Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday night filed an emergency appeal to try and block a judge’s order that would allow Florida school districts to begin implementing mask mandates in an effort to halt the spread of Covid-19.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled on Aug. 27 that a DeSantis ban on mask mandates was unlawful, which the state quickly appealed, triggering an automatic stay on the ruling. On Wednesday afternoon, Cooper refused to continue the automatic stay and ruled Florida must immediately lift the ban during the appeal process.
Cooper said the state had failed to prove that an appeal would be successful and failed to prove that delaying his order was necessary to avoid irreparable harm.
“We are not in normal times. We are in a pandemic. We have children that can’t be protected by vaccination,” Cooper said in court, according to NBC Miami. “Children are at risk and they provide at least some protection by masking.”
The 41-page emergency appeal filed by DeSantis on Wednesday asks the First Circuit Court of Appeal to intervene and reinstate the automatic stay on Cooper’s ruling, pending completion of the broader appeal.
“The adequate level of safety in schools and other public settings is a political question reserved entirely for elected representatives who are publicly accountable,” the emergency appeal said.
Taryn Fenske, communications director for DeSantis, said in an emailed statement on Thursday, “No surprise here that Judge Cooper concluded that he is unlikely to be overruled on appeal.
“We (unsurprisingly) disagree. Yesterday we filed our emergency motion to reinstate the stay, and we anticipate the appellate court will rule quickly, much like during the school re-opening case last year.”
DeSantis has made mandates in educational settings a defining political issue in Florida, banning mask requirements for students in July.
That prompted a lawsuit by parents, leading to the August ruling by Cooper striking down down the ban. DeSantis appealed, arguing in court that the ruling violated the new Florida Parent’s Bill of Rights.
According to a NBC News tracker, Florida has recorded 46,977 coronavirus deaths and over 3.3 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
Doha Madani contributed.