Florida’s new surgeon general: Data does not support mask mandates in school

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Florida’s new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, argued that data does not support mask mandates in schools to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he insisted that parents — not school boards or governors — should make the decision whether their children wear masks to school.

“I want you guys to step back for a moment from what you hear sort of constantly on TV and just, very briefly in terms of the data that supports mask use in kids and mandates for masks in kids, it is very weak and that’s a fact,” Ladapo said at an event with Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., in Brevard County Wednesday.

Ladapo, whom DeSantis appointed in September after the former surgeon general resigned, said that “there is a substantial gap between the quality of the data out there supporting masking kids yielding any benefit for kids whatsoever, factual, and what we’re hearing from some of our public health leadership in other states and nationally.”

Newly appointed state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks during a press conference at Neo City Academy in Kissimmee, Fla. A day after being appointed, Ladapo instituted his first rule giving parents “sole discretion” over whether their child wears a mask at school and allowing students who come in contact with the coronavirus to continue attending class if they remain asymptomatic.
(Photo by Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images/Sipa USA via AP Images)

“In Florida, we’re going to stay close to the data,” the surgeon general, who graduated from Harvard Medical School, declared. “And the data do not support any clinical benefit for children in schools with mask mandates. The highest quality data find no evidence of benefit, and we’re going to stick with that because that’s what the data show.”

As a parent himself, Ladapo sympathized with the plight of parents who struggle with the mandates and how masks bother their children.

“Putting a mask, something on the face of your child, that’s a parent’s decision,” he declared. “It’s not a school’s decision. It’s not a school board’s decision. It’s not a governor’s decision. It’s no one else’s decision except for the parent, and parents are being placed in these impossible situations.”


DeSantis went on to point out the flaws in previous studies that some governors cited to justify mask mandates in schools. One study lacked a control group, and the authors of a second study said they “found no conclusive evidence” on the issue, the governor noted.

Ladapo and DeSantis made these remarks at an event responding to a memo from the Department of Justice under President Biden, which directed the FBI to investigate what the DOJ called a “disturbing trend” of “threats of violence” at school board meetings, seemingly acting on the request of the National School Board Association, which compared some parents to domestic terrorists.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky argued Wednesday that schools should keep mask mandates, even if children are vaccinated.

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