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Infectious Disease Expert To Miami-Dade School Board: 'Backbone' Needed On Masks

 Dr. Aileen Marty
Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald
Dr. Aileen Marty is an infectious disease expert at Florida International University.

Dr. Aileen Marty says Miami-Dade is having its worst surge since the pandemic began: “I will not kowtow to dictates that damage the health and welfare of our society, no matter what kind of pressure is put on us."

Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wants the district’s panel of medical experts to decide the criteria for “opting out” of wearing face coverings in school.

During a Zoom meeting last week, the doctors and public health experts assembled said masking should be universal. Some even pushed against the argument that there are students with disabilities, including those with autism, who cannot wear masks for medical reasons.

“It would be a travesty —a travesty — not to require masking in schools,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist with Florida International University who serves on the task force.

Referencing the political battle being waged over mask mandates, Marty asked school district leaders to resist being influenced by people “who don't necessarily follow the medicine and the science.”

“I will not kowtow to dictates that damage the health and welfare of our society, no matter what kind of pressure is put on us — nor should anyone else. We need to have people with backbone,” she said.

Marty’s comments come as the Miami-Dade school board is set to consider its COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year during a meeting Wednesday.

The state Board of Education will meet twice this week, in part to discuss a response to two school districts — Broward and Alachua counties — that have required masks despite an executive order and other state rules put in place to allow parents and not local districts to decide whether children wear masks.

Marty and other prominent doctors throughout Florida have urged Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to allow mask mandates in schools. His administration has threatened to withhold funding from districts if they don’t make masks optional.

Other doctors on the call stressed that they’re alarmed by what they’re seeing in private practices and local children’s hospitals.

“It's a surge like none other,” said Dr. Beny Rub, a pediatrician in Miami-Dade.

“There's no question,” Marty said. “It's the worst that Miami-Dade has ever had, throughout this pandemic.”

Linda Washington-Brown, a nurse practitioner and the vaccine coordinator for the Miami Rescue Mission clinic, said health care providers are in “crisis mode.”

“This virus is spreading — and among the very young,” Washington-Brown said.

Rub echoed that sentiment.

“Everybody needs to understand the severity,” he said.

Copyright 2021 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.
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