ORLANDO, Fla. — A number of parents and health professionals in Central Florida are concerned over the state’s new law barring school districts from having any COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates.

What You Need To Know

  • Parents and doctors concerned over new state laws barring COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates in schools

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measures, which also challenges vaccine mandates for businesses, following a three-day special session

  • Law also allows parents to sue schools with masking requirements 

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law Thursday, following a three-day special session challenging vaccine mandates for businesses and schools. The law also allows parents to sue schools with masking requirements.

Neysha Cortes, an Orlando mother with two elementary school children, thinks the schools should be able to decide what’s best for students.

“I just feel it should be something that the school should decide, based on the numbers and based on how many COVID cases they have had,” she said.

Most districts statewide that do have a mask requirement allow the option for parents to opt out — to help them comply with the governor’s original executive order prohibiting masks in schools. 

Central Florida’s largest school district, Orange County Public Schools, has had both parental opt-outs and physician opt-outs for students this school year.

The district returned to parental opt-outs at the end of October, citing reduced coronavirus cases in the area and the end of the county’s emergency order.

Dr. Salma Elfaki, of Nona Pediatric Center, believes the new law is putting politics before science.

“It’s premature at this point to mandate anything when we’re still continuing to collect data and we’re still trying to get out of the pandemic,” she said.

She anticipates another coronavirus spike after all the traveling from the holiday season, and encourages patients who are eligible to get the vaccine. 

Cortes said schools should not be barred from taking any coronavirus preventative measures, especially if case numbers rise again.

“I feel like it’s something that should be in communication with the school, and not something like, ‘You can’t do this because the government said it,’ and that’s that,” she said.