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FIRST ON FOX: Nearly two dozen attorneys general demanded the Biden administration immediately rescind its mask mandate for tens of thousands of preschools and day care centers with Head Start programs across the country.
In November, the Biden administration announced a regulation requiring masks for children ages 2 years old and up in Head Start day cares and schools.
Fox News exclusively obtained the letter, led by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and co-signed by attorneys general in 22 states, directed to President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia joined Moody in sending the letter.
“Your mask mandate was wrong from the beginning,” they wrote, citing the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund’s opinion that children “aged 5 and under should not be required to wear masks.”
Citing the World Health Organization, the letter states that “even for children under 12, mask use should be limited because of the ‘potential impact of wearing a mask on learning and psychosocial development.’”
“If it was misguided then, it is reprehensible now,” they wrote, noting that even states with “some of the most restrictive COVID-19 policies—including California, New Jersey and Oregon—are lifting indoor mask mandates for schools.”
“And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has walked back its masking guidance,” they wrote, referring to updated CDC guidance from earlier this month, which stated that most Americans would no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.
But Moody and the attorneys general warned that if the mandate stays in place, “it is likely that staff, children, and toddlers at Head Start programs will soon be among the only people in this country who are forced to wear masks.”
Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children from low-income families. The programs support child growth through a variety of services, including early learning and development; health; and family well-being. The programs are available at no cost to children from birth to 5 years old from low-income families.
Head Start programs deliver services through 1,600 agencies in local communities. They provide services to more than a million children every year, in every U.S. state and territory.
Meanwhile, the attorneys general pointed to legal challenges of the mandate and preliminary injunctions entered by two judges regarding its enforcement.
“We can only infer that you know your mandate to be unlawful but are hoping to enforce it anyway,” they wrote. “Making matters worse, your Administration has issued inconsistent ‘guidance’ that leaves participating programs in regulatory limbo. Your guidance reaffirms that the mask mandate ‘remains the applicable regulation for Head Start Programs.”
Moody and the attorneys general also criticized the administration for its suspension of its monitoring of whether programs are in compliance with the mandate.
“These contradictions leave those who rely on the program guessing about whether and when their daycares and schools will losing funding or be shut down, and they subject children and toddlers to arbitrary and inconsistent discipline for not wearing a mask,” they wrote.
“If all that were not enough, we want to remind you of the Head Start Program’s purpose: ‘to promote school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development,’” they wrote. “You are not just guilty of mistreating children, but of singling out low-income children with little or no alternatives for daycare and school.”
Moody and the attorneys general also argued that the mandate “disproportionately affects minority children.”
“Parents across the country have fought tirelessly against oppressive mask mandates for their children,” they wrote. “As the tide finally begins to turn, it is long past time for you to abandon this unconscionable policy.”
Neither the White House nor the Department of Health and Human Services immediately responded to Fox News’ request for comment.
The letter to the president and Becerra comes as Democrat-led states across the nation, like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and New Jersey, have dropped mask requirements in public schools.