One Florida school district is considering violating Gov. Ron DeSantis’ face mask ban after more than 5,500 students were forced to quarantine after a COVID outbreak came less than one week after in-person classes resumed.

The outbreak occurred at the Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Florida, where the school board has called an emergency meeting for Wednesday afternoon to discuss “mandatory face coverings,” the Tampa Bay Times said.

The outbreak as of Monday morning had 5,599 students and 319 school employees in isolation or quarantine after they tested positive for COVID-19 or came in close contact with someone that had the virus, the Hillsborough County School Board said on its website, as reported by Business Insider.

As of mid-day Monday, 731 cases of the virus were confirmed in the school district, up 20 times higher than the first week of fall classes in 2020, the Tampa Bay Times said.

The school board meeting is set to discuss “the latest district COVID-19 impact and will discuss the best way to mitigate against the spread of the virus, up to and including mandatory face coverings for all students and staff.”

The Hillsborough County Public School District is the seventh-largest in the country, with over 200,000 students in more than 200 elementary, middle, and high schools, NBC News reported.

DeSantis has prohibited all school districts in Florida from implementing mask mandates and instead allowing parents to decide if their child should wear a face mask in school. DeSantis has threatened to pull state funding from schools that mandate face masks for students and staff.

Hillsborough Country Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis had previously issued a policy requiring students to wear face masks, but DeSantis shot down the mandate, allowing parents around the state to opt-out of mask requirements for their children with a note.

Davis acknowledged the opt-out rule by telling the Florida Politics, “While the outcome may be the same whether we make face coverings optional or required with an opt-out, we believe this decision continues to illustrate that Hillsborough County Public Schools takes public safety seriously.”

Board Chairperson Lynn Gray told the Tampa Bay Times that during Wednesday’s meeting, school board members will need to weigh the financial risk of losing funding if a mask mandate is enforced in light of DeSantis’ statewide ban.

“The most important thing is the welfare of our children getting this virus. That’s my major concern, and that’s it,” Gray told the news outlet.

The Biden Administration said last week that it will provide federal money for school districts that implement a face mask policy in Florida that lose funding due to DeSantis’ policies, Politico said.

High school students
Some students in Athens wore masks in class. AFP / ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU