Cities, school districts defy state orders and reinstate masks indoors


(WPRI) — The highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for nearly all newly sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States, causing some to rethink mask mandates.

In response, some cities and school districts across the country have reinstated indoor mask mandates, despite opposition from their state leaders.

While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has banned county, local governments, and school districts from implementing mask mandates, the mayor of Houston, plus two Texas counties, have set their own rules to wear masks indoors instead.

For ignoring the governor’s message, they could face a $1,000 fine.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed an executive order preventing mask mandates in schools, saying it should be up to parents to decide.

The order also allowed the state to deny funding to any district that does not comply.

Knowing the risks, school boards in Duval County and Alachua County made the decision to require masks, based on rising hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases.

The Duval County School Board voted late Tuesday to require students to wear masks unless parents sign forms to opt out. The superintendent of the Leon County school district sent a letter to DeSantis asking him to allow the use of masks.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he now regrets outlawing mask mandates for schools and has now asked the General Assembly to reverse the law.

The Republican governor says he signed it at a time “cases were at a very low point.”

“Everything has changed now,” he said. “And yes, in hindsight, I wish that had not become law, but it is the law and the only chance we have is either to amend it, or, for the courts to say that it has an unconstitutional foundation.”

One Arkansas school district voted to sue the state over its mask ban.

After only about a week back in school, the Marion School District has 730 students and staff in quarantine, with 43 active COVID-19 cases.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Dan McKee has not banned mask mandates, and it remains unclear whether the state will go back to suggesting that everyone wear masks indoors.

However, Rhode Island will follow the CDC’s guidance in recommending they be used by all students, teachers, and staff in PreK-12 schools.

Two Rhode Island cities are so far requiring everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks inside city-owned public buildings.

City employees in both Central Falls and Newport will also be required to wear a face mask while engaging with the public or in common areas within city-owned buildings.

Some Rhode Island colleges and universities are also announcing changes in mask policies for the upcoming fall semester.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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