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‘I have tons of masks’ Hillsborough student depends on mask mandate to go back to school

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – For many people in Tampa Bay, wearing a mask is something to get used to during the coronavirus pandemic, but that’s not the case for a 12-year-old student who is about to start middle school next month.

“I have tons of masks,” Gareth Everett said. On Tuesday, Gareth covered his face with a stars and stripes mask. “I do have one that’s a smiley face,” he said of his collection. “I have a zipper one.”

Everett has worn a mask since he was two-years-old. His mother Annie Everett shared with 8 On Your Side a photo of him from second grade.

“For him its normal,” she said. “He used to be known as the kid with a mask.”

Gareth was born with cystic fibrosis, so he has limited lung capacity and he can get sick easily.

“And especially with all of COVID-19 right now we haven’t been going anywhere,” his mom told 8 On Your Side.

Mrs. Everett said she opened an email Monday from the Johns Hopkins Cystic Fibrosis Center.

“They made it very clear, if there was going to be no mask mandate he was gonna be homeschooled,” she said, “so I was very nervous about that. I have a full-time job. I don’t know how that was gonna happen.”

They signed up to speak at the Hillsborough County School Board Meeting Tuesday, so they could urge district leaders to make wearing a mask mandatory when the school year starts next month.

But that decision had already been made.

“I really don’t want to do home schooling and since of this I can go to school and I’m super excited for my first year of middle school,” Everett said.

The soon to be sixth grader in the South Tampa Academy’s computer science program used his time addressing the school board to explain why wearing a face covering is the considerate thing to do during the pandemic.

“It protects me, it protects this kid, it protects veterans, it protects your grandfather, it protects your grandma,” he told 8 On Your Side.

His mom said she still has other concerns she hopes the district will sort out between now and the new school year beginning Aug. 10, but the mask mandate is her main priority.

“Now he’s just like everybody else,” she said. “Everyone’s wearing a mask and we’re so grateful.”

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