TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – The latest COVID-19 report published by the Florida Department of Health shows more than 100,000 new cases across the state. According to the report, deaths, case numbers, and case positivity rates are all up since the last report.

The state recorded 31,752 new COVID cases in Floridians aged 19 and younger last week with also two new deaths of Floridians under the age of 16.

The new stats come as the debate over school mask mandates continues to escalate.

The state’s largest teachers union the Florida Education Association is tracking school-related cases, quarantines, and deaths. 

It’s found more than 5,400 infections of students and staff and more than 8,500 quarantines since Aug. 1, but union President Andrew Spar noted the actual number is likely much higher.

“About a third of the school districts are reporting COVID cases publicly on their websites this year, but two-thirds aren’t,” said Spar.

The Florida Education Association has also tracked three deaths of Florida children and 16 faculty members since July.

“We had 46 [faculty deaths] in total all of last year, a 12 month period. So it is quite concerning,” said Spar.

Seminole County student JJ Holmes, who has cerebral palsy, is worried he could become one of those statistics unless masks are mandated in schools.

In a virtual press conference with Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, Holmes criticized Gov. DeSantis’ insistence that masks be optional.

“Governor DeSantis is taking away my rights so he can give more freedom to other people,” said Holmes.

Only two districts, Alachua and Broward have bucked the state’s parental opt-out requirement from mask mandates.

The Board of Education is set to vote on whether to withhold funding from those districts over the issue Tuesday.

The funding withheld would be equal to the salaries of the school board members and superintendents in the districts.

In a letter sent to the Governor and Florida DOE, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona indicated school districts could use federal relief dollars to supplement the salaries if they’re withheld.

In response to the letter, the Governor’s Press Secretary Christina Pushaw told us in a statement, “What we’re doing in Florida must be working, for Secretary Cardona to prioritize funding the salaries of politicians over students, parents, and teachers.”