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Sarasota School District Makes Masks Optional

California School Masks
AP Photographer: Jae C. Hong
Sarasota School Board members approved a policy, Tuesday, to make mask wearing optional for the 2021-2022 school year

Mask-wearing in Sarasota County District schools will be optional for the 2021-2022 school year. The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports, school board members voted unanimously, Tuesday, to adopt a new policy making it clear that mask wearing would be optional for students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.

The latest guidance, issued Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges people two years or older who have not been vaccinated to continue mask wearing. The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have not been approved for children under 12.

Parents who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting urged school board members not to adopt a policy that takes this latest federal guidance into account.

Citing a recent uptick in Florida's COVID-19 cases, Sarasota School Board Vice Chair Jane Goodwin had said prior to the vote that she was considering urging fellow board members to modify the proposed policy change so that mask-wearing would only be optional for people who have been vaccinated, which would have pushed back a final vote for another month because the proposed policy would have to have been re-advertised.

Requiring masks for unvaccinated people could be in violation of a law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in May that prohibits businesses and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination status.

The school board vote comes as Florida health officials have reported an increase in both COVID-19 cases and the test positivity rate over the past week.

The Florida Department of Health reported, Friday, that the number of coronavirus cases increased by about 8,000 last week, compared to the week prior, for a total of 23,747 new cases.

Last week's COVID-19 test positivity rate rose to 7.8% compared to 5.2% the previous week. Last week there were 172 coronavirus deaths documented in Florida.

So far, about 11 million Floridians have been fully vaccinated against the virus, accounting for about 58% of state residents who are 12 and older.

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