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DeSantis Vows to Appeal School Mask Mandate Ruling While Touting Antibody Treatments in Jacksonville

Claire Heddles

Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters in Jacksonville Monday that his office plans to appeal Friday’s court ruling that school districts can require masks.

DeSantis had previously threatened to take away district funding for passing a mask mandate. On Friday, a judge ruled the governor had overstepped his authority.

“I think we're gonna have really good grounds to appeal in terms of the first District Court of Appeal,” DeSantis said. “At the end of the day, what the parents Bill of Rights requires, in our judgment, is that parents be given the right to opt out, if they think that's in the best interest of their kids.”

In most counties that have passed mask mandates, including Duval, parents can still opt their children out of wearing a mask, but only if their doctors deem it medically necessary to grant an exemption.

Duval is one of at least ten Florida school districts with some form of mask mandate. Charter schools in Duval county are not required to follow the local school board’s mask mandate.

DeSantis, speaking at the Department of Health on University Boulevard, addressed the school mask mandate ruling while touting monoclonal antibody treatments. The treatments are available at free, state-run sites across Florida. A clinic offering the treatment opened at the Downtown Jacksonville Main Public Library two weeks ago.

An unvaccinated woman, Toma Dean, who was photographed earlier this month on the floor of Jacksonville’s downtown library Regeneron clinic joined the governor at the Duval County Health Department Monday. Dean said that she believes the treatment helped keep her alive after she caught COVID.

“I was headed for an ICU bed,” Dean said with belaboured breath. “There was not a doubt in my mind. You can tell, you can tell by your body and you can tell by your breathing. So I  received Regeneron and within about 24, 36 hours I knew I was gonna make it.”

Credit Claire Heddles / WJCT News
Mother Toma Dean is pictured almost two weeks after she was photographed sick on the ground at the Regeneron clinic in Downtown Jacksonville.

Mother Toma Dean is pictured almost two weeks after she was photographed sick on the ground at the Regeneron clinic in Downtown Jacksonville.

Dean said she is planning to get vaccinated against COVID once she is eligible, which will be 90 days after receiving Regeneron.

The CDC said COVID vaccines are significantly more effective than monoclonal antibodies at reducing the severity of COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies also do not prevent catching COVID.  Regeneron is only available to those who have contracted or been exposed to COVID.

DeSantis’ visit to Jacksonville came as the vaccination rate is plateauing in Duval County. The lowest number of people got vaccinated last week since mid-July, according to the weekly data report from the Florida Department of Health.

Contact Claire Heddles at, (904) 250 - 0926, or on Twitter at@claireheddles.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.