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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office on Wednesday slammed the Biden administration’s ongoing mask mandate for low-income toddlers, calling it an “unacceptable” harm to children that even contradicts current guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Head Start preschools and child care centers for low-income families, which are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are still requiring children as young as 2 to wear masks, despite current CDC guidelines that recommend universal masking only in areas with high COVID-19 community levels. Head Start staff members are also required to be vaccinated, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
The mask and vaccine mandates only apply to the program in 25 states after red-leaning states like Florida and Texas sued in federal courts and injunctions were imposed to stop their implementation.
“Governor DeSantis looks out for children first and foremost,” DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin said in an exclusive statement to Acesparks Digital. “He was the first to insist that children should be able to return to the classroom, and he has consistently stood against masks in school as harmful towards a child’s development and education.”
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“Governor DeSantis will not allow federal bureaucrats to muzzle children in Florida,” Griffin added. “It is unacceptable that the Biden Administration would continue to do this to children, and bizarre that they would do so against their own CDC’s guidance.”
An HHS spokesperson told The Hechinger Report that it informed Head Start directors in February that it would no longer enforce the mask rule. The agency told The Times that updating the official rules is “a lengthy process,” which would take into consideration the CDC guidance, the recent availability of vaccinations for children as young as 6 months and over 2,700 public comments.
The rule still being on the books, however, has reportedly led to confusion among Head Start facilitators. The HHS did not respond to Acesparks Digital’s inquiry about whether an updated masking and vaccine rule was in the works.
“Head Start programs have been short-circuited,” Tommy Sheridan, the association’s deputy director, told The Times. “This mandate on masking and vaccines has hurt a lot of programs. It is more of a crisis that is now feeling like a looming catastrophe.”