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Nikki Fried Urges Parents To Mask Children In Schools As Florida COVID-19 Cases Spike

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried
News Service of Florida
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried

She cited the possibility that "classrooms may have to be shut down and everybody quarantined" if a student tests positive.

Florida reported 22,783 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest single day case count since the pandemic started.

While cases are spiking across all age groups in Florida, an analysis fromThe Miami Herald finds that the sharpest increase over the past month has been among children under 12 years old — the only age group that is not eligible for vaccines.

The Florida Department of Education is threatening to withhold funding from school districts that require students to wear masks, so Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried on Friday urged parents to follow CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics guidance and mask their children as school starts.

“We know that once there is a positive case in a classroom, that classroom may have to be shut down and everybody quarantined. That means those kids are being sent home and then it’s disrupting their parents, who may have to stay home from work because not everybody has the luxury to telework or to have other family members or individuals who can stay home to watch their kids,” Fried said on Friday. “This is something that really is imperative, not only for the health and safety of our children and for our teachers, but for our economy that needs to keep going if we're going to get past this.”

Public health experts say the rise in cases among children is largely due to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant and the low rate of vaccinations among young people.

Because children under 12 aren’t eligible for the vaccine, they are considered one of the most vulnerable segments of the population. However, most infections among children are mild or asymptomatic.

Still, children can suffer severe symptoms or even death if they contract the virus. Jacksonville’s Baptist Health alone is currently treating 12 children who have tested positive for COVID-19 and three of them are in the Wolfson Children’s intensive care unit. Over the past three weeks, around 24 children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at Wolfson. 

“Mask up and get the vaccine,” Fried said.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

Copyright 2021 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Brendan Rivers comes to WJCT News with years of experience reporting and hosting news for several stations in the Daytona Beach area.