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DCPS student, staff member test positive for COVID-19 | Nearly 7,000 students opted out of mask-wearing

Of the more than 120,000 students enrolled at brick and mortar schools, the students that opted out make up about five percent.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — One DCPS student and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on the first day of school, according to the district's dashboard. The student is enrolled at Twin Lakes Elementary while the staff member works at Sandalwood High School.

Duval County Public Schools reported Tuesday that approximately 6,943 students are opted out of wearing masks at school. The students that opted out represent about five percent of the total student population enrolled in brick and mortar schools.

One week ago, the school board voted to require parents to fill out an opt-out form for their children to be exempted from wearing masks at school. The opt-out process does not require families to give a reason for opting their children out.

There is no disciplinary action for children who do not wear a mask and have not opted out, however, the district will call parents to opt their child out.

On Tuesday, Duval County students returned to the school for the first time since the strong resurgence of COVID-19. While students are not required to wear a mask, teachers and staff must wear masks as they do not fall under Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order banning mask mandates.

With positive cases trending upwards for all age groups, pediatric cases of COVID-19 are catching the attention of doctors nationwide. About 15% of newly reported cases of COVID-19 nationwide are in children, according to a study by the American Association of Pediatrics. 

The issue of mandated mask wearing for students has become a hot topic issue for parents, teachers, school leaders and elected officials.

Gov. DeSantis has threatened to withhold paychecks to school board members and superintendents who pass mask mandates in their districts. Meanwhile, the issue has divided both parents and teachers on whether students should be required to wear masks in the interest of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

"So, I’m not gonna get involved with Governor DeSantis, except to say, that it as public health doesn’t make sense when you’re trying to do everything you can to protect children, to do something that would interfere with the protection of the children,” Dr. Anthony Faucci said in an interview with 10 Tampa Bay.

RELATED: 'Not an appropriate thing to do': Fauci takes aim at DeSantis' refusal to mandate masks in schools

A vaccination clinic is planned for every high school by August 18 and at least one healthcare worker is planned to be in every school by the end of the month. There's also now a telehealth program students can access with parental consent.

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