LAKE MARY, Fla. - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' office sharply rebuked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for urging that all children, regardless of vaccination status, be required to wear masks when school returns in the fall.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday cited an increase in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant for the changes, which also recommends some vaccinated individuals resume wearing masks in certain situations to protect against COVID-19.
"It isn't based in science. There is no indication that areas with mask mandates have performed any better than areas without mask mandates. In fact, this policy could actually backfire," DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw told Fox News.
"Mandating masks for vaccinated people erodes public trust and confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccines. To me, it appears that the government wants to be perceived as 'doing something' during a seasonal infection surge, even if their policy does not necessarily make people safer."
DeSantis has been a vocal opponent of requiring schoolchildren to wear masks. The governor on Monday reiterated his opposition to mask requirements for children during a roundtable with experts on Monday.
"I think our fear is that seeing some of those rumblings, that there be an attempt from the federal level or even some of these organizations to try to push for mandatory masking of school children. And so our view is that this should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated," the governor said.
Dr. H Cody Meissner, who leads the pediatric infectious diseases division at Tufts University School of Medicine, echoed the governor's comments during the roundtable Monday.
Meissner said the American Academy of Pediatrics, of which he is a member, was "virtue signaling" with its recent call to mask all children over the age of 2 in schools.
"I strongly disagree with the recommendation that all children, 2 years and above need to wear a mask," Meissner said.
"I think that the harm has been done to children, both physical, mental, emotional has been extraordinary. And I think we're going to be stuck with that for a generation," he added. "Really what we've done is we've sacrificed children by closing down the schools in order to protect the adults because children don't get very sick."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki last week took issue with DeSantis' opposition to requiring schoolchildren to wear masks.
"If I were a parent in Florida that would be greatly concerning to me," Psaki said. "Because kids under the age of 12 are not vaccinated. They’re not eligible yet."
Psaki added, "That puts kids at risk. It’s not aligned with public health guidelines. We know masks aren’t the most comfortable thing. I will say my kids are quite adjusted to them."
The numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Florida continue to increase, with an additional 67,413 infections and 358 deaths reported between July 16 and July 22, according to data published Friday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida is seeing a surge in cases and deaths as it grapples with the highly transmissible delta variant of the novel coronavirus and lagging vaccination rates. Hospital officials across the state say beds are filling up with COVID-19 patients.
The latest federal data show that 48.2 percent of Florida's population is fully vaccinated --- or slightly below the national average of 48.8 percent.
As of July 21, Florida's positivity rate over a seven-day period was 14.64 percent, the highest it’s been since July 31, 2020, when the seven-day positivity rate was 14.66 percent.
Florida is one of 14 states nationwide deemed to have a "high" level of community transmission of the virus. According to data released by the White House earlier this month, Florida accounted for 20% of all new coronavirus cases nationwide.
Fox News' Andrew Mark Miller contributed reporting.
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