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Schools Get Green Light On Mask Mandates, Childcare, And Living With HIV During The Pandemic

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, center, gets in on the photo of iPrep Academy pre-k students as they move on to kindergarten and celebrate their achievement on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the last day of the school year.
Carl Juste
Miami Herald
Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, center, gets in on the photo of iPrep Academy pre-k students as they move on to kindergarten and celebrate their achievement on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, the last day of the school year.

Florida schools get the green light on mask mandates. Daycare in the time of COVID. Plus, a study at the University of Miami examines the daily lives of Black women who are living with HIV and how the pandemic has reshaped their lives.

On this, Monday Aug. 30, episode of Sundial. 

Schools Get Green Light On Mask Mandates

Florida schools can impose mask mandates, despite the governor’s executive order banning districts from doing so.

Judge John Cooper, of the state’s 2nd Judicial Court in Leon County, issued the ruling last Friday — in response to a series of lawsuits filed by parents against the ban.

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The judge cited the Florida Constitution, and the newly enacted Parent’s Bill of Rights — passed by the Republican-led state Legislature — as justification to allow the mask mandates.

That statute, which was signed into effect by the governor in June 2021, says the state is not allowed to infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent, including upbringing, education, health care, etc.

“The law is also very clear in that it says that if there is such a limitation of certain parental rights, it has to be proven and done with demonstrating that it was reasonable and in the necessary and it was necessary to achieve a compelling state interest. And that's what it came down to,” said Ana Ceballos, a reporter with the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times' Tallahassee bureau.

There are several other lawsuits in court on mask mandates in schools. One of them is in federal court and was filed by families of children with disabilities.

Schools Get Green Light On Mask Mandates
A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.

Childcare During The Pandemic

For parents with young children, the coronavirus pandemic has put families in an incredibly difficult situation.

Do they place their children in childcare or stop working to watch them? Can they afford to do either?

The delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across South Florida and we are seeing cases among children rise.

“We are at our fullest capacity maintaining our CDC distancing policies, but childcare is really the foundation of our local economy," said Ellyn Okrent, CEO of the Fuller Center in Palm Beach County. "And if we're not able to stay open, then how can our essential workers and people who are in the service industry maintain their jobs, if they don't have a safe place for their children to be cared for?”

Sundial was also joined by Stephanie Seibel, CEO of the Achievement Centers for Children and Families.


Living With HIV During The Pandemic

One of the biggest health crises in South Florida and the country, before the COVID pandemic, was the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Many continue to live with the virus today.

University of Miami researchers are using a texting service to connect with Black women living with HIV in South Florida.

They measured how everyday stressors, and the microaggressions they receive, affect their health. With the pandemic and social justice movements over this past year, the research team has gone beyond collecting data to helping the participants of the study get through difficult times.

“We call them and check on them to see what they need and what resources are there that we may offer them. And we connect them to community partners," said Dr. Sannisha Dale, director of the SHINE Research Program, which focuses on understanding health outcomes for individuals living with HIV and led the study.

The Positive People Network is one of those community partners. It’s a social organization for all people living with HIV and AIDS, founded by Alecia Tramel, who is an advocate and has been living with HIV for more than 20 years.

“My biggest hope for the women, for my organization and just for everyone is freedom. For me, my freedom comes when I don't have to hide my diagnosis," said Tramel. "It's a chronic condition. It's no longer a death sentence."

The program was recently awarded a $2.6 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to expand this study.

Living With HIV During The Pandemic
Worldwide there are more than 30 million people living with HIV/AIDs.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.