Polk doctor recommends mask warrant in schools, superintendent “frustrated” by situation


POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A prominent Polk County physician is calling on school boards to pass mask warrants despite an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis banning mask warrants.

“When you know what you should be doing but aren’t allowed to do it, I guess it puts you in a tough spot,” said Dr Steven Achinger, Managing Partner of the Watson Clinic.

Dr Achinger, who took part in an emotional press conference on Thursday pleading with people to take the increase in COVID-19 cases seriously and get vaccinated, said the risk of getting infected has never been also high.

“I think the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools is for children to wear masks,” Achinger said. “You will have a safer school environment and a more successful school environment if you require your schools to wear masks. “

Public health officials said the number of cases reached new highs this week in Polk County, with the daily count nearing 1,000.

Lakeland Regional Health was treating 275 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday.

Achinger said that up to 15% of people who test positive at the Watson Clinic are under the age of 12 and are therefore ineligible for the vaccine.

He said science shows the masks protect them and the people around them.

“I don’t think there is support for a no-masking policy inside, scientifically speaking,” he said.

“We don’t have the power at the moment to impose masks,” Polk County’s new superintendent, Fred Heid, said.

He said the district has no plans to challenge the ban on the governor’s mask tenure, as others are.

“I think a lot of superintendents, including myself, I think we are all frustrated with when and the situation we find ourselves in,” he said.

Spessard Holland Elementary School had to close this week due to a COVID outbreak involving at least eight staff members. School has not yet started.

“I think our best advocacy right now would be, quite frankly, to focus on a distance learning option,” Heid said.

He says he thinks there may be an opening to allow distance learning after the state established new guidelines for quarantined students on Friday.

“Today’s rule apparently opens this file for discussion. That’s why I said we’re going to have to dig a little deeper and seek clarification on this, ”he said.

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