Gov. Ron DeSantis is waging a war on school mask mandates, and is threatening to withhold the paychecks of school board members who defy his mask ban

Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold the salaries of school board members who impose mask mandates.
  • The governor on July 31 signed an executive order to strip funding from schools that mandate masks.
  • School districts in Florida, however, have recommended students wear masks, directly defying DeSantis.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold school board members’ salaries who dare to defy his mask ban.

The governor’s threat follows an executive order he signed on July 31, saying that mask mandates are prohibited in Florida schools. The executive order went into effect immediately and noted that schools run the risk of losing funding if they choose to impose face-covering requirements.

Now DeSantis is taking it a step further.

On August 9, he released a statement to local CBS affiliate CBS Miami, saying that school board members and superintendents who defy his executive order will face “financial consequences.”

“The State Board of Education could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members, as a narrowly tailored means to address the decision-makers who led to the violation of law,” the statement read.

The statement added that the governor’s priorities are “protecting parents’ rights and ensuring that every student has access to a high-quality education that meets their unique needs.”

Miami-Dade public schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho responded to DeSantis in a separate statement to CBS Miami that the schools in his district – the fourth-largest in the US – will follow a “process” in consultation with public health experts to decide whether or not students should wear masks.

“At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck, a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees,” Carvalho said to CBS Miami.

Carvalho also tweeted on Monday night, saying: “Threat-laced humiliation has not served and will not serve humanity well.”

This is the latest salvo in DeSantis’ attack against requirements that children should wear masks in schools. In a tweet on July 29, the governor called “forcing kids to wear masks” a “bad policy” and said the decision on whether to have children wear masks or not should be left to parents.

However, DeSantis is in direct opposition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend that students and staff at K-12 schools wear masks in the classroom regardless of their vaccination status.

Some school districts – like one in Orange County, Florida – have chosen to defy DeSantis’ prohibition on mask mandates, asking students to wear face coverings for 30 days from August 10. According to The Hill, there have also been two legal challenges filed against DeSantis questioning the constitutionality of his executive order to prohibit true mask mandates in educational institutions.

This ongoing battle between DeSantis and mask mandates coincides with a troubling surge in COVID cases in Florida.

Florida has seen an uptick in infection rates, with a daily average of 19,250 cases as of August 8, and an 84% increase in COVID-19 infections over the last 14 days, per The New York Times COVID case tracker. Hospitals in Florida are also seeing an increase in the number of children being infected with the virus, per NPR.

Young children under 12 in the US are still unable to get vaccinated, but the FDA expects that authorization for a vaccine for this age group could come later this year, per NBC.

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American Airlines passenger who refused to wear a mask screamed for 10 minutes during her arrest, reports say

Grounded planes American Airlines
Incidents of air rage have been rising in recent months.

An American Airlines passenger was detained on Friday after refusing to wear a mask or to exit a plane at a New Orleans airport, the New Orleans Advocate (Nola) reports.

American Airlines Flight 1768 was preparing to leave Louis Armstrong International Airport for Dallas but was delayed for up to an hour due to the mask incident, according to the report.

American Airlines spokesperson Derek Walls told the outlet that the plane had to return to the gate after the passenger refused multiple requests to wear a mask.

But after being removed, the passenger could be heard screaming for approximately 10 minutes as officials hauled her away on the passageway until the plane taxied again.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it before,” Patrick Maney, who also was on the plane, told NOLA.

He added: “Two heavily armed police came and told the lady to get off. She refused, and they then told her to get up. She was screaming and resisting as they hauled her up and put some kind of restraints on her hands behind her back.”

American Airlines did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The passenger was arrested at around 10 a.m CST, Captain Jason Rivarde, a spokesperson for Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, told Nola.

According to the outlet, officials said the passenger was ticketed for four misdemeanors: disturbing the peace, remaining in a place after being forbidden, resisting arrest, and simple assault.

It follows a series of mask-related incidents on planes at a time when violence is spiking.

Most recently, a California family had to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after their toddler could not keep his face mask on, as Insider reported..

The family is vowing to never fly on the airline again after the airline crew treated them like criminals because of their maskless child.

In June, an American Airlines flight had to be canceled Monday after a group of high school students refused to wear masks. As a result of the incident, the flight had to be delayed overnight and passengers had to stay in airport hotels.

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Airlines and regulators turn to eye-poking flight attendants and eye-popping fines amid sharp rise in unruly passenger incidents

As a row of woman look on, a female trainer demonstrates how she gets out of the restraints of someone lying beneath her and holding her down. l
Frontier Airlines flight attendants study self-defense at a training in Denver in 2007.

  • Airlines and federal regulators are scrambling to contain a sudden uptick in unruly passengers on planes.
  • The FAA has received 3,420 “unruly passenger” reports in 2021, and 3,000 weapons have been seized at airports.
  • Under zero-tolerance policy, fines are larger than ever, and some are pushing for federal prosecutions for in-flight assaults.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In undisclosed locations near airports around the country this month, flight attendants are receiving training in aggressive self defense moves that are specially designed for close-quarters.

Flight attendants learn the double-ear slap, the eye-poke, and the groin-kick. They learn tricks to swiftly disarm passengers with sharp weapons, and how to use items readily available aboard a plane for defense.

The moves are designed to de-escalate and quickly subdue passengers because in the words of former trainer Scott Armstrong, “you don’t want to get into a long, drawn-out fight.”

This is, as they say, not a drill. Just last week, the training was famously put to good use, when a female passenger on an American Airlines flight to North Carolina attacked and bit several flight attendants and tried to open the plane’s door mid-flight.

Resourceful flight attendants grabbed a roll of duct-tape, and the woman arrived at her destination, subdued and bound tightly to her chair. It might not have been standard protocol but it was effective and American Airlines later applauded its crew.

It’s not just your imagination; there really has been an extraordinary amount of mayhem in the skies recently.

Last month, an off-duty attendant on a Delta flight to Los Angeles from Atlanta overpowered flight attendants and took charge of the PA system. Passengers had to step in to help subdue him.

A video of a woman attacking a Southwest flight attendant and knocking out two of her teeth before another passenger stepped in to help recently went viral.

The annual flight attendant training, which the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) started in 2004 and paused due to Covid19, resumes at a time of record-breaking reports of delays due to passenger misbehavior on commercial flights.

Three flight attendants restrain fellow flight attendants in a training drill.
A Korean Air flight crew demonstrates a mock anti-terrorist drill ahead of the 2002 World Cup.

During a year when many travelers stayed home due to Covid-19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it has received 3,420 reports of “unruly passenger” incidents on planes as of July 13. More than three quarters of those incidents have been related to passengers refusing to abide by the federal mask mandate.

With five months left in the year, the average number of reports has already been surpassed roughly threefold, and the FAA has set up a new special task force to investigate.

There are also more firearms being discovered during routine x-ray screenings of carry-on luggage, according to the TSA. As of mid-July, roughly 3,000 weapons have been intercepted so far in 2021, and 85% of them were loaded, the TSA told Insider in an email.

Over the 4th of July weekend, 70 guns were discovered at airport checkpoints. This month, six firearms were seized at airports in Oregon over a single 10-day period, an “astounding” number, according to the TSA. Nationally, the TSA says we are on-trend to double the yearly average for weapons seizures.

Flight attendants are on the front lines, and say the self-defense training is sorely needed.

Sarah Nelson, the president of the International Association for Flight Attendants (AFA), believes the training should be made mandatory. In a town hall posted on YouTube, she said that flight attendants have become “literal punching bags” for the public and that many had left their jobs.

“This should send a message to the public that these events are serious and flight attendants are there to ensure the safety and security of everyone in the plane,” Nelson told the press.

Nelson’s group says it received over 5,000 responses to its fact-finding survey on unruly passengers. According to an AFA spokesperson, more flight attendants than ever have been requesting support and advice from the union.

What can be done?

And yet, in the face of all of this, the options that are available to airlines are limited.

There are not necessarily enough federal air marshals – officials who dress in civilian clothes and are tasked with protecting against the most extreme in-flight scenarios – to be aboard every flight, and their responsibilities have never covered keeping the peace for fellow travelers. For security reasons, the TSA does not disclose the number of federal air marshals or discuss their specific duties or routes.

Regulations say that cabin safety is the responsibility of flight attendants.

A flight attendants with a cart carrying cups and juice boxes smiles at an unseen passenger
An American Airlines flight attendant serves drinks to passengers.

Meanwhile, unruly behavior in the skies has traditionally been met with warnings and relatively small federal fines, as well as bans imposed by individual airlines. When an arrest is made, it is generally by state law enforcement.

Nick Calio, the CEO of Airlines for America, an aviation coalition, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland in May to urge swift action against unruly passengers, and proposed that the FAA refer the most severe cases to the Justice Department for federal criminal prosecution.

Looking for new ways to shame travelers into exhibiting better behavior, the FAA has broken with its usual protocol and began publishing details about the incidents. The FAA has previously kept this information private but, a spokesperson explained, figured the details might make people think twice before acting out on a plane.

Also, the FAA has chosen to get creative.

The agency has tweeted jocular memes, including one featuring Brad Pitt as part of a public awareness campaign.

In another campaign launched in early July, adorable kids starred in a public service announcement that lampooned poorly-behaved adults. A wise, winsome toddler cautions that grown-ups can go to jail if they keep “doing that stuff.”

“They should know better if they’re, like, adults,” another child says – quite reasonably – while swaying past the screen perched in a swing.

A woman throws a punch at a second woman, who blocks it, during a training.
An Air Tran Airlines flight attendant learns how to deal with a knife-wielding attacker in a self-defense course at the company headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.

Since January, the FAA has had in place a zero-tolerance policy, which did away with warnings and made it possible for fines – which accused passengers can contest in court – to be larger than ever.

When FAA’s chief administrator Steve Dickson announced the policy in January he cited the events of Jan. 6, when supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, but more recently incidents have been tied to the mask mandate. Passengers deciding to bring alcohol aboard flights was another common thread to the incidents.

That policy will be reviewed in September, when the mask mandate is set to expire, and there is some discussion of making it permanent.

As a result, in-flight misbehavior has become increasingly expensive. Under zero-tolerance, the FAA has handed down a whopping $682,000 in fines year-to-date against 84 passengers, many over $10,000.

The steepest fine proposed so far this year was $52,500 for a Delta Airlines passenger who, last December, tried to open the cockpit door, assaulted a flight attendant, and was subdued and cuffed with the help of passengers. The woman, who was flying from Honolulu to Seattle, then freed herself of the cuffs to assault the flight attendant a second time, and was met by law enforcement upon arrival.

Another fine of $21,500 went to a Frontier Airlines passenger who argued about the mask policy, drank alcohol not served by the airline, and argued with a nearby passenger before striking the passenger in the head.

And a woman in Indianapolis was fined $18,500 because she argued with the captain of the plane, and punched a nearby passenger in the back of the head, while the passenger was holding an infant.

Because of the enormous caseload, the task force has not yet processed fines for the incident involving the flight attendant who lost teeth.

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Israelis describe what it’s like when your country vaccinates its way out of the pandemic – only for a Delta variant outbreak to fuel rising cases

Iraeli woman May Bejach in a scarf and jacket on a street in Tel Aviv
May Bejach, a 28-year-old university student in Tel Aviv.

  • Israel lifted all COVID restrictions at the start of June after its world-leading vaccination drive.
  • A Delta variant outbreak saw authorities swiftly reinstate mask wearing and tighten travel rules.
  • Insider spoke to three Israelis about how the setback feels, so close to the pandemic’s end.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After the most successful COVID vaccination programme in the world, Israel lifted social distancing and mask requirements at the start of June.

Then a low – but rising – number of cases, fueled by the arrival of the Delta variant, prompted the government to bring back masks in indoor spaces, announce a drive to vaccinate kids, and impose mass testing for airport arrivals.

Authorities are determined to avoid another spike. There are currently just 33 serious cases in Israel and a seven-day average of 321 new daily cases, compared with around 8,600 in January in the early stages of its vaccine drive.

Teenager in Israel receiving vaccine injection
An Israeli girl receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine from the Magen David Adom during a campaign by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality to encourage the vaccination of teenagers, on July 5, 2021.

But 13,000 students and teachers are currently in quarantine and the interior minister has threatened to shut down Ben Gurion Airport if cases continue to increase.

The rising case load is concerning for the country that was first to vaccinate its way out of the pandemic using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

One study released this week showed this vaccine is only 64% effective against transmission of the Delta variant but is 93% effective at preventing hospitalization.

Miriam Britz-Kohn, a 49-year-old mother-of-three, lives in Binyamina in the north of the country, where the Delta variant was first observed in Israel around June 20.

Her son’s school informed her that children in one year group had tested positive, and mobile testing centers were quickly sent to monitor any spread. “Binyamina is a small place, so it had a big impact in the town,” she said.

“I felt we’d beaten Corona. We felt great about it, but then it affected our neighbourhood and that was a wakeup call. The reality is it’ll go up and down and be something that’s impossible to get rid of completely, at least in the near future.”

Some of her neighbors, who were previously staying home to avoid infection before they were vaccinated, have stopped sending their children to school, afraid of them bringing home a more transmissible variant of COVID.

Israel was already vaccinating children aged 12 to 15, and rising case numbers have encouraged more parents to vaccinate theirs.

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz stand wearing masks in a hospital outside Tel Aviv
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (2nd on the right) listens as Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (center) speaks during a visit to a Maccabi healthcare maintenance organisation (HMO) outlet offering COVID-19 coronavirus vaccinations in Holon near Tel Aviv on June 29, 29, 2021. Bennett announced a drive to vaccinate children that day.

Britz-Kohn said that many people were now vaccinating their teenagers to avoid the entire family having to isolate if they came into contact with someone who tested positive.

Her middle child, aged 13, has not yet been vaccinated but Britz-Kohn said he already had COVID and so should have antibodies.

She said she had “mixed feelings” about getting him vaccinated as his age makes him less likely to develop severe symptoms with coronavirus. Now she plans to get him vaccinated in light of the rising case numbers.

Shlomit Levy, a senior nurse working in Tel Hashomer Hospital, never stopped wearing her mask at work and in stores, even when the mandate was lifted for three weeks.

“Everybody should wear one,” she said. “Because if we all do, we can keep transmission low but let life carry on.”

Levy told Insider she felt masks kept her and many of her colleagues safe for the year before they were vaccinated. She works in a cancer unit, and said that, while some colleagues caught COVID, they most likely caught it outside the hospital.

Now she’s part of a study group which is tested regularly for antibodies, to see how long the vaccine’s protection lasts. She worries that as her antibody levels decrease, she could catch the new variant.

“I wear a N95 mask, so it gives me some protection as well as helping stop the spread. I’m not only afraid for myself, but also for my patients. Some of them couldn’t be vaccinated because of their cancer treatments.”

May Bejach, 28, a university student in Tel Aviv where she was born and raised, dreads another lockdown. She found it “very difficult” when most of her teaching went online as COVID first hit.

“The city that never sleeps was asleep for a year. Everything was closed and the streets were dead. It was awful,” she told Insider.

“I was so pleased when things went back to normal,” she said, adding she didn’t expect another full lockdown as cases were still low and, with 65.2% of people fully vaccinated, few are falling seriously ill.

She doesn’t know how she’d deal with another lockdown. “We got vaccinated early on, which means we are better prepared now for what’s happening. We need to be careful with masks and hope that the numbers stay low so we don’t need to disrupt our lives again.”

Bejach is still planning a trip to Italy that she had to cancel during the first lockdown. She said, with COVID looming again, increased testing at the airport and new rules could be “just something we’ll have to get used to.”

She is due to fly there on August 22. “The new restrictions have me thinking that it will continue getting worse and that they might cancel us again.”

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Disneyland is ditching mask requirements for fully vaccinated guests on Tuesday and will rely on customers to ‘self-determine distancing’ at the California park

disneyland reopening
  • Disneyland is dropping its mask requirement for fully vaccinated guests both indoors and outdoors.
  • The park will also stop requiring temperature checks as it begins welcoming out-of-state visitors.
  • The updated guidelines say it is up to guests to “self-determine distancing.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Disneyland is dropping its mask requirement for fully vaccinated guests, according to newly updated guidelines published Monday.

The park says fully vaccinated visitors no longer need to wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors as of Tuesday at its theme park in Anaheim, California. Visitors ages 2 and up who aren’t fully vaccinated will still need to wear masks indoors, except when they’re eating.

Regardless of whether or not they’re vaccinated, all guests ages 2 and up will need to wear face coverings while taking bus transportation from the Toy Story parking lot to the parks once the lot reopens on Friday.

Disney’s new guidelines also mean it will be up to park-goers to “self-determine distancing” after California lifts its physical distancing rules on Tuesday. Disneyland also will stop requiring on-site temperature checks on Tuesday, which is the same day it will start welcoming out-of-state guests.

Disneyland says guests won’t be required to proof of vaccination. Instead, an honor system will be in place in which “vaccinated guests will self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry,” according to the updated guidelines. Reservations will still be required to gain entry to the parks. While booking their tickets, all guests will need to attest that they’re aware of California’s recommendation that people be fully vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 before entering the parks.

“As more people are vaccinated and the nation is turning the corner on this pandemic, we are encouraged that COVID-19 health and safety guidelines set forth by the CDC and state and local officials are being adjusted and eased,” Disneyland said in its update.

The resort shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Disney announced the layoffs of roughly 30,000 workers late last year as the coronavirus continued to tank park revenue. The park reopened for the first time in more than a year on April 30 of this year.

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Republican lawmaker who refused to wear mask is stripped of voting and speaking privileges until she apologizes

Annie Black takes off mask
Republican lawmaker Annie Black refused to wear a mask on the assembly floor of the Nevada state legislature.

  • A Republican lawmaker refused to wear her mask on the assembly floor of Nevada’s state legislature.
  • Only fully vaccinated lawmakers don’t have to wear masks. Annie Black refuses to say if she’s been vaccinated.
  • Democrat assembly members voted to strip her of voting and speaking privileges until she apologizes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Republican lawmaker has been stripped of her voting and speaking privileges in Nevada’s state legislature after taking part in an anti-mask stunt on Tuesday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Annie Black, a member of the Nevada Assembly, ripped her face covering off while on the assembly floor, the Review-Journal said. She then said refused to put it back on and falsely claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said that masks are no longer required, the paper added.

In fact, the CDC guidance says that only fully vaccinated Americans can go maskless in most settings. Black refuses to say whether she has been vaccinated, Raw Story said.

The next day, Black returned to the floor without a mask. The assembly’s Democrat majority leader, Teresa Benitez-Thompson, raised a point of order and accused Black of breaking new legislative protocols, the Review-Journal reported.

This led to a vote which stripped Black of her voting and speaking privileges, the paper said.

Read more: Don’t be a jerk about COVID reopening, whether you want to move slow or fast

Black is barred from speaking or voting unless she apologizes for her conduct – but this seems unlikely.

“Trust me, this ain’t over,” she wrote in a newsletter to her followers on Thursday.

“I will not back down,” she wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Later that day, she retweeted a post referring to the “Nazis running the Nevada Legislature.”

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‘What the hell’s the matter with them?’: Biden scorches GOP lawmakers who didn’t wear masks in secure areas during Capitol riots, saying they need ‘to grow up’

Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden.

  • President-elect Joe Biden on Friday excoriated Republicans who refused to wear masks while huddled with other lawmakers during the Capitol riots, saying they needed “to grow up.”
  • “Quite frankly, it was shocking to see members of the Congress while the Capitol was under siege by a deadly mob of thugs refuse to wear masks while they were in secure locations,” he said.
  • At least three Democratic House members who were in locations with a select number of maskless Republicans have now tested positive for COVID-19, including Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Brad Schneider of Illinois.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday excoriated Republicans who refused to wear masks while huddled with other lawmakers during the Capitol riots, saying they needed “to grow up.”

While speaking about his COVID-19 vaccine plan, Biden ripped into the politicization of mask-wearing that has become a flashpoint across the country and on Capitol Hill.

“Wearing a mask from now until April will save as many as 50,000 lives,” Biden said. “Quite frankly, it was shocking to see members of the Congress while the Capitol was under siege by a deadly mob of thugs refuse to wear masks while they were in secure locations.”

Biden praised Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who represents his home state of Delaware, for passing out masks to members of Congress who were sequestered in a safe area. A now-viral video showed several GOP members laughing and dismissing Blunt Rochester’s efforts.

“I’m so proud of my congresswoman, Lisa Blunt Rochester, trying to hand out masks while people were lying on the floor, huddled up,” he said. “And Republican colleagues refusing to put them on. What the hell’s the matter with them? It’s time to grow up.”

Read More: Mitch McConnell is telling GOP senators their decision on a Trump impeachment trial conviction is a ‘vote of conscience’

During the riots, where five people were killed, including a Capitol Police officer, lawmakers were in secure areas around the complex.

At least three Democratic House members who were in locations with a select number of maskless Republicans have now tested positive for COVID-19, including Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Brad Schneider of Illinois.

Watson Coleman, 75, is a cancer survivor.

This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California set financial penalties for members of Congress who come to the House floor sans mask, imposing a $500 fine for a first offense and $2,500 for a second offense.

Biden, who will take office on Jan. 20, implored Americans to take the virus seriously and emphasized his plans to impose a mask mandate on public transit.

“For God’s sake, wear a mask if not for yourself but for your loved ones – for your country,” he said. “These are real matters of life and death.”

Since the pandemic began in the US, roughly 23.5 million people have been infected and over 392,000 people have died, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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