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Thousands of students in Florida and Texas returned to class on Monday (August 23) in school districts that are defying their governors’ bans on mask mandates as COVID cases soar.

The Miami Dade School District welcomed students back following an August 18 decision to impose a mask mandate for the district’s 360,000 students, as well as staff — defying Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ order to ban local mask mandates.

DeSantis said he would strip school funding if districts moved forward with mask mandates. On Friday, the Florida Board of Education told two school districts they would have some of their state funding withheld if they failed to provide parents with a way to opt-out of a requirement that their children wear masks.

School boards in Broward and Alachua counties have mandated masks in schools in defiance of Ron DeSantis order.

Like some other Republican governors, DeSantis has called mask-wearing a personal choice that, for students, should be made by parents.

In a tweet, President Joe Biden expressed solidarity with the school districts saying

“American Rescue Plan funds can be used to backfill the salaries of the brave Florida school board members, superintendents, and other educators keeping our children safe.”

Florida is battling a resurgence of COVID-19 spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant, which is spreading infections mostly among the unvaccinated.

Coronavirus hospitalizations have increased by 28% in the past two weeks, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The state has reported more than 2.91 million COVID-19 cases, trailing only Texas and California.

The Texas Supreme Court rejected Governor Greg Abbott’s intervention to suspend a mask mandate, thus allowing schools to require students to wear masks as per the mandates by local authorities.

Abbott argued that state officials did not have time to go through the regular appeals process and allowing local governments to set their own mandate rules would cause confusion.

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