Biden praises superintendents for school district mask mandates

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Kindergarten teacher Gladys Perez instructs students, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, during the first day of school at Washington Elementary School in Riviera Beach, Fla. | Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

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President Joe Biden praised superintendents of school districts in Arizona and Florida for imposing indoor mask mandates for students, teachers and staff as the Delta coronavirus variant races across the states.

In separate phone calls Friday to Phoenix Union High School District superintendent Chad Gestson and Broward County Schools interim superintendent Vickie Cartwright, Biden thanked them for their leadership and discussed their shared commitment to getting students back for full-time in-person classes this school year, according to a White House official.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week threatened to hit school leaders with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for breaking his schools anti-masking rules, though later backed down.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona wrote a letter Friday to DeSantis and his Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran, saying he was “deeply concerned” by the governor’s efforts to prevent schools from requiring their students to wear masks indoors. He also said the agency is willing to pay full salaries of educators and school board members who lose funds by defying DeSantis’ ban on K-12 mask mandates.

Dr. Ronald Ford, the chief medical officer at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Broward County, told Local 10 News that the hospital treated just over 20 pediatric Covid cases in June and more than 240 in July. The hospital has treated nearly 160 cases in August so far and are “well on our way to breaking July’s record,” Ford said. The state recorded 49,745 new coronavirus cases Friday.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey’s office said mask mandates are “toothless, unenforceable and will not hold up in court.”

The number of children hospitalized with Covid-19 in the state’s largest health care system doubled last month. On Friday, Arizona saw 3,225 new Covid cases.

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