White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took issue with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declining to mandate face masks for children and said she would be “greatly concerned” if she was a parent in Florida.
Psaki was asked during a White House press conference Thursday about DeSantis saying that he wanted kids in Florida to be able to breathe and “be kids,” which prompted a negative response from the press secretary.
“If I were a parent in Florida that would be greatly concerning to me,” Psaki said, adding that she is a parent herself. “Because kids under the age of 12 are not vaccinated. They’re not eligible yet.”
Psaki added, “That puts kids at risk. It’s not aligned with public health guidelines. We know masks aren’t the most comfortable thing. I will say my kids are quite adjusted to them.”
Psaki was responding to a comment from DeSantis at a press conference earlier that day where the Florida Republican dismissed the idea of forcing young children to wear masks.
“There’s been talk about potentially people advocating at the federal level imposing compulsory masks on kids. We’re not doing that in Florida, okay?” DeSantis said. “We want kids to be able to be kids. We need them to be able to breathe. It’s terribly uncomfortable for them to do it. There’s not very much science behind it.”
Mask wearing, especially with children, has become a contentious issue across the United States that has been on display at several school board meetings featuring angry parents and students speaking out against the restriction.
In May, a 10-year-old Florida boy went viral on social media after making an impassioned plea to his local school board.
“Wearing the masks all day makes me really tired,” the 4th-grader said. “Sometimes, I miss school and have to lay down in the dark till they’re gone.” He added that masks can be sweaty, claustrophobic, and anxiety-inducing.
Several studies have been published showing that children are not major spreaders of the coronavirus, and Republicans across the country have cited those studies as evidence that schools should be opened and masks should not be required.
“Parents like Psaki who feel more comfortable muzzling their children are not following the science,” DeSantis’s office said in a statement to Fox News. “With that said, parents are allowed to make their own choices in Florida. Masks just won’t be mandated in schools.”
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued guidelines stating that all individuals at K-12 schools who are not vaccinated should continue wearing masks.