Florida’s largest school districts impose mask mandates, but some students can opt out


(NEW YORK) — This weekend, some of Florida’s largest school districts have moved to require masks for students, the latest in a weeklong saga that began when Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order aimed at preventing districts from mandating face coverings for kids.

However, the mandates — issued by districts including Hillsborough (Tampa), Orange (Orlando), and Palm Beach — come with a catch: parents are allowed to opt their children out of them, without providing a reason.

Giving the choice to opt out complies with an emergency rule issued Saturday by the Florida Department of Health, which told districts they must give parents the option.

The state’s biggest school district, Miami-Dade, has not announced whether it will mandate face coverings for students. Its latest protocols, issued July 29, require them on school buses but not inside school buildings.

Broward Public Schools, the state’s second-largest district, has not updated its guidance from Wednesday, which said masks are required for students. The guidance did not mention the choice of opting out.

Some large school districts, like Polk, Pinellas, and Lee, are making masks optional for students, according to their most updated guidance.

Florida reported 23,903 COVID-19 cases in a single day on Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the state’s third straight day with over 20,000 new COVID cases.

As of Saturday, according to the Florida Hospital Association, there are 13,348 people hospitalized across the state — the highest figure the state has had during the pandemic. Nearly 30% of inpatients have COVID and 43.3% of adult intensive care unit patients have COVID.

Currently, one out of five new COVID infections are in Florida.

Below are the current mask policies for the 10 largest school districts in Florida, with links to the most recent guidance:

– Miami-Dade: optional
– Broward: required, with no opt-out option
– Hillsborough: required, with an opt-out option
– Orange: required for the first 30 days, with an opt-out option
– Palm Beach: required, with an opt-out option
– Duval: required, with an opt-out option
– Polk: optional
– Pinellas: optional
– Lee: optional
-Pasco: optional

ABC News’ Joshua Hoyos contributed to this report.

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