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Vendors, adult visitors must wear masks in Broward schools

File photo. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Vendors and all adult visitors will be required to wear face masks when visting Broward County public school campuses, the school board decided Friday during an emergency hearing.

The also agreed that masks should continue to be optional for students, teachers and staff when they return from the holiday break on Monday. A 5-3 vote in favor of the new policy followed a heated discussion.

Interim Superintendent Vicke Cartwright will have the power to change the policy if circumstances warrant, the baord agreed.

The hearing was held amid a surge in positive coronavirus tests as the omicron variant has taken hold in Florida and across the nation.

While some board members questioned whether it was effective to only require adults to wear masks while facial coverings remained optional for students. Others sought to have a mask mandate for everyone despite a state law that bans mask requirements for students. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed for policies that allow parental choice.

On Thursday, Miami-Dade County Public Schools decided that starting Monday, all employees, volunteers and visitors will be required to wear face coverings at schools and facilities. Students will be strongly encouraged to wear them. Face coverings also will be required for spectators at all school sporting events under the policy announced Thursday.

Miami-Dade and Broward are the largest school districts in Florida and among the largest in the country.

And in Fort Myers, the School District of Lee County said starting Monday it will implement COVID-19 protocols because of the high levels of transmission. Those protocols include physical distancing markers, canceling all field trips, no use of hallway lockers and a strong recommendation that everyone where face masks.