(Update: Many thanks as always to Batocchio for adding this blog to Mike's Blog Round Up at Crooks&Liars! I have a more recent article regarding the parents' lawsuit against DeSantis' anti-masking policy that we all need to keep track of - the ruling should be this Friday - and as always keep pushing back against the anti-vaxxers who are making us sicker)
As more Florida school districts - Sarasota County just voted last night - pass their own masking mandates in opposition to Ron DeSantis' anti-mask orders, the governor and his officials are pushing back (via AP News linking to NPR):
Florida officials are threatening to withhold funds equal to the salaries of school board members if school districts in two counties don't immediately do away with strict mask mandates as the state continues to battle through high hospitalization rates.
School boards in Broward and Alachua counties received a warning Friday from the State Board of Education giving them 48 hours to walk back their decisions to require masks for all students, only exempting those with a doctor's note. Broward County has the second-largest school district in the state.
"We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow," said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran in an emailed statement. "These are the initial consequences to their intentional refusal to follow state law and state rule to purposefully and willingly violate the rights of parents..."
Yet which rights are Corcoran and DeSantis are desperate to uphold: The rights of certain parents to be secure with the hope that their masked kids are going to stay healthy while at high-risk schools, or the rights of other parents who don't give a rat's ass about the COVID pandemic and are willing for everyone to get sick and risk dying all because they bought into the Far Right misinformation telling them it's all a hoax/conspiracy?
DeSantis maintains masks can be detrimental for children's development and that younger children simply don't wear masks properly. But board members in the counties of Broward, home to Fort Lauderdale, and Alachua, home to Gainesville, decided not to allow parents to easily opt out of the mandate as surging cases fueled by the Delta variant began straining hospitals.
Florida on Friday surpassed 3 million total COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a weekly report from the state's health department. It also reported 1,486 new deaths in a week, significantly raising the seven-day average of reported deaths per day from 153 to 212 over the past week.
The state continued to have the highest hospitalization rates in the country, with 16,849 patients with COVID-19 — 3,500 of them in intensive care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services...
These aren't fake numbers, or works of fiction: Florida is currently one of the biggest COVID hot zones in the United States, and you'd think a sane response to a contagious virus would be to listen to the medical experts and go back to the steps we took in 2020 to reduce the risks of the pandemic. Instead, DeSantis is turning this into a pissing contest between himself and the various county school boards who are on the ground living the nightmare in-person as COVID races through their classrooms infecting children and teachers alike.
At some point, the needs of many - the ones who are vaccinating and masking and doing their part to bring this year-long-and-counting pandemic to an end - are going to have to take priority over the needs of the few who want to be assholes to the rest of us. Like Rude Pundit notes:
...And that's because something else is true: the people at these (school board) meetings don't represent how actually reasonable most people are. Polls show that over two-thirds of the public support mask mandates in schools. But you know who don't go to meetings where they know that a bunch of screaming fucknuts aren't going to be wearing masks? The people who support mask mandates...
I have long, long ago given up having any sympathy for the belligerently unmasked and/or unvaccinated. I have given up feeling bad when someone who said COVID is a hoax or vaccines are mind control ends up dying from the virus. As I've said, I want them to be vaccinated. I want them to save their own lives. But, you know, you fucked around and you found out. Just stop taking up ICU beds from people who gave a shit or the kids you gave COVID to...
And yet, for all the majority of Americans and all the majority of Floridians, these assholes aren't listening. DeSantis and his ilk aren't listening because they don't care to listen.
One of the problems in Florida is how decades of gerrymandering and voter suppression allowed the Republicans to maintain an outsized and unbalanced control of the state legislature and governorship. As a result, the Republican leadership only cares to stay in power by pandering to the minority voting base they control. Because of that, DeSantis and the other state/federal officials would rather double-down on their base's ignorance and fear - and push for an anti-mask anti-vax position that's genuinely harmful - than do the right things that the real majority of residents want them do to.
The local boards at the county and city level can't afford to play those partisan games. Granted, many of them can be partisan themselves, but the school boards and county commissioners and city halls have to deal with the daily workings of schools and public services and whatnot. The local governments have to deal with the hospitals overflowing, and the school children getting sicker, while the governor can go dance in front of the Fox News cameras posing for 2024. It's been left to the school boards and city halls to find ways to keep people alive.
And so you have this fight now, between an out-of-touch state leader in DeSantis against the overwhelmed county-level school districts. DeSantis doesn't want to concede or compromise on COVID responses because that will ruin his Narrative that he's already beaten the pandemic. It would ruin his image as the Male Alpha Dominus able to replace donald trump on the national ticket.
Ron DeSantis is turning a crisis response to the COVID pandemic into a power play against the lower-rung county offices actually trying to survive COVID.
This is why DeSantis' nickname on Twitter is #DeathSantis
Goddamn him and his Republican buddies for putting partisanship ahead of public safety.
I keep saying this: This is not going to end well. And I keep saying that because these asshole Republicans never admit what they're doing wrong and change their efforts towards what does work, and they keep proving me right.
See you next week when I'll likely rant about DeSantis' partisan bullshit agenda even more.