Feds Weighs In On Mask Mandates; State Lawsuit; Nursing Home Vaccines; Regeneron

Aug 20, 2021

Despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates in public schools, four of the five largest public school districts in Florida implemented mask mandates. The only exception is if a doctor provides a note stating a child has a medical reason for not masking up.

Earlier this week, the Florida Board of Education decided two school boards that approved the first mask policies violated state rules and laws. The Florida Board of Education voted to sanction the superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools, Carlee Simon, for her defiance of DeSantis’ executive order. The state board on Friday also said it would begin withholding state funding in the amount of the salaries of the Alachua and Broward board members who voted in support of the mandates. 

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden ordered  U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to “take action” against governors who have banned mask mandates.

Cardona said on today's program that he's "deeply concerned" about the state's COVID-19 policies regarding schools.

State Lawsuit

The Florida Board of Education said Friday it will withhold state money from school districts that have a mask mandate. Parents are arguing in court that the state's ban on mask mandates in schools is unconstitutional. 

A state judge in Leon County this week rejected the DeSantis administration’s motion to dismiss their lawsuit. The trial begins Monday, August 23, when Judge John Cooper begins hearing evidence.

Guest: Jeff Solochek, education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times

Vaccines In Nursing Homes

Gov. Ron DeSantis says requiring nursing home workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 could further depress staffing levels in long-term care facilities. This comes after the Biden administration announced on Wednesday that a vaccine mandate for medical staff in nursing homes relying on Medicaid and Medicare funding.

DeSantis called the requirement a “massive hammer.”

Florida nursing homes had the second-lowest percentage of vaccinated workers in the country during a four-week period in June and July, according to data released last week.

Guests: Mary Daniel, former Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long Term Care Facilities member, and Mauri Mizrahi, CEO, River Garden Hebrew Home for the Aged in Jacksonville

Regeneron

At least seven new Regeneron sites opened this week across the state offering an experimental therapy to treat COVID-19. The sites offer monoclonal antibody therapy treatment, which was used on former President Donald Trump when he was infected with the virus.

The site in Jacksonville is in a Downtown public library. A photo making the rounds on social media this week showed patients lying on the library carpet, waiting for two hours to be seen.

The governor has called Regeneron “life-saving.” 

Most patients at these sites in Florida don’t have to pay for the medicine. Insurance receives a bill for administrative costs, if possible, but the $2,000 medicine is largely funded by federal taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the pace of people getting vaccinated in Florida is slowing. Critics of the governor’s Regeneron push say he should aggressively promote vaccination and masks to prevent people from catching COVID.

Guest: A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics  

Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.