In separate calls on Aug. 13, the president spoke to Chad Gestson, superintendent of the Phoenix Union High School District, and Vickie Cartwright, interim superintendent of the Broward County Public Schools. Geston and Cartwright have mandated masks for students in their districts despite mask mandate bans by Republican leaders in Arizona and Florida.
“In both conversations, the president commended their leadership and courage to do the right thing for the health and well-being of their students, teachers, and schools,” a White House official said.
“Dr. Gestson and Dr. Cartwright are among the leaders who have stepped up at the local level to ensure students and schools are safe where governors have enacted bad public health measures, including banning masks that help stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools.”
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting schools from imposing mask mandates on students. School district leaders in three counties have openly defied the order, prompting the DeSantis administration to threaten to withhold funds from those districts in the amount of the salaries of the officials involved. The Biden administration countered by offering to repay the docked funds by using the $7 billion allocated to Florida schools in the federal pandemic relief package.
In Arizona, the Republican-led Legislature approved and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law prohibiting school mask mandates. At least 10 school districts have defied the mandate, and oral arguments in a lawsuit against one district began on Aug. 13, according to NPR.
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Broward County treated 20 pediatric COVID-19 cases in June, more than 240 cases in July, and almost 160 during the first 11 days of August, according to area ABC affiliate Local 10.
Arizona has reported 93 COVID-19 deaths over the past seven days. Florida has reported 242 deaths.
The seven-day average of the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida is at the highest level seen since the beginning of the pandemic. In Arizona, the same average has been rising steadily since early July.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, is the pathogen that causes COVID-19.