Appeals court reinstates Florida’s mask mandate ban in schools

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida appeals court ruled in favor Friday of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration in the ongoing battle over whether public schools can require students to wear masks while on campus amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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The First District Court of Appeals reversed an order issued Wednesday by Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper, which lifted an automatic stay that stopped enforcement of the ban as the case wound its way through the appeals process, according to The Associated Press.

In its ruling issued Friday, the First District Court of Appeals wrote that “the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review.”

>> Related: Judge: Florida can’t enforce ban on mask mandates during appeal

“Upon our review of the trial court’s final judgment and the operative pleadings, we have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters,” the court wrote Friday in an order obtained by WSVN. “These doubts significantly militate against the likelihood of the appellees’ ultimate success in this appeal.”

Last month, Cooper ruled in favor of a group of parents who claimed that DeSantis’ executive order is unconstitutional, saying that he had overstepped his authority with an unenforceable order, the AP reported. The order, signed in July, gave parents the sole right to decide whether their child should wear a mask in school.

>> Read DeSantis’ executive order

In a statement obtained by the Miami Herald, the lead attorney for the parents suing Florida over the mask mandate said they were “disappointed” and vowed to take the case to the state Supreme Court.

“With a stay in place, students, parents and teachers are back in harm’s way,” he said.

DeSantis has argued that school districts violate parents’ rights to make decisions about their children’s health by mandating mask wearing in schools without allowing parents to opt-out, according to WFTV and the AP. School districts with mandatory mask rules allow an opt-out only for medical reasons, not parental discretion.

DeSantis has also questioned the efficacy of masks, saying in his executive order that “forcing students to wear masks lacks a well-grounded scientific justification.”

In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people wear masks indoors at schools, regardless of vaccination status, citing rising infection numbers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also recommended that all children aged 2 and older wear masks in schools.

>> Related: Coronavirus: CDC recommends masks be worn in schools regardless of vaccination status

Nationwide, people aged 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Clinical studies are ongoing for vaccination in younger people.

About 13.7 million people between the ages of 12 and 17 have received at least one dose of any of the available vaccines as of Friday morning, according to data from the CDC. The numbers include nearly 10.8 million children who have so far been fully vaccinated.

Research has shown that fully vaccinated people can spread the highly transmissible delta variant, which accounts for more than 80% of all COVID-19 cases reported across the U.S.; however, officials have noted that vaccination protects well against severe and life-threatening symptoms of the viral infection.

The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed over 40.6 million infections and reported more than 655,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 223.5 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, resulting in over 4.6 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.