Mask, vaccine battles intensify as schools resume

Tempers are flaring across the U.S. as children head back to school - just as new COVID-19 cases spike in much of the country.

In Williamson County, Tennessee, over a hundred demonstrators confronted and heckled mask supporters, including doctors and nurses, on Tuesday after the school board voted to require masks for elementary students.

"We know who you are. You can leave freely but we will find you, and we know who you are."

Masks have re-emerged as a divisive issue, often splitting the country along political lines, despite near universal agreement among health experts that they can limit the spread of the virus.

Some politicians are taking precautions even further. Out West, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday became the first in the nation to mandate that teachers and other school staff be vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19.

“We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keep the schools open and to address the number one anxiety that parents like myself have of four young children and that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe…"

Spurred by the highly transmissible Delta variant - U.S. coronavirus cases have soared to their highest levels in more than six months, according to a Reuters tally.

Health officials say preventative steps - like mask-wearing indoors - are needed, especially as children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown agrees. On Wednesday, she reimposed a statewide indoor mask mandate, and announced all state executive branch employees must be vaccinated.

BROWN: “Masks are simple and they are effective. Wearing a mask should give you confidence that you are not infecting others..."

Back-to-school is anything but ‘normal’ in Florida… where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has faced defiance over his order that prevents local officials from deciding whether to require that masks be worn.

Florida's Broward County school board on Tuesday flouted the ban by DeSantis - voting eight to one on masking-up at school.

DESANTIS: “We believe that the parent rather than the government should ultimately be able to make that decision.”

DeSantis on Wednesday continued his push against mask mandates:

“…And obviously if you're talking about the federal government coming in and overruling parents in our communities, that would be something that we would fight back against."

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