Live Updates: Ron DeSantis Gives Bonus Checks to Teachers Amid Mask Mandate Controversy

Live Updates

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference Wednesday at Lakewood Elementary School in St. Petersburg alongside Department of Education commissioner Richard Corcoran.

DeSantis announced that all teachers and principals from the Pinellas County School District, which Lakewood is part of, would be awarded $1,000 bonus checks for their efforts to educate children amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're happy to be able to, one, provide a token of appreciation for the principals and the teachers, but particularly here in Lakewood to highlight a great success story. The effort has paid off, and it's integral for a lot of these kid's futures," DeSantis said.

Despite a recent surge in COVID-19 infections in Florida and more than 56,000 documented on Tuesday, the governor remained firm on his executive order that prohibits localities from imposing mask mandates in places like school. DeSantis reiterated previous statements that he believes whether or not children should wear masks to school should be a decision for parents.

"We believe this is a decision for the parent to make, just given the uncertainty about what it means, particularly for a lot of the young kids to be in that," he said.

The live updates for this event have ended.

Ron DeSantis Holds Pinellas County News Conference
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis presented $1,000 checks to teachers and principals from Pinellas County Schools during a news conference Wednesday. DeSantis arrives for a ceremony to present bonus checks to first responders held at the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside on August 10, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

DeSantis Claims Respiratory Syncytial Virus 'Much More Significant Risk' Than COVID

During a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he views COVID-19 as a "very minor risk" for children compared to respiratory syncytial virus infections in the age group.

"That is something that I would say, just as a parent of young kids, [RSV is] a much more significant risk than COVID has proven to be," DeSantis said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV is a "common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms."

Since June 19, 2020, 58 RSV outbreaks were reported in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health. Young children and older adults, particularly those with some underlying health conditions, are at higher risk for severe illness from RSV.

Children now account for 15% of weekly reported COVID cases in the U.S. and nearly 94,000 new infections among children were documented between July 29 and Aug. 5, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

DeSantis Would 'Fight Back Vociferously' Against Any Attempts to Impose a Federal School Mask Mandate

As some state governments are locked into a face mask debate with local leaders, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that Florida would present opposition to any federal attempts to impose a nationwide requirement for students to wear the the protective equipment on school grounds.

During a press conference Wednesday, DeSantis stated multiple times that masking should remain a decision for the parents.

"Obviously, if you're talking about the federal government coming in and overruling parents in our communities, that would be something that we would fight back vociferously against," he said.

DeSantis Defends Mask Mandate Ban During Press Conference

During a news conference Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated previous statements that he believes whether or not children should wear masks to school should be a decision for parents.

"We believe this is a decision for the parent to make, just given the uncertainty about what it means, particularly for a lot of the young kids to be in that," he said.

Despite a surge in COVID-19 infections caused by the delta variant, the governor has remained firm on his executive order that prohibits localities from imposing mask mandates in places like school. However, multiple school districts have enacted mandates despite the order.

DeSantis Awards Bonus Checks to All Teachers in Pinellas County School District

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all teachers and principals of Pinellas County Schools would be awarded $1,000 bonus checks for their efforts to educate children amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis gave the announcement during a press conference at Lakewood Elementary School in St. Petersburg and personally presented the checks to some of the school's educators.

"Great success story. We're happy to be able to, one, provide a token of appreciation for the principals and the teachers, but particularly here in Lakewood to highlight a great success story. The effort has paid off, and it's integral for a lot of these kid's futures," DeSantis said.

I am in Pinellas County today delivering $1,000 bonus checks to our teachers and principals who worked so hard over the past year to serve our students.
Watch live: https://t.co/kzzTxZrfM1

— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) August 11, 2021