Orange County Public Schools make facemasks optional for 2021-22 school year

click to enlarge Orange County Public Schools made masking entirely optional for the upcoming school year. - Adobe
Orange County Public Schools made masking entirely optional for the upcoming school year.

Face coverings will be optional at Orange County public schools during the upcoming school year.

At their meeting on July 13, the OCPS School Board voted 7-1 in favor of a proposal to amend their face mask policy. Students, faculty, vendors and  visitors will all have the option to wear a mask, but no one will be required to cover their mouths and noses.

The news of the maskless school year comes as case numbers are rising throughout Central Florida. Orange County's recent spike in coronavirus positivity was less severe than the one seen in neighboring Seminole and Volusia counties. Still, the county found itself well above the previous threshold for allowing maskless indoor gatherings.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings urged citizens to begin masking up indoors again this week, in the hopes of stemming further spikes of infection. Demings did not go so far as ordering a mask mandate, simply calling his words a "strong recommendation."

“Two weeks ago on June 28, it was 4.28%. We are now considered by the CDC the high-risk category for community transmission, [and] that quite frankly is not good news for our county,” Demings said at his regular coronavirus briefing.

The OCPS Board found itself in a tricky situation that nearly all Florida governing bodies have experienced in recent months. Gov. Ron DeSantis, with the support of the state Legislature, passed acts and executive orders effectively stripping local authorities of their ability to issue emergency orders. The move made it impossible to enforce standing mask mandates at the time and would likely come into play again should masking become a necessity in the future.

Students over the age of 12 who wish to receive the vaccine can do so without an appointment at mobile clinics in area high schools being held this week.

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