By Keith Jones

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – At a photo-op in Surfside, Gov. Ron DeSantis handed out $1,000 checks to first responders. But the ceremony quickly turned into a Q&A session about mask mandates and kids with COVID.

“Ultimately, my view is it’s a parent’s decision. If you believe in the masking in the school, you’re free to do it. No one saying you can’t do it,” he said.

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The governor held firm on last week’s barring of school district’s from mandating face coverings.

One thing we’ve come to know about the governor, he’s a data and science guy.

“If you look through the entire pandemic, between 1.1 and 1.4% of COVID-positive patients in Florida hospitals had been pediatrics and right now it’s 1.3%,” he said.

That number, he claims, is miniscule when compared to all COVID patients in Florida.

DeSantis said parents have approached him and school boards saying masking up has been really hard on their kids.

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And again he points to data, or lack thereof, in his opinion.

“You know the NIH has a $42-billion budget and they haven’t spent a single penny since COVID started studying how these mitigations affect kids,” he said.

As for mandating schools to wear masks, he said the science is there that proves mandates don’t work.

“In Florida, we had school districts that mandated it last year, others that didn’t, and that goes for private and charter, and there was no statistical distance in terms of the cases.  The study was done by Emily Oster of Brown University that looked at New York, Massachusetts and Florida. They found no difference in forced masking in differences in cases,” he said.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at FIU, read the Brown study and said we were already taking care of our kids by having them wear masks and washing hands. So a mask mandate study is a moot point.

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The bottom line, Dr. Aileen Marty said, is “there is an uptick in children and adults being hospitalized and the state of Florida is in a very, very serious condition.”