Florida's Largest School District Decides to Drop All Mask Mandates After Cases Decline

The largest school district in Florida is letting parents decide whether or not their children should wear masks in schools, the Associated Press reported.

Miami-Dade County has announced plans to formally suspend mask mandates in all of its schools. Superintendent of School Alberto Carvalho is citing low COVID-19 infection rates as the primary reason for the decision.

"On the basis of current health conditions, which are dramatically improved, effective tomorrow parents can access the parent opt-out form from any elementary or K-8 school in Miami-Dade," Carvalho said at a press conference.

Children who are recorded on the opt-out form can stop wearing masks by Friday.

The superintendent cited that three out of four schools in his district did not have any new coronavirus cases in the past week. He also said that most of the schools that did not record new cases were elementary schools. Carvalho had previously eased mandates for middle and high schoolers, saying he would end the full mandate once cases dropped in elementary schools.

Broward County, the state's second-largest school district, has also begun discussions about relaxing the current mask mandate.

The Miami-Dade announcement comes shortly after Governor Ron DeSantis proposed an agenda that would allow parents to sue school districts for enacting mask mandates. A judge previously ruled that the governor would be allowed to either enforce or bar mandates across the state's school systems.

"At the end of the day, we want people to make informed decisions for themselves," DeSantis said while presenting the agenda.

Florida currently has the lowest count of COVID-19 cases per capita, tied with Georgia and Hawaii at 7 cases per 100,000 people.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Alberto Carvalho
Miami-Dade County has announced plans to formally suspend mask mandates in all of its schools. Above, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho holds up a face mask as he announces at a news conference that wearing face masks to protect against COVID-19 will be optional in public schools on November 9, 2021, in Miami. The new guideline will go into effect Friday. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Carvalho told news reporters that mask protocols could change if cases spike again.

Reported cases of coronavirus have dropped from an average of 21,700 cases a day in mid-August, when the school year began, to an average of 1,500. Hospitalizations have also plummeted from about 17,000 to 1,300 patients.

The two large school districts have been going against the DeSantis administration in strictly requiring masks of all students. The state's health department imposed a rule, ordering districts to allow the parents the choice of whether the children wear masks.

The fight between the districts and the state has resulted in docked school board salaries, withholding of district funding and has drawn the attention of federal education officials.

Coral Gables Senior High
Miami-Dade County has announced plans to formally suspend mask mandates in all of its schools. Above, an exterior view of Coral Gables Senior High School on July 10, 2020, in Coral Gables, Florida. Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images