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Mask Mandate

  • The Florida Board of Education, next week, will consider taking action against 11 Public School Districts with mask mandates that are out of compliance with state rules and an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis.Sarasota School Board members, next week, will vote on whether to repeal the district’s mask policy.A federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for hospitals is coming in October. Today marks the deadline for NCH employees to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Lee Health are not imposing a staff vaccine mandate in advance of the federal mandate.Nearly 40% of COVID-19 deaths in Lee Health hospitals have been in the past two months amid the summer pandemic surge driven by the delta variant.A new report projects Florida will have a shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2035.With weekly unemployment claims rolling in at pre-pandemic numbers, state leaders say they remain optimistic about seeing results from a summer push to get people back into the labor force.Republican state lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would exempt religious institutions from emergency orders.Florida families with children are now set to receive more than $1 billion in federal pandemic relief funds through a program created by Congress last year to assist children who lost access to free and reduced-price school meals when instruction shifted from in-person to virtual.
  • The Miami Dade and Leon County school districts are preparing to file a new lawsuit against Florida over the state’s efforts to ban student mask mandates. Eleven school districts across the state could face financial penalties for continuing to require student mask wearing.The Florida Department of Health has threatened Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings with fines over a vaccine mandate for county employees, but Demings said the mandate doesn’t violate state law as no worker can be fired for not getting the vaccine.Lee Health continues to report declines in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in its hospitals.The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this week, announced nearly $1 billion dollars in American Rescue Plan funding for community health centers that treat underserved communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The funding includes nearly $40 million for 45 health centers across Florida.The traditional flu season begins Friday as Florida continues its recovery from the worst surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Health experts urge people to get the flu vaccine now.
  • Lee Health and the NCH Healthcare systems have resumed performing elective surgeries as numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continue to decline.State workers in Florida are still struggling more than a year and a half into the pandemic. Three state prisons have closed due to a lack of corrections officers. Agencies under Governor Ron DeSantis' control began ordering employees back to their offices last October with mask wearing and social distancing optional. Since then, state agencies have disclosed little public information about how their workers are faring.Gov. DeSantis is crediting the recent decline in hospitalized COVID-19 patients to his efforts to increase access to monoclonal antibody treatments, but doctors argue that the treatments are just part of the reason why hospitalizations are on the decline and that the treatments are not a replacement for vaccination.A lawsuit filed by several Florida school districts over mask mandates was recently dismissed, but Leon County School District officials say they’ll refile their suit to reflect recent rule changes from the Florida Department of Health. A dozen other Florida districts are presently defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempts to ban mandatory masking in schools.
  • Mask wearing is not optional for students and staff in the Sarasota County School district. The district’s mask policy calls for mask wearing to become optional once the daily COVID-19 test positivity rate drops to 8% for three consecutive days. Masking could again become mandatory if the positivity rate rises above 10%.The FDA has announced it will grant emergency use authorization for a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older, people at high risk for severe infection, and for people whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to the virus.The rate of healthcare workers leaving their hospital jobs amid the ongoing pandemic has spiked. The average turnover rate during a normal year is about 17.5%, but this year that’s tracking closer to 45%.Some Florida teachers have seen their $1,000 disaster relief bonus checks from the state bounce due to a banking error. The Department of Education says the problem is being addressed and that any fees incurred by those impacted will be refunded.Carnival Cruise line lost $2.8 billion in the third quarter of 2022, but passenger bookings for the second half of 2022 are already tracking to exceed pre-pandemic levels.This week a consortium of performing arts organizations in Sarasota begin imposing a uniform set of COVID safety protocols including proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend indoor performances.
  • The Alachua County School District is the first in the nation to receive federal funding from a Biden administration program aimed at supporting school districts facing financial sanctions for imposing student mask mandates.Florida’s supply of federally-purchased monoclonal antibody treatments will be cut by more than half starting next week.The Collier County School District has documented more COVID-19 cases in the first six weeks of this school year than in the entire previous school year.
  • The Florida Department of Health has changed its policy on school mask mandates, saying parents can opt their children out of mask wearing for any reason and that students no longer have to quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19, but have no symptoms. The rule change has led a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Florida school districts seeking to impose stricter mask-wearing policies.The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients across Florida continues to decline. HHS data indicates about 8,000 Floridians were hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday, which is down by more than 250 patients from the day prior.Sarasota School board members are delaying action on possible changes to its public comment policy at school board meetings. The proposed changes stem from more than a year of meetings with hours of public comment and heated contention among speakers often raising concerns that are not part of the meeting’s agenda.After initially turning down $820 million in federal funds to provide food for poor children, state officials have reversed course and will now accept the money.
  • Physician and researcher Dr. Joseph Ladapo was announced, Tuesday, as Florida’s new Surgeon General. In a news conference, Ladapo discussed his objection to mandates and lockdowns as tools to quell the spread of COVID-19, saying whether to get the vaccine should be a personal choice.Pfizer-BioNTech says its vaccine trial for 5-11-year-old kids is showing promising initial results. A vaccine for children may be approved by November or December.Manatee County Commissioners are among local elected leaders raising concerns about possibly being caught between state law banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates and President Biden's proposed federal mandate requiring large employers to require workers to get vaccinated, or be tested for the virus weekly.
  • A federal judge struck down a lawsuit from parents of disabled children, Wednesday, that challenged Governor Ron DeSantis’ executive order barring Florida school districts from imposing mandatory mask mandates on students.AARP is sounding the alarm as CDC data shows that COVID-19 deaths in Florida nursing homes have sharply increased in the past month amid a statewide surge in new infections and deaths.County-level data on COVID-19 deaths in Florida is once again available, more than three months after the state stopped publicly reporting the information through its COVID-19 online dashboard.Lee Health continues to report gradual declines in its hospitalized COVID patient population, even as resources remain significantly strained.The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida is downplaying concerns that a federal mandate requiring vaccination of most hospital employees will exacerbate the healthcare worker shortage.
  • Hospitals in Southwest Florida continue to report declines in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Lee Health officials say they plan to comply with a new Biden Administration rule requiring some employers to require workers to be vaccinated or to be tested for COVID-19 weekly.Child advocates and Democrats are criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis after his administration passed on $820 million in federal funds to help feed children from low-income families who are out of school due to a COVID-19 infection or exposure.The Lee County School District has changed its policy to allow parents to opt their children out of mask-wearing in school without a doctor’s note.Thousands of Sarasota parents turned out for an event last weekend, where physicians were providing medical exemption forms to the school district’s mask mandate.Florida Deputy Secretary for Health Shamarial Roberson, who has been critical in the state’s COVID tracking and response, announced her resignation.Collier County officials have announced plans for spending $74 million in federal American Rescue Plan fundingA consortium of Sarasota arts organizations announced plans to adopt uniform COVID safety policies that require vaccines or proof of a negative COVID test.
  • Governor Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody vowed, Monday, that Florida will fight local and federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates for both public and private workers. DeSantis says any Florida city or county that requires workers to get the vaccine, will be fined $5,000 per infraction.Parents suing to overturn DeSantis’ efforts to ban school districts from imposing student mask mandates are asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up the case after an appeals court, Friday, reinstated a stay on a ruling that allowed districts to keep their mask rules in place.Thousands of people attended a school mask exemption event in Venice, Sunday, where doctors were signing notes to exempt Sarasota school district students from the district’s mask mandate.Hospitals throughout Southwest Florida continue to report a decline in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, as deaths continue to rise.