In Palm Beach County, Florida, students returned to school Tuesday—and by Thursday, at least 440 of them were in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to an infected person. Superintendent Michael Burke said Thursday that 57 COVID cases had been confirmed—37 students and 14 employees, the Sun-Sentinel reports—but the totals on a county dashboard were updated late Thursday to 105 students and 26 employees. Burke blamed the number of cases on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' order allowing students to opt out of mask mandates with a note from their parents, reports NPR.
A district spokesperson said Thursday that 6,394 of around 167,000 students in Palm Beach County schools have opted out wearing masks, WPTV reports. Burke said he is worried that unless there is a change to the rules, cases will grow exponentially, forcing more students to learn from home. "The governor's got to take responsibility for establishing the ground rules we're operating under," Burke said. "And this ability for families to opt out is leading to more cases, which is ultimately going to send more kids home and deprive them of that traditional classroom experience." He said that while they can't completely mitigate COVID risks, mandating masks is the best way to keep kids in school. "The academic and social, emotional benefits to having students in school outweigh some of the risks," Burke said. (Read more Florida stories.)