Florida Politics | Staff Report | September 7, 2021
As the delta variant surges, will you be required to bring out the face coverings?
Just when you thought it was time to toss those masks in a campfire, the delta variant came along to strike Florida harder than any other state. Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted all mask mandates in May, but jurisdictions, most notably school districts, since voted to put rules in place once again amid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.
Most of the large school districts in the state now have some type of mask requirement in place, many running astray of DeSantis’ executive order forbidding mandates. Those districts appeared on the winning side of an Aug. 27 court ruling, but the state appealed. Bottom line, more than half of Florida school children now attend schools in districts requiring masks and allowing only a medical opt-out, if any.
Florida Politics will keep track of all local rules on face coverings as the pandemic continues to rage. (For a look at rules predating DeSantis’ executive order preempting such actions, click here.)
Alachua County Schools
The school district renewed its mandatory masks policy on Aug. 17 for one week. Students must wear masks unless they have a doctor’s note. The policy started started as a two-week mandate when school started the Aug. 10. This is one of two districts where the state Department of Education chose to withhold funding equal to salaries for School Board members who favored masks.
Bay County Schools
The district requires all district employees to wear masks when social distancing is not possible, including in classrooms, on buses, and offices in schools or within the district, News Channel 7 reports.
Brevard County Schools
The School Board on Aug. 30, after a court ruling against the state ban, instated a 30-day mandatory masking order for everyone on campuses, Spectrum News reports. Only those with a doctor’s note may opt out.
Broward County Schools
The Broward County School Board voted to require students to wear face masks. The policy will be re-evaluated at subsequent School Board meetings.
Duval County Schools
The School Board at the start of the school year put a mask mandate in place, but provided an opt-out if parents fill out paperwork. But on Aug. 23, the School Board voted for a stricter mandate, allowing only those with a doctor’s note outlining a medical exemption to evade the requirement. The mandate went into place Sept. 7 and will be in place for 90 days.
Gadsden County Schools
The district initially planned to start the school year with a mask mandate in place in all school buildings and buses, WCTV reports. But the district has since made the policy optional, The Gadsden County Times reports.
Hernando County Schools
The School Board voted to instate a mask mandate for students, but to allow parents to opt children out if they fill out a form available online, News Channel 8 reports.
Hillsborough County Schools
The School Board made masks mandatory for all students on Aug. 18, unless they have a doctor’s note. The policy will be in place for at least 30 days. Masks will be provided for free to all students who do not have masks of their own.
Indian River Schools
The School Board voted to impose a two-week mask mandate for students up to eighth grade, TC Palm reports. Parents may only opt students out with a doctor’s note. The policy took effect Aug. 30 and will last two weeks.
Lee County Schools
The district where DeSantis announced an executive order forbidding mask mandates imposed a mandate anyway. Lee County officials say they will require masks at the start of school, but allow parents to opt children out. The Board on Aug. 17 considered dropping the opt-out but did not due to Board of Education direction. But after the court ruling against the state, interim Superintendent Ken Savage on Aug. 31 announced a 30-day mandatory mask requirement for all students and teachers with no opt out, WINK News reports.
Leon County Schools
Leon County Schools is requiring masks for students from prekindergarten through eighth grade. Parents may only opt students out with a doctor’s note. That policy takes effect Aug. 30 and is a return to the district’s plan announced two days before school began. The district had reversed that plan on the last day of summer after threats from the Department of Education but returned to the mandate as cases continued to rise.
Manatee County Schools
After 177 reported cases of COVID-19 in the first week of school, Manatee County School Board members voted to instate a temporary mask mandate with a written-note opt-out, according to the Bradenton Herald. The mandate was initially to end after Aug. 25 but was extended by the Board through Oct. 29.
Marion County Schools
The school district as of Aug. 19 implemented a mask mandate in schools with a parent opt-out, according to News 6, Employees must have a medical reason to opt out.
Miami-Dade County Schools
Masks are mandatory for all students indoors and on school buses, the School Board decided Aug. 18. The rule will be revised periodically as COVID-19 test positivity rates fluctuate.
Monroe County Schools
The district started the year with masks required and made an opt-out form available to parents who don’t want children required to wear masks, NBC 6 South Florida reports.
Nassau County Schools
According to Action News Jax, the School Board voted to put a mask mandate in place. Parents can opt out.
Orange County Schools
The Orange County School Board voted Aug. 24 to require masks of all students, kindergarten through 12th grade, from Monday, Aug. 30 to Oct. 30, reported Spectrum News 13. The only exceptions will be for students with medical reasons, backed by notes from doctors.
Osceola County Schools
The school district is requiring masks for students in kindergarten through 8th grade and allows parents to opt their students out, according to News 6. But after an outbreak at a Celebration School forced all students there onto virtual learning for the time being, the board is likely to discuss a full mandate on Sept. 7.
Palm Beach County Schools
The school district on Aug. 18 made masks mandatory for students unless they had a doctor’s note. The policy will be in place for at least 90 days.
Sarasota Public Schools
Students must wear a mask unless they have a doctor’s note, according to action taken at an emergency meeting of the School Board on Aug. 20. Students can opt out of the mandate only with a doctor’s note for the next 90 days, according to WFLA-TV.
Seminole County Schools
A mask mandate was put in place for students for the first 30 days of school, but parents may opt out by simply sending a note, according to News 6. The district will require all faculty and staff to wear face coverings, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The mandate will also apply to contractors and vendors working inside public schools. Visitors will not be allowed on campus. District officials say the policy will be re-evaluated two weeks into the school year.
St. Johns County Schools
While the district still has no policy on student masking even after the reported death of a 17-year-old there, the district as of Aug. 25 implemented a 30-day requirement for all school employees to wear masks, News4Jax reports.
St. Lucie County Schools
After about 500 students missed the first day of school for various COVID-19-related issues, the School Board voted to mandate masks for students, WPBF reports. Parents may opt their children out of the policy. There is no requirement for faculty or staff to mask up.
Suwanne County Schools
Masks are optional in the district, but officials did ask for guidance from Attorney General Ashley Moody on whether the recent circuit court ruling allowed a mandatory mandate. Moody said unless the courts on appeal rule DeSantis’ executive order invalid, the district must comply.
Volusia County Schools
The school district is requiring masks for all students as of Sept. 7, Spectrum News 13 is reporting. At an emergency meeting on Aug. 31, the board agreed that the mandate with no parental opt-out will not be enforced until Sept. 13 to allow a grace period to get a doctor’s note.
Effective July 30, employees and visitors to county-owned and county-leased facilities will be required to wear a facial covering indoors regardless of vaccination status, the county said on July 28. In reimposing the mask requirement, the county cited the surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the county, fueled by the delta variant.
According to The Associated Press, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced on July 28 that masks were once again required in all indoor county facilities for the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. The requirement does not extend to private businesses, but she urged employers to require vaccines for employees and to put masking requirements back in place.
Mayor Jerry Demings, on July 28, put in place a requirement for masks inside all county facilities. He went a step further, requiring vaccinations for more than 4,200 non-union county employees, according to The Associated Press. Of note, Walt Disney World was reinstating mask requirements beginning on July 30.
Starting at 12:01 a.m., Monday, Aug. 2, Palm Beach County is reinstating its requirement that all employees and members of the public who enter county and county-leased buildings wear a face mask. The change is due to the CDC recommendation that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors, along with the high rate of COVID-19 transmission in the community, county officials said. “Law Enforcement officials are authorized to issue a trespass warning and remove any individuals who are not in compliance with this policy,” the July 30 announcement states. The action also applies to county transit vehicles and the airport.
Boynton Beach on July 28 reinstated facial coverings for city employees and customers in city-owned buildings regardless of vaccination status, effective on July 29.
As of July 27, the Broward County municipality reinstated a policy requiring all individuals entering city-owned buildings to wear masks. A Coral Springs spokeswoman said the current surge of COVID-19 cases prompted the city’s manager, emergency manager and medical director to conclude that steps needed to be taken to protect people and limit COVID-19 transmission.
The city announced on Aug. 4 that beginning that day, all employees at city-run facilities would be required to wear a mask due to the effects of the delta variant and the new rise in cases. The city is also encouraging residents to utilize online resources to conduct their business with the city.
Key Biscayne Mayor Michael Davey announced Aug. 1 the village will require masks in all government facilities, the Miami Herald reports. The requirement went into effect Aug. 2.
The prominent tourist destination once again requires masks inside all government buildings, according to the Miami Herald. The requirement went into effect on Aug. 2 amid a surge in cases in South Florida. The requirement applies to visitors and staff.
The city reinstated masks for city employees and any members of the public who enter city buildings last week, ahead of the change in CDC recommendations, said Mayor Ken Thurston. He said it was because of the increasing number of cases in the community. Anyone who does not comply will be asked to leave the premises, he said. “It’s what we have to do to keep society safe,” said Thurston, who is fully vaccinated.
The Town of Palm Beach imposed a mandatory mask policy, but only inside town-owned buildings, according to WPBF News. The new rules went into effect as of July 27 and applied to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. The town will also start releasing weekly reports on infection rates within the jurisdiction.
Effective July 26, Weston reinstated masks for all city employees and members of the public to enter city buildings, according to the city website.