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Mask mandate may relax in some South Florida schools

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The mask mandate for students in some South Florida schools could soon be eased as local rates of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to fall

The number of students needing to quarantine in Miami-Dade County public schools has dropped significantly since school started in August, school Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Wednesday.

He said the decision would be based on the latest COVID-19 data and the advice of a task force of local doctors advising the district.

The easing of the mask policy would give parents an opt-out provision for their children, he said.

A parental opt out was the original back-to-school plan in Miami. But the delta variant spread rapidly across Florida during the summer, causing a spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The district, which is the state’s largest, joined a handful of other districts — representing about half of Florida’s public school students — in adopting mask requirements with an opt-out only for medical reasons.

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That defied an order by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose administration directed schools to allow parents to decide whether children wore masks in school.

In Miami-Dade last week, less than 1,000 of the district’s 330,000 students were required to quarantine, which was an all-time low, Carvalho said. He attributed the success to the district’s COVID-19 protocols, including mask mandates and quarantine policies.

The school mask issue landed in court, and the state began imposing financial penalties on districts defying the state mandate. The penalties have included docking salaries of local school board members who voted to impose student mask mandates.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

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