Judge John C. Cooper, of Florida's Second Judicial Circuit, struck down Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates in schools on Friday.
DeSantis—who, with other state lawmakers, enacted a Parents' Bill of Rights earlier this year—banned mandating masks in schools because, he said, parents should have the right to choose what is best for their children.
However, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone in K-12 schools to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. And Florida is currently in the midst of its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, with more children in the state hospitalized right now than at any other point in the pandemic. The state reported 901 new Covid-related deaths on Thursday, with a daily case average of 22,556 cases. Sarasota County is averaging 408 cases per day; Manatee County is averaging 477 cases per day. At Sarasota Memorial Hospital, there are currently 262 patients hospitalized with Covid-19. Eighty-eight percent of those patients are unvaccinated, and 101 are in the ICU.
At a fiery school board meeting last week, Dr. Manuel Gordillo, Sarasota Memorial’s infectious disease specialist, told board members that the hospital is experiencing staffing problems because staff with children are unable to work because they must care for children who have to be quarantined after being exposed to Covid-19 at school. Following the lead of several other state school districts, including Manatee County, the Sarasota School board voted to implement its own mask mandate for students, teachers and staff.
In his ruling, Cooper cited Florida Supreme Court decisions from 1914 and 1939, respectively, that concluded that individual rights are limited by their impact on the rights of others.