COVID-19

DeSantis' Efforts to Block COVID Precautions Gets Pushback

From a federal judge to a 7th grader, Gov. Ron DeSantis finds opposition to his efforts to manage COVID response for schools and private businesses.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis' efforts to block schools and cruise lines from doing what they think is needed to protect children and passengers from getting COVID continued to get pushback Monday.

A federal judge Sunday blocked enforcement of a law he championed that she found would jeopardize public health by forcing cruise lines to take on unvaccinated passengers.

Monday, a younger critic emerged, taking on his threat to defund public school districts that impose mask mandates in schools.

NBC 6's Cristian Benavides is in Port Everglades where the federal district court judge gave an preliminary injunction, paving the way for cruise lines to require vaccine proof.

"Masks help us be safe, whether you’re unvaccinated or vaccinated," said 12-year-old Lila Hartley, a Duval County seventh-grader who asked her school board to require masks, in defiance of the governor's threats.

"I wrote this letter because of my brother," she said during a Zoom conference arranged by one of DeSantis' Democratic rivals, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. "He is 10 years old and is not eligible to get the vaccine. And I don’t want him or any other kids that can’t get vaccinated to get sick at school."

"Even though I'm vaccinated, I can still get sick and everyone hates being sick," she said. "That's not a good feeling."

Fried said local districts and governments should decide what’s right for them.

"We also need to be listening to the science," Fried said. "The science and CDC is recommending everyone, even if vaccinated or unvaccinated, when you're going inside to be wearing a mask and that is no different than in our schools."

But the governor says parents — not medical experts — know best when it comes to deciding if their child should be masked in schools.

Others disagree.

"We need to make sure again we are protecting our children and need to be wearing masks indoors," said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a UCLA epidemiologist professor. "We need to make sure people around them are vaccinated."

In addition to banning public schools mandating masks, DeSantis and his allies and blocked private businesses from demanding customers to prove vaccination and local governments from implementing and enforcing COVID restrictions on the public.

More than 13,600 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized and that number keeps rising. The positivity rate now -- at more than 20 percent -- is the highest we've seen here since the start of the pandemic. NBC 6's Carlos Suarez reports

But courts and other laws have allowed private employers and hospitals to require employee vaccinations in most instances. And cruise lines can for now require passenger vaccinations, thanks to the judge's ruling, which DeSantis said he will appeal.

One area DeSantis can’t touch: Catholic school policy.

"In the Catholic church, there is a constant ethic of human life. We believe in supporting and upholding the dignity of each human person. And we believe our COVID policy reflects that," said Jim Rigg, superintendent of Miami archdiocese schools.

So unvaccinated Catholic school students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors when schools reopen next week.

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