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10 Aug, 2021 16:24

Vaccine and mask mandates for teachers: Dr. Fauci calls for stricter rules, while Florida gov. fights school leaders who defy ban

Vaccine and mask mandates for teachers: Dr. Fauci calls for stricter rules, while Florida gov. fights school leaders who defy ban

As schools prepare to reopen their doors to students, White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has called for a vaccine mandate for teachers, while Republican Governor Ron DeSantis continues to battle face covering guidance.

Mandating masks in schools has quickly become a hotly debated topic, as governors and school district leaders argue over who exactly has the authority to pass and ban such mandates, but Fauci believes things should be going a step further.

Acknowledging that “some people might be upset” by his view, Fauci said in a Tuesday interview with MSNBC that teachers and school staff should be facing a vaccine mandate, as opposed to just a mask mandate in some districts – he has called mask mandates in schools an “extra step of caution.”

“We are in a critical situation now. We’ve had 615,000-plus deaths and we are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business. You would wish that people would see why it’s so important to get vaccinated,” Fauci said. The infectious disease expert has been predicting for weeks that lagging vaccination rates and the rise of the Delta variant will likely lead to a new coronavirus surge in the fall.

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The argument against mask mandates – which have been reinstated in cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC in response to new positive coronavirus cases – and vaccine mandates – soon to be introduced in New York City for anyone who wants to enter a restaurant, gym, or certain venues – has been that such forceful government mandates step on individual freedom to make personal medical choices. Fauci argued this view does not hold water because “we’re in a serious situation.”

“But when you’re talking about local mandates, mandates for schools, for teachers, for universities, for colleges, I’m sorry, I mean I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something,” he said. “But I think we’re in such a serious situation now that under certain circumstances mandates should be done.” 

Once the Covid-19 vaccines have full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which Fauci predicts will happen before the end of the month, more local businesses and leaders will feel free to pass mandates, being less concerned about potential legal hurdles. 

The question of authority on mandates remains a point of debate. Republican governors such as DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott have passed bans on mask and vaccine mandates, making it clear that in-person learning in schools will not require masks. 

The Dallas school district, however, announced this week that masks would be required for their students and teachers, regardless of the governor’s order. The mandate ban imposes a fine on those who break it, but officials who defied the mandate admitted even they did not know how such fines could be enforced.

Following the friction in Texas, DeSantis’ office announced that school board members and school superintendents that defy the mask mandate ban could have their pay withheld.

“Ultimately, education funding is for the students. The kids didn't make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights. So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision,” a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement. 

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