solar

July 29th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

A new report by Environment Florida’s Research and Policy Center examined efforts to undermine solar power advances in six states and at the federal level.

The report analyzed how investor owned utilities have spent millions to slow the growth of solar energy here in the sunshine state.

Google’s Project Sunroof estimates 92 percent of Florida homes are capable of using solar power.

“We have the third largest potential for rooftop solar in the country,” said Ryann Lynn with Environment Florida.

But as of 2019 only 60,000 homes and businesses, just over half a percent of the state’s electricity customers, had installed rooftop solar.

“The overall policy framework is not conducive to rooftop solar growth,” said Lynn.

The new report blames the influence of investor owned utilities for the slow growth of solar in the state.

In the 2014 and 2016 election cycles alone investor owned utilities funneled over $43 million to political candidates, parties and committees.

“These companies also paid for an army of lobbyists between 2014 and 2017. Between 90 and 100 lobbyists were employed annually, which is more than one for every two state legislators,” said Lynn.

The report advocates for policies that would allow non-utility solar producers, like a local business, to sell the energy they make to their neighbors.

It also recommends mandating utilities generate a portion of their energy using clean sources.

“It’s our voice that’s gonna overpower the lobbying efforts of these big companies. It’s gonna take all of us getting coordinated and unifying on our message to get more solar power in,” said Clifford Mitchem with Crew Solar.

Florida currently ranks 26th in the nations for rooftop solar generation.

As of 2019 solar accounted for just three percent of the total electricity generated in the state.

The solar community has had some successes over the years, defeating the 2016 “Consumers for Smart Solar” constitutional amendment and an attempt by utility companies last year to rollback net metering, which allows solar producers to get paid for the energy they produce.

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Ag Commissioner Calls for Daily Reporting in Second COVID Briefing

July 29th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried held a news conference for the second day in a row, hoping to push the Governor to again publish daily infection counts.

The state stopped daily COVID reporting in June.

Fried noted there were 16,038 new infections on Wednesday, the highest since January.

Fried called the numbers proof of the need for the state to do more.

“If the Governor’s office has this information, fantastic. Put it on to the reporting sites.This is a simple… We were doing up until two months ago and the only reason I can fathom why we’re not doing that is because they don’t want to recognize our current trajectory, our spikes in the way the numbers are going,” said Fried.

Fried indicated Thursday she will hold daily briefings on numbers until the Governor takes action.

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Affordable Housing Amendment Faces Challenges

July 28th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida Realtors are backing a plan to change the constitution to guarantee more money goes into affordable housing in Florida.

They’re starting out with a $13 million war chest.

Every mortgage transaction, deed, stock transfer or written obligation to pay money is subject to a documentary tax in Florida.

The tax is 70 cents on every $100.

As of May, the state had collected a whopping $1.2 billion for the fiscal year.

By law, a fourth of it has been going into an affordable housing trust fund.

“Every single year, a portion of the housing trust funds are swept to the state’s general revenues,” said Christina Pappas with the Florida Realtors Association.

But this year, state lawmakers cut the funding for affordable housing in half, directing the money to sea level rise and septic to sewer projects.

The cut, or shift, has prompted Florida realtors to put $13 million behind a constitutional amendment.

The initiative seeks to restore affordable housing’s share of the tax back to 25 percent.

“If you are a school teacher, a firefighter, a nurse, you typically can’t afford to have the downpayment that you need,” said Pappas.

But the effort has angered incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

“I said to them, I’ll be honest with you, you declared war on the Florida Legislature,” said Passidomo.

The realtors amendment requires two thirds of the money go to the purchase of housing, raising questions if realtors are trying to guarantee themselves a pay check.

Realtors need just shy of 223,000 signatures for the Supreme Court to review it.

“We must challenge it,” said Passidomo.

If they get them, Passidomo said lawmakers will ask the court to throw it off the ballot.

“One, because I believe it’s misleading. And number two. It would impact our constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget,” said Passidomo.

But if the realtors make it to the 2022 ballot, they expect smooth sailing because affordable housing is a problem statewide.

Some Senators also see the amendment as self serving, arguing most of the amendment’s money would go do down payment assistance, which amounts to commission for realtors.

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Ag Commissioner Holds First COVID Briefing, Urges Masks and Vaccines

July 28th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Commissioner of Agriculture and gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried is taking on the Governor again , holding her first COVID-19 press conference following the recent spike in cases.

The commissioner said she’s stepping up because the Governor won’t.

In the cabinet room Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis held a private roundtable casting doubt on the effectiveness of masks in school.

“Our confidence in some of the pediatric leadership and some of the medical leadership has been shattered by how these people have reacted to this pandemic,” said DeSantis.

In the same room two days later, his possible 2022 opponent had a different message.

“We are very much still in the middle of a major public health crisis in this state,” said Fried.

The Democratic Ag Commissioner encouraged Floridians to mask up, vaccinated or not, in accordance with new CDC guidance.

“These are things that we already know. We’ve been living with this for almost a year and a half,” said Fried.

She also advised parents to heed the universal masking recommendation from the CDC when sending their kids back to school.

“Buy different types of masks, whether it is with dinosaurs or their favorite cartoons. You know this is maybe an inconvenience to them, but I’d rather it be a small inconvenience that you can make fun, than at the risk of getting our children sick,” said Fried

Fried pointed out that all she and local governments can do is encourage masking and vaccination.

The Florida Legislature took mandates and fines off the table this past legislative session.

And Fried acknowledged the uphill battle officials face convincing the 40 percent of eligible Floridians who so far have said no to the shot.

“95 percent of the people that are dying and in the hospitals are people that have been unvaccinated, and so eventually these individuals are gonna know family members and friends who are in the hospitals and it may take that to be a wake up call to so many people. I’m hoping that we can prevent that,” said Fried.

Fried also called on the Governor to restart daily COVID data reporting.

In an emailed statement DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us, “The COVID data that Nikki Fried discussed today is reported to the CDC every day by the Florida Department of Health. Therefore, the state is in fact providing that data – where else would she have gotten it? It is not “hidden” or obfuscated in any way, and it’s regrettable that a Florida elected official would imply that DOH is doing anything improper in terms of COVID reporting. The data is publicly available, though it’s not clear why Fried is presenting it with her own commentary, because she isn’t a doctor, epidemiologist, or public health specialist.”

And the Commissioner said Wednesday’s briefing will be the first of many, but declined to give specifics on how many or how often.

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Back to School Sales Tax Holiday Kicks Off Saturday

July 28th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Floridians will have the opportunity to stock up on school supplies and save some money with the kick off of the 10-day back to school sales tax holiday starting this Saturday.

The Florida Retail Federation said forecasted spending is up this year, with the average family expected to spend up to $900 on school supplies.

Throughout the 10-day holiday it’s estimated Floridians will save $69.4 million in taxes on clothing, footwear and backpacks costing up to $60 and computers less than a $1,000.

Also on most school supplies costing $15 or less.

“So we’re definitely seeing more people that are going to be shopping online and we understand that. And we encourage that if you do shop online, shop with a retailer that invests in your community. We use the term ‘find it in Florida’. There’s a lot of retailers large and small that invest in Florida, hire Floridians and pay taxes in Florida. So if you do shop online, try and shop with one of them and support your local community,” said Federation President Scott Shaley.

Between the back to school, hurricane and freedom week holidays Floridians are expected to avoid a grand total of $168 million in sales tax this year.

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Adam Walsh Murder Changed Florida and the US

July 27th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Forty years ago on July 27, 1981, six-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a shopping mall.

His severed head was found two weeks later.

The case forever changed the way parents guarded their children and how Florida and the nation look for those who go missing.

Adam Walsh was left playing video games unattended in a department store in the summer of 1981.

He was never seen again.

Following the murder, John and Reve Walsh began a crusade for kids.

“Someday no one will have to face the anguish they have undergone,” said then-Governor Bob Graham in 1983.

That same year Graham signed the first legislation in the country creating a missing children’s clearing house.

“It’s a, very rewarding seeing your accomplishments finally come to lite, but it will never erase the that we’ve experienced,” said Mrs. Walsh after the bill signing ceremony.

Serial Killer Otis Toole confessed twice but was never tried for the murder.

At the time, the Walsh’s told us Toole wasn’t important, saving kids was.

“We haven’t really concerned ourselves with vengeance. I think that is something that eats you up,” said Mr. Walsh.

The first clearing house was housed just blocks from the State Capitol.

In 1984, it became the temporary home of the national clearing house for missing kids.

Since then, the staff has grown from four to 17.

They work 24/7.

“And ultimately, that led to what we have today, where we receive these notifications on our phones and we receive more information through street signs and the lottery,” said FDLE Special Agent in Charge Chad Brown.

Since 2003 Amber Alerts have recovered 227 of 244 children.

Brown told us it’s a stat the state can be proud of.

“Oh, it feels fantastic,” said Brown.

While the clearing house has moved on to modern quarters, the Walsh’s work continues to pay dividends to this day.

The Walsh’s went on to have three more children.

FDLE is encouraging people not to mute Amber Alerts on your phone because they save lives.

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Governor Pushes Back Against Increasing Calls for School Mask Mandates

July 27th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

The CDC announced Tuesday it is now recommending universal masking in schools when students return in the fall.

Governor Ron DeSantis pushed back against the idea in an unnoticed roundtable held Monday with medical experts opposed to masking children.

The doctors blamed masking children for higher rates of mental illness and cast doubt on their efficacy.

The Governor’s office didn’t provide notice of the roundtable until six hours after it had ended.

A recording shows the discussion focused on the same topic that resulted in another roundtable being removed from YouTube in April: Masking children.

“This should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated,” said DeSantis.

Participating doctors cast doubts on the effectiveness of masking in schools.

“The correlational evidence I think is mixed and there’s literally no randomized evidence whatsoever for these masks in schools,” said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.

Los Angeles child psychologist Dr. Mark McDonald blamed masks in part for a 300 and 400 percent increase in depression and anxiety in children.

“Mental illness is a catastrophe in this country, primarily due to lock downs in children, but the masks is not helping. The masks are nothing more than a symbol of fear and anxiety,” said Dr. McDonald.

Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the Tufts University School of Medicine Dr. H. Cody Meissner also called the American Academy of Pediatrics’ universal masking recommendation ‘virtue signaling’.

“People like to say they’re basing their decisions on science, but they’re not. They’re basing their recommendations on emotion,” said Der. Meissner.

Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried called the roundtable ‘one sided’.

“And look, if he’s not going to come in and he’s not going to have a mask mandate for our state, at least give people the tools to make proper decisions,” said Fried.

Fried also criticized the lack of transparency around the discussion and called on the Governor to return to daily reporting of COVID data.

We asked the Governor’s Office why the event was closed to the public and the media.

DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us, “We recorded the entire roundtable discussion to post on Rumble so it’s accessible to media and the general public. We generally use Rumble for public videos these days, after experiencing censorship from YouTube several months ago.”

The full video of the roundtable can be found here.

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Lawsuit Seeks to Restore Benefits

July 26th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida is one of nine states that ended additional $300 unemployment payments more than two months early on June 26th because thousands of jobs were going unfilled, but a lawsuit filed late Sunday seeks to restore the weekly stipend.

An estimated 150,000 Floridians lost $300 a week in additional federal unemployment payments at the end of June.

Now a new law suit filed on behalf of ten unemployed Floridians seeks to force the state to make the payments.

Gia Cuccero is one of the plaintiffs.

“There’s restaurant help and bartenders. I’ve never done anything like that in my life. I’m 52 years old and I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Cuccero.

The American Cares Act funding runs through September 6th, but in May the Governor said it was keeping people from looking for work.

“We’ve got almost half a million job opening in the state of Florida,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

“And what he did was throw out the baby with the bath water,” said Attorney Marie Mattox, who is representing the plaintiffs in the case.

Florida law reads in part says the state must “secure…all advantages available under the provisions of federal law relating to reemployment assistance”

“No person is above the law and that certainly includes the Governor or a governmental bureaucrat in charge of DEO,” said Gautier Kitchen, another attorney working on the case.

Nine of the ten plaintiffs are women, in part because women have been hit harder by the loss of the extra cash.

“If you’d kept the benefits in place until September 6th, it gives the opportunity for some of these mothers taking care of their kids, to send their kids back to school full time,” said Attorney Scott Behren, also representing plaintiffs in the case.

For Cuccero, the future remains uncertain.

“If I get a job interview, I have to get to that interview. I don’t have money to get to that job interview,” said Cuccero.

By ending the payments early, the state is refusing an estimated $400 million that could have gone into the economy.

The plaintiffs want a judge to order the payments and make them retroactive.

Update: Here is a statement from the Governor and DEO:

The Department has received the lawsuit and will respond accordingly; however, the Department contests the alleged violation of law. Below is background information for you on this topic.

On May 12, 2021, the Department announced Florida’s ‘Return to Work’ initiative, which is focused on encouraging Floridians to return to the workforce, helping employers attract job seekers, and continuing to fuel the state’s economic growth. As part of Florida’s Return to Work initiative, the Department announced on May 24, 2021, the state’s withdrawal of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation programs, which, in compliance with Department of Labor policies, went into effect on June 26, 2021.

The Department withdrew from these programs due to positive, record-breaking economic factors. For 11 consecutive months, Florida’s unemployment rate, currently at 5.0 percent, has remained below the national rate, which is currently at 5.9 percent. For 14 consecutive months, Florida has continuously gained jobs, with more than 907,900 jobs added since the height of the pandemic. Additionally, there are more than 520,000 job postings currently available across Florida.

Florida businesses and employers are hiring across the state and need unemployed Floridians to return to the workforce. The Department stands ready to assist Floridians in this process.

 

 

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Calls Grow for Universal Masking in Schools

July 26th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Florida reported more than 73,000 new COVID infections last week.

It’s the highest since January and that has some Floridians renewing calls for universal masking when students return to school in the fall.

The pressure is building on school districts, which are trying to balance safety and personal choice.

In the state’s capital county masks will be optional for students they return in the fall.

There and in districts across the state local officials are facing mounting pressure to make masks mandatory.

“There is no good reason to not have a mask mandate,” said Leon County English teacher and parent Sarah Marquez at a Monday rally in front of the Tallahassee City Hall.

At the rally in the shadow of the State Capitol teachers, community members and activists urged elected officials to follow the universal masking recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Putting a group of unvaccinated and unmasked people in a room is a potential super-spreader event,” said Leon County parent Isabel Ruano.

Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna said his decision to make masks optional was based on local health data.

“Zero hospitalizations from that age range of five to eleven who are not eligible for vaccines. Zero hospitalizations and zero deaths between the ages of twelve and eighteen,” said Hanna.

But the Florida Education Association pointed out, school officials who may favor universal masking are faced with a Governor who has vowed to call a special session to revoke masking authority if districts impose mandates.

“He’s saying he doesn’t want the federal government telling Florida what to do, but he’s gone out and said no district may do that,” said FEA President Andrew Spar.

While no districts have announced universal mask mandates so far, that could change if the Delta variant continues to spread through the state.

The Florida School Boards Association favors local control over the issue, as does Hanna.

“Let communities decide what’s best for them, best for their community,” said Hanna.

And if the Legislature does return to strip districts of their authority to regulate masking in schools, Hanna vowed he’d lead the charge taking the issue to court.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, seven children in Florida have died of COVID.

More than 250,000 in that age range have been infected.

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Governor Threatens Special Session to Prevent School Mask Mandates

July 23rd, 2021 by Jake Stofan
Governor Ron DeSantis is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to mask mandates for the upcoming school year. 
 
He is threatening to call lawmakers back to the Capitol if the federal government or school districts move to make masks mandatory. 
 
The pushback comes as Florida continues to see COVID cases rise.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending universal masking for students when they return to school in the fall. 
Governor Ron DeSantis has made it clear that won’t be happening in Florida.
“And I talked to Chris Sprowls, if we need to bring them back in to be able to do something from the legislative perspective, he’s all in to be able to do it,” said DeSantis.
For Representative Anthony Sabatini, who fought local mask mandates in the courts throughout the pandemic, the Governor’s comments are a welcome invitation.
“I wish we would have started this over a year ago, but you know it’s never too late to do the right thing. We should be stripping them of that ability,” said Sabatini.
But former President of the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dr. David Paul Robinson said until we fully understand the Delta variant, caution is recommended.
“This Delta variant is so much more infectious that I think we’ve gotta at least go into the year being careful,” said Dr. Robinson.
Democratic lawmakers were quick to criticize the Governor’s eagerness to call lawmakers back to ban mask mandates, something he refused to do when they demanded a special session at the height of the unemployment crisis.
“The fact that he’s pursuing the potential of a special session for mask wearing when he’s ignored it for the actual real crisis that people are facing is another indication that he’s more concerned about running for President,” said Representative Anna Eskamani.
According to the state’s data there have been seven Floridians under the age of 16 who have died from COVID. 
The doctor we spoke with said it’s still too early to know if the Delta variant is more or less dangerous to school aged children.
 
According to CDC data, while COVID cases have risen dramatically in the state, daily COVID deaths have continued to fall since March.

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