JACKSONVILLE, Fla — On Tuesday, students going to public school in Duval County must wear masks.
For 90 days, a mask must be put on before getting on the school bus or going inside a school. Students can be suspended after the third and fourth times of not following the rules.
Masks are required for everyone except for when eating and during outdoor activities. Masks will also be required at indoor performing arts events and indoor sporting events.
To opt out of mask wearing in Duval County, families must have a health care provider sign the school district's opt-out form. Find that form here.
“Even as cases are starting to trickle down in the county at large, we're still seeing very high numbers," Dr. Jennifer Cowart, a Jacksonville hospitalist physician said. "Overall, the numbers in the children's hospital remain high of COVID cases. Unfortunately, a child died in St. Johns County last week, and family has stated that the patient died of COVID. A couple of children died at Wolfson's this past week. So, I'm grateful that we have this opportunity to protect our children.”
She says mask wearing is one of the most important tools in stopping the spread of the virus, and hopes the district's mask requirement helps lower the number of cases in schools and in the community over the next couple of weeks.
“I know all parents are trying to do the what they believe is best for their kids. And in my medical opinion, right now, the best for the majority of children is to wear a mask at school, protect themselves and protect the other kids around them," Cowart explained.
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is appealing a ruling by a Leon County judge that decided school boards have the power to impose student mask mandates. The Florida Department of Education announced last week they've withheld the monthly school board member salaries in Alachua and Broward Counties, claiming their mandatory mask policies violate parents' rights. The board states they will withhold the salaries each month until the school board does what the governor wants.
The Duval County Public School board states their mask policy does not break any rules because there is a medical opt-out, families were given ample time to get that form filled out and the mask policy is only for 90 days.
School board chair Elizabeth Andersen tells First Coast News that superintendent Dr. Diana Greene will be reviewing the plans surrounding the investigation in more detail during their regular meeting on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.
The On Your Side team will be there and will bring you the latest online and on First Coast News at 11.
Eighteen parents are suing to stop DCPS's mask mandate. The new lawsuit by parents seeks more than $100,000 in damages.
In the last three days of school, the district reports 330 students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.