Parents, students urge Hillsborough schools to reinstate mandatory mask policy

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – With the new school year fast approaching, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all students and teachers mask up regardless of their vaccination status.

The largest school district in the Tampa Bay area is preparing to welcome back students into the classroom on Aug. 10 with an optional mask policy.

A Hillsborough Schools spokesperson told 8 On Your Side nearly every COVID-19 safety protocol from last year – sanitation stations, contact tracing, quarantine policies for infected and exposed students, and the daily coronavirus case dashboard – will be back for the new school year.

During public comment at Tuesday’s Hillsborough School Board meeting, several parents and students urged Superintendent Addison Davis and the board members to reinstate a mask requirement.

“They need to require masks in the fall,” 13-year-old Hope Brillhart said.

The vaccinated eighth-grader said she is worried about a new school year without everyone masking up.

“Children are going to get sick, and teachers are going to get sick and parents are going to get sick which is evident because the delta variant is so very transmissible,” she said.

With the delta variant surging in the sunshine state and children under 12 years old still not vaccine eligible, parents made the case before the school board to bring back mandatory mask-wearing.

“We’ve recently seen the American Academy of Pediatrics make a public statement that regardless of vaccination status all returning students should be wearing masks,” one mother said during public comment.

With signs outside the meeting and passionate speeches, many other parents among the nearly 60 speakers argued in favor of the planned optional mask policy.

“They get dropped on the floor, they get stepped on, they get chewed on, they get sweaty, they get lost,” one mother said. “This is bound to happen. They are kids. The CDC does not specialize in child development.”

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced a revised recommendation on Tuesday for vaccinated Americans to wear a mask indoors in areas with high rates of virus transmission.

According to CDC data, the entire state of Florida is considered a high transmission area with the state accounting for about 1 out of 5 of the nation’s new coronavirus infections last week.

The news comes as Gov. DeSantis continues to oppose mask mandates at public schools as Florida leads the nation in new coronavirus cases. DeSantis has been firmly opposed to lockdown restrictions, mask mandates and vaccine passports, signing a bill into law that prevents businesses to ask for proof of vaccination and local governments from imposing COVID restrictions.

“The Governor has indicated that the state legislature would have a special session to ensure that masks would be optional next school year,” Office of the Governor press secretary Christina Pushaw said in an email. “He supports every parent’s right to decide what’s best for their own kids.”

The CDC data shows over the past week Florida is averaging nearly 12.5 thousand new COVID-19 cases per day.

As of last Friday in the weekly Florida Department of Health report, the new case positivity rate in Hillsborough County is 18.1 percent.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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