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Texas-Style Heartbeat Bill Likely to be Considered in Florida

September 7th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Top brass in the Florida Legislature are throwing their support behind taking up a Texas-style heartbeat bill that would effectively ban abortions after six weeks of gestation when lawmakers meet early next year, but the Governor has not yet thrown his full support behind the idea.

The Texas heartbeat law allows private citizens and organizations to file civil litigation against anyone who helps facilitate an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

If successful, they could win a $10,000 settlement from a violator.

“The bill is the exact same bill as the bill in Texas,” said State Representative Anthony Sabatini.

Sabatini plans to sponsor heartbeat legislation here in Florida.

“It’s about stopping the murder of children who have a heartbeat who happen to be pre-born,” said Sabatini.

In the past, heartbeat bills were filed, but they’ve never gained traction.

Now, the Senate President and House Speaker have thrown their support behind debating the idea, after the US Supreme Court declined to block the Texas law from taking effect.

“We’re looking at the most extreme abortion ban in the country,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani.

Eskamani points out that the Supreme Court didn’t rule the Texas law was constitutional, instead, it said it couldn’t block the law because there was no one to sue yet.

“Since the state is not the enforcer, the enforcer is this whistle blower system,” said Eskamani.

Eskamani believes there’s a strong possibility the Texas law could be struck down before Florida lawmakers have a chance to pass their own.

When asked if he’d support a heartbeat bill here Governor Ron DeSantis said he needed more time to see what happens in Texas.

“It’s a little bit different than how a lot of these debates have gone, so we’ll have to look. I’m going to look more significantly at it,” said DeSantis.

Democrats attribute public opinion with blocking previous attempts at passing abortion bans in Florida.

They point to the 2012 constitutional amendment shot down by 55% of voters.

The amendment would have reversed a State Supreme Court ruling which determined the right to privacy in the State Constitution prevents most abortion restrictions.

Democrats are also calling for federal legislation, to protect against the possibility that the tides have truly shifted in the courts on abortion.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

School Mask Mandate Ban Back in Effect

September 3rd, 2021 by Jake Stofan

The state’s school mask mandate ban was already back in effect Friday.

It was reinstated automatically when the the state appealed.

Now that the appeals process has begun the next battle for parents is to try and get the ruling back in place as the case is appealed.

When the state filed it’s notice to appeal the ruling that struck down the blanket ban on school mask mandates the ruling was automatically blocked.

The Department of Education has now informed superintendents, unless the ruling is unblocked, it will continue sanctioning districts that don’t provide parental opt-outs.

“The numbers continue to be very very problematic. Rates are very high,” said Charles Gallagher, one of the attorneys representing parents who sued the state.

Gallagher said parents have already filed a motion to vacate the stay, arguing children could suffer irreparable harm if the mandate ban remains in effect.

“We’re talking about vitally affecting kids’ lives. Kids getting sick, kids possibly dying,” said Gallagher.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, and the decision will be made by the same judge who issued the ruling striking down the ban in the first place.

If the judge rules Wednesday to allow his ruling to go into effect, the state could then ask the appellate court to block it once again.

The final decision will likely set state masking policy for the bulk of the remaining school semester.

“The appeal is not going to be a quick process,” said Gallagher.

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran has maintained confidence the state will prevail at the appellate level, like it did in the school reopening case last year.

“Last year it took about 45, 49 days and the court ruled emphatically in our favor and they’re going to do the same thing here,” said Corcoran in an interview last Wednesday.

The Florida School Boards Association told us districts are very closely watching the case.

Their expectation is that the State Supreme Court will weigh in before all is over.

School districts themselves have so far refrained from filing a lawsuit of their own, but several have indicated one may be on the horizon.

A total of 13 districts have adopted mandatory mask policies with no parental opt-out.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Legality of School Mask Mandates Likely to Remain Hazy

September 2nd, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Judge John Cooper has officially issued his ruling on school mask mandates, but with the state planning an immediate appeal, the mandates’ legality will remain in a state of uncertainty at least for now.

The state has taken the position it can continue imposing sanctions on school districts that don’t provide a parental opt-out as soon as it files for appeal.

Judge Cooper made it clear on Friday, his ruling would block the Department of Education from enforcing a blanket ban on mask mandates, but he also made it clear the ruling wouldn’t take effect until the ink was dry on the written order.

“And this is why. I don’t want confusion out there,” said Cooper.

The Department of Education took the position it could continue sanctioning school boards as the order was being finalized.

The order was officially posted late Thursday afternoon.

“We are fraught in the middle of confusion right now,” said Charles Gallagher, one of the attorneys representing parents suing the state.

Gallagher told us he believes DOE’s actions pending the order were out of bounds.

“I don’t know how one could say they don’t know the import or extent of the oral order rendered last Friday,” said Gallagher.

Attorney General Ashley Moody in an advisory opinion issued earlier this week to Suwannee School District sided with DOE, and told the district it must continue complying with the ban on mask mandates.

“The District must comply with applicable statutes and regulations unless and until the judiciary declares them invalid,” said Moody in the opinion.

Gallagher said parents are considering filing contempt of court sanctions, if the Department of Education continues enforcing the mask mandate ban now that Cooper’s ruling has been filed.

If things seem confusing now, the state has vowed to immediately appeal, which will automatically put Cooper’s ruling on hold.

Moody went on in the opinion to explain once the automatic stay on the ruling was handed down, districts would still be subject to the mask mandate ban.
But Gallahager said parents plan to ask for the ruling to remain in effect as the case makes its way through the appellate court.

“Because of the underlying issues of health and illness and danger to the students in the schools,” said Gallagher.

The final decision on whether Cooper’s ruling is allowed to remain in effect will determine the law of the land for what could be the bulk of the remaining school semester, because the appeals process could take months.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Disability Advocates Criticize Park’s Closure

September 1st, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

For many, Labor Day is summer’s last hurrah, filled with time at the beach and barbecues, but many in the state’s physically disabled community are going to be left out because the state has been slow to reopen the one park that is dedicated to those with physical disabilities.

Rish Park is located on Cape San Blas on the Panhandle coast.

The beachfront park is the state’s only fully handicap accessible facility for outdoor recreation.

The park has been closed since 2018’s Hurricane Michael.

Disability advocates assert the state has been dragging its feet.

“This Labor Day weekend, this beautiful sunshine right now. I’d like to be at the beach. Fellow Floridians with disabilities would like to be at the beach. But Rish Park is closed,” said advocate Dr. J.R. Harding.

Drone video taken in August 2019, 10 months after Michael hit, shows damage to the beach walkway, but little else.

“It’s essentially like the Department of Transportation not knowing how to build a road,” said environmental engineer Dr. Max Lee.

Dr. Lee said the park should have been open long before now.

“The park itself was able to be open about two and a half years ago. I’d say eighty, seventy-five percent of it,” said Lee.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities points out that it couldn’t risk someone getting hurt by opening the park before it’s fully ready.

But the advocates argue the disabled often have shorter life spans and three years is a long time.

“So, think of your family and what would you do if three years of it was removed,” said Dr. Harding.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities did point out there are other facilities, such as a new ADA compliant glass bottom boat at Silver Springs, but Harding and Lee argued no facility matches the amenities at Rish Park.

Rish Park is the only park operated by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

The advocates argue the park would be better managed by the state park system than APD.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried Holds Moment of Silence for Floridians Lost to COVID

September 1st, 2021 by Jake Stofan

Commissioner of Agriculture and gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried held a moment of silence Wednesday to pay somber respects to the nearly 45,000 Floridians that have lost their lives to COVID since the start of the pandemic.

She is calling on Floridians to do everything in their power to slow the spread.

Aside from the occasional camera shutter, the cabinet room was silent for a full minute.

It was a gesture by Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture to recognize the 44,571 Floridians lost since the start of the pandemic.

“Let’s honor their lives by living ours with care and with respect for our neighbors and for our communities,” said Fried.

Fried said she felt it was important to recognize the lives lost in what she described as ‘a war’.

“We’ve got to do this together to get through this pandemic, and make sure that we are utilizing all the tools in the shed. That’s masking up, that’s getting the vaccine,” said Fried.

The ceremony came the same day as the CDC reported four additional pediatric deaths in Florida.

It’s a 17 percent jump from the week prior, bringing the total to 27 Florida children lost since the start of the pandemic.

“That’s heartbreaking, that we’re losing our children,” said Fried.

Fried renewed her appreciation for school districts mandating face masks, in defiance of the state.

“I’m just proud of them for sticking up for our kids and for their safety,” said Fried.

But so far in the school year, our analysis of student case rates based on numbers posted to 10 districts’ COVID dashboards with varying masking policies yielded no clear patterns.

Still, Fried is encouraging parents to mask up their children.

“We’ve got to do everything we can,” said Fried.

In what may feel like a never ending wave of COVID, there is a glimmer of hope.

For the first time since August 7th, the state’s seven day rolling average of daily cases has dropped below 20,000.

Florida’s hospitalizations have also dropped from a peak of 16,579 patients down to 15,562 statewide.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

State Withholds School Board Pay for Two Districts

August 31st, 2021 by Jake Stofan

On Friday a circuit court judge ruled the Department of Education could not enforce a blanket ban on mask mandates in schools, but despite the ruling the Department is withholding paychecks of school board members in Alachua and Broward Counties.

The conflicting actions come down to some technical legal distinctions.

Friday marked an initial victory for parents suing the state over mask mandates.

“We feel it to be akin to a grand slam. We feel pretty good about it,” said Charles Gallagher, an attorney representing the parents in the case.

But on Monday, Alachua Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon was surprised to see the Department of Education announce it had withheld school board salaries in Broward and Alachua anyway.

“There’s a lot of unknowns and I think we’re at a place now where the Commissioner of Education owes, not just our school district, but the taxpayers explanations of what he is doing,” said Dr. Simon.

The DOE told us it technically withheld school board paychecks Thursday, prior to the judge’s ruling.

DOE Communications Director Jared Ochs also noted the ruling doesn’t take effect until the written order is filed, which still hadn’t happened as of Monday.

“Unlike several school districts in this state, our Department plans on continuing to follow the rule of law until such time as the Court issues its ruling,” said Ochs in an emailed statement.

Gallagher said he believes DOE’s position is on shaky legal grounds.

“I wouldn’t be using that argument, but it’s theirs to go ahead and use,” said Gallagher.

When the written order is officially filed the state plans to appeal, which will trigger an automatic hold on the lower court’s ruling.

The automatic stay will generate some legal jockeying, but in the end it’s likely the state will to continue withholding salaries for the time being.

“We’re going to be probably in this complicated legal place for a while,” said Dr. Simon.

In the meantime, the federal government has offered to supplement school board salaries.

The Governor’s Office disputes whether the federal government has the authority to pay school board members.

“The USDOE cannot pay the salaries of local officials because they aren’t federal employees. The ARP funding that the federal government already allocated to Florida isn’t under the control of the Biden Administration,” said DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw in an emailed statement. “USDOE Secretary Cardona is the same Biden Administration official, who just a few weeks ago said that Florida would be violating federal requirements by providing $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals.”

Dr. Simon’s district is still figuring out what to do.

“Our board members were just paid earlier this week, so we have some time to look at what our options are,” said Dr. Simon.

School boards are soon expected to file a lawsuit of their own.

So far 12 districts have defied the mask mandate ban.

In addition to Broward and Alachua, eight of the other districts were recently notified by DOE their school board salaries could also be at risk.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Lawsuit Seeks More COVID Data

August 31st, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida discontinued daily COVID reporting on June 4th because cases were falling and vaccinations were rising, but as cases now climb the state is refusing to restart daily COVID data reports.

The result is a new lawsuit seeking to force the state to again make public what was once public.

When Florida stopped publishing its daily COVID reports in June, the COVID picture was improving.

The state was in effect, declaring the emergency over.

“As vaccines have increased, the cases have decreased,” said Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Shamarial Roberson in a June interview.

On June 3rd, some of the last daily published data showed 2.3 million total COVID cases.

New data shows 3.2 million cases.

”I don’t want to have to sue the state,” said State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Now Smith and the Florida Center for Government Accountability are suing after requesting the data and being told it is not longer a public record.

“I’m asking for the exact same public health data that used to be available on the COVID daily dashboard reporting,” said Smith.

In a statement emailed to us, DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us the suit really has no merit because the data is given to the CDC Monday through Friday.

“Public health surveillance and controlling the spread of infectious diseases have always been core functions of the Florida Department of Health. FDOH reports data routinely and automatically to the CDC, which in turn updates its national COVID dashboard on a daily basis Monday through Friday,” said Pushaw.

But Smith countered local schools need data more than ever.

“Local school board leaders and school superintendents who need access to local COVID transmission trends, data, hospitalizations as it relates to children in their area,” said Smith.

Florida Ag Commissioner and possible DeSantis opponent in 2022 Nikki Fried has also been asking for the data for weeks.

“So I am encouraged by the fact that people are finally stepping up to this administration that is not complying with laws every single day,” said Fried.

Under Florida law, an agency denying a lawful public records request is subject to paying everyone’s attorneys fees.

Those suing are asking for an expedited hearing, which is provided for in the public records statute.

They said they are likely to get their day in court in a week or two.

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30,000+ Have Gotten Antibody Treatment

August 30th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

Thousands Floridians have already received antibody treatments for COVID at one of the state’s 21 infusion sites.

We met Austin Harper waiting for his father outside of a Tallahassee antibody infusion center.

“He’s getting a shot right now. Hopefully he gets to feeling better though,” said Harper.

The symptoms came quickly.

“He felt felt really wonderful yesterday, and today’s he’s low on energy and don’t really want to do anything,” said Harper.

Gene Woods came for the treatment after his wife was treated Sunday.

“Oh, she’s great!” Said Woods. “I say great, compared to how she felt before.”

Walk in traffic was slow at the center Monday.

Just a handful of cars were in the parking lot.

One woman told us the four shots were painless, what bothered her was waiting an hour after they were done.

In Jacksonville, the Governor said the treatments are working.

“Visits to the emergency department for covid like illnesses are down,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

Agency for Health Care Secretary Simone Marstiller has a first hand experience with the treatments… her daughter.

“When we left the infusion center that Saturday afternoon, her fever was 105. By ten o’clock the next morning, Sunday morning, it had dropped to 99.6,” said Marstiller.

In the Capitol, Democrat Nikki Fried again called on people to mask up and get vaccinated.

“I am begging again, Floridians, go get vaccinated,” said Fried.

When it came to antibodies, she said talk to your doctor.

“Preventative medicine is still the best,” said Fried.

The treatments are free to patients.

You can walk up, or schedule an appointment online.

Fried also said calls to poison control lines are increasing after some people have taken a veterinary deworming drug for COVID.

She cautioned not to self medicate.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Social Justice Groups Ask Federal Judge to Block ‘Anti-Riot’ Law

August 30th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

The effort to strike down the state’s recently adopted ‘anti-riot’ law was before A federal judge Monday.

A coalition of social justice groups brought the suit because they believe the law could lead to the arrest of peaceful protesters.

At its heart, the lawsuit contends the state’s anti-riot law is overly vague and could lead to police using it to justify arresting peaceful protesters if violence breaks out at a demonstration.

“Police officers are authorized to decide for themselves whenever you have a peaceful protest, what constitutes a ‘violent public disturbance’,” said ACLU of Florida attorney Max Gaston.

Gaston said groups involved in the lawsuit have already seen a decline in the number of members willing to attend protests out of fear they could face arrest.

“They have been forced to cancel, postpone or modify their events,” said Gaston.

The groups suing argue the law fails to clarify whether a peaceful protester could be considered a participant in a riot for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Even though they themselves haven’t done anything violent? That’s really the problem with this law,” said Gaston.

The state pushed back against that claim and argued the law would only apply to people actively engaging in violence or destruction of property.

Senate sponsor Danny Burgess made the same argument during this past legislative session.

“The most important thing HB1 will do is protect the right to peacefully protest by discouraging those who seek to thwart that right through violence and unrest,” said Burgess in April.

At this point, the judge is only deciding whether to temporarily block the law from being enforced before the case goes to trial.

The judge said a ruling would likely take a few days.

We reached out to the Governor’s Office for comment on this story, but did not hear back in time.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Fried Calls on Feds to Address Unfair Trade Practices

August 30th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

On Monday Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried said Florida farmers are losing almost $4 billion a year to Mexican farmers through unfair trade practices.

A report from Fried’s office found a declining sales in 20 commodities, while Fried said Mexican farmers are seeing a 10 percent increase in sales each year.

She is calling on the US Government to level the playing field, but also said Florida consumers have say as well.

“Part of this is on us as well. We control the purse strings here in the State of Flordia. When you go to the food store, look for the Fresh from Florida, Florida grown labels on all your produce. Go to your local farmers markets. Demand that these products be served in our restaurants and in the food stores. But we are asking the Federal government, we need help. This is an unfair trade practice is hurting our economics here in the State of Florida,” said Fried.

Fried says the trade imbalance is costing the state between 17,000 and 35,000 jobs.

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Judge Blocks Enforcement of Blanket Mask Mandate Ban

August 27th, 2021 by Jake Stofan
A Circuit Court Judge has blocked the Department and Board of Education from enforcing a blanket ban on universal mask mandates in schools, but he left open the door for mask mandates to be struck down by other means.

Circuit Court Judge John Cooper essentially ruled a blanket ban on mask mandates violates the Parents Bill of Rights, which allows school boards to infringe on the rights of parents if a policy is narrowly tailored, serves a compelling state interest or is not otherwise served by less restrictive means.
“Anyone who uses that bill has to follow all provisions, not part of the provisions,” said Cooper.
Cooper said he couldn’t strike down the Department of Health rule requiring parental opt-outs from mask mandates because the Department wasn’t included in the lawsuit, but he did prohibit the Department of Education from enforcing the rule.
“Because the Parents Bill of Rights does not ban school board face mask mandates,” said Cooper.
Judge Cooper did leave the door open for other enforcement means, so long as school boards are given an opportunity to plead their case that their mask policies comply with the Parents Bill of Rights.
“They must allow a due process proceeding of some sort to allow for a showing of the reasonableness etc,” said Cooper.
How exactly that process would look is unclear.
The ruling leaves much to be desired by both the parents who sued and the State.
It’s likely both sides may choose to appeal parts of the ruling.
“It’s not surprising that Judge Cooper would rule against parent’s rights and their ability to make the best educational and medical decisions for their family, but instead rule in favor of elected politicians. This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts – frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented,” said DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw in an emailed statement.
Earlier this week Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he believes the state would win on appeal, like it did in the school reopening case.
“It’s like Groundhog Day. We did this exact same thing last year,” said Corcoran.
Within an hour of the ruling, the Governor’s Office indicated it would immediately appeal.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Vaccination Requirement Worries Nursing Homes

August 26th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

A survey of more than 300 Florida nursing homes found more than half are limiting new admissions because they don’t have the required level of staffing.

The staffing could get even worse, if the Federal government follows through with plans to require nursing home staff to be vaccinated.

The vaccination rate for Florida nursing home staff is among the lowest in the nation at 47 percent and hiring is already difficult.

“It’s challenging. There are more open positions than there are people to fill them,” said Kristen Knapp with the Florida Health Care Association.

Now the fear is that those who aren’t vaccinated will leave if a mandate is imposed.

“That’s the biggest concern, especially recently the administration, the Biden Administration announced that nursing home staff would be required to be vaccinated,” said Knapp.

At the heart of the problem is a mistrust of the Federal government by many staff.

That mistrust dates back to the 1940’s experiments on poor Black residents of Tuskegee, Alabama.

To counter the resistance, the Heath Care Association is pushing vaccines.

The Agency for Heath Care Administration, which oversees long term care in Florida, is questioning why nursing homes were singled out and not other heath care providers.

“It’s going to interfere with those individuals to get the care they need. I don’t think it was a well thought out move, candidly,” said AHCA Secretary, Simone Marstiller.

A $1.8 million Federal grant will help the homes work with colleges to develop a career path for students.

“You know, it really takes a compassionate person to work in long term care,” said Knapp.

The vaccine rule won’t publish in mid or late September, but if fears of staff fleeing materialize, finding a place to care for a loved one by the end of the year could be difficult.

The state is also working with the nursing homes to provide antibody treatments for those infected.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Judge to Rule on Lawsuit Challenging Florida Mask Optional Requirement

August 26th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

After three full days of testimony the state and parents suing over it’s mask opt-out policy made their closing arguments Thursday.

The parents argued the Governor overstepped his authority, while the state argued the dispute boils down to a political question.

Attorney Craig Whisenhunt who is representing parents suing the state argued the Governor took away a useful public health tool in the midst of a worsening pandemic.

“I don’t believe anybody disagrees that the COVID rates in Florida have skyrocketed,” said Whisenhunt.

He also argued it should be school boards who make the rules on masking.

“There can be no rational, reasonable, competent basis to prohibit school boards from complying with expert recommendations from the CDC,” said Whisenhunt.

But Michael Abel, an attorney representing the State, argued the judge is being asked to delve into a political debate.

“Plaintiffs want this court to rebalance state policy, and in doing so, overrule the parent choice rights,” said Abel.

Abel also argued the Governor struck a balance between the rights of parents and public health with his executive order on masks.

“You can protect public health and have parent choice,” said Abel.

The two sides had very different perspectives on whether the judge could determine if schools were operating safely.

“I’m not going to try and define it, but I know it when I see it,” said Whisenhunt.

“Under no circumstances can ‘I know it when I see it’ be a judicially manageable standard,” said Abel.

There is a question as to whether any ruling in this case could even affect the Department of Health rule requiring parental opt-outs.

That’s because the parents didn’t sue the Department of Health directly, nor did it challenge the parents bill of rights.”

“The operative rule stands on its own and has direct statutory authority,” said Abel.

The judge will issue his ruling Friday.

No matter the outcome, an appeal is expected.

There is also a lawsuit in federal court alleging the opt-out policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At least two school boards currently defying the opt-out requirement have also indicated they plan to file suit.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

State Pleads Case in School Masking Trial

August 25th, 2021 by Jake Stofan

The state concluded its defense of it’s mask op-out requirement in schools before a circuit court judge Wednesday.

The state called parents who testified masks have negatively impacted their children and a Stanford Professor who has questioned the effectiveness of masks throughout the pandemic.

Parents called by the state said they have children with medical conditions that made learning difficult wearing a mask.

Ashley Benton, the mother of 5th Grader with Childhood Apraxia, said her daughter experienced extreme discomfort while wearing a mask.

“When there were mask mandates here in Leon County we did try to comply with them and I just couldn’t take her anywhere,” said Benton.

She also reported difficulty obtaining a medical exemption.

“She was not going to sign any forms at all,” said Benton, recalling her visit with her pediatrician.

But at the heart of the state’s case is Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who has maintained since early in the pandemic there is little quality evidence to support masking in schools.

“The observational evidence, such that there is, in schools in Florida and elsewhere suggests that mask districts did no better than unmasked districts,” said Bhattacharya.

He also questioned the rationale behind why the Delta variant would change the calculation on masking.

“It’s really unclear why one would expect that it would have any different effect on a more transmissible variant like the Delta variant,” said Bhattacharya.

Bhattacharya also testified studies conducted prior to the pandemic found potential harms if younger children don’t see faces.

“On the basis of this, The World Health Organization recommends against masking very young children,” said Bhattacharya.

The CDC reports 385 pediatric COVID deaths since the part of the pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic in Florida there have been 23 pediatric deaths.

Eight, or roughly 35 percent were reported since the start of August.

“What’s an acceptable death rate in your opinion for children?” Asked Charles Gallagher, who is representing the parents suing the state.

“I mean I reject the premise of the question. The question is not what’s an acceptable death rate. The question is what are the tradeoffs implicit,” said Bhattacharya.

When presented with studies that suggest masks are effective the doctor’s opinion didn’t waiver.

The Judge is set to rule on the case Friday.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Education Commissioner Defends Mask Policy

August 25th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

The list of counties bucking the State and Governor over mask mandates is growing.

It comes as two, Alaucha and Broward will see funding withheld, and the other eight can expect to be told they are violating the law soon.

Ten counties are now bucking the state on parental opt-outs from mask mandates, two more since Tuesday.

Alaucha and Broward, the first two to be told they were not following the law, responded by telling the state, ‘We have the right’.

“We’re not joking,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran.

Corcoran in an exclusive interview argued the districts must be held accountable.

“What is right for the children What is right is to empower those parents. There is no greater form of local government. No greater form of empowerment. No wiser decision can be made for those children than by the parents,” said Corcoran.

Despite recent polling that shows the public overwhelmingly opposes penalties for school districts requiring masks, the state isn’t backing down.

“You have to follow the rule of law. You have to do what is right. And if you’re are not going to do what’s right, we will withhold you salaries,” said Corcoran.

The state said it will send letters to the remaining counties bucking the state on mask mandates by the end of the week or early next week.

And while Florida cases continue to rise, the Education Commissioner expects the spike to be temporary.

“We’ll get to the middle of September, everyone will calm down because our cases are declining just like they did last year,” said Corcoran.

New polling out Wednesday found 51% of the public now oppose the Governor’s handling of the pandemic, but Corcoran said the poll won’t change the state’s direction.

“Dr. Makary, Dr. Meissner, Tuffs, John Hopkins: Masks are ineffective,” said Corcoran.

While a suit has yet to be filed by the school districts, it is sure to end up in court.

If it does, it will take weeks or even months to be settled.

Suwannee County in North Florida voted Tuesday to ask the Attorney Generall for an official opinion on whether the state has the power to impose mandates on local districts.

When issued, the opinion carries the weight of law until a court decides other wise.

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