On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis was joined by new state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to announce that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) issued a new rule, empowering families to decide whether their healthy child should be taken out of school after an exposure to COVID.
Emergency Rule 64DER21-15 prevents the unnecessary exclusion of healthy students from in-person schooling; safeguards the rights of parents and legal guardians and their children; provides health protocols for symptomatic or COVID-19 positive students; and provides opportunities for parents and legal guardians to choose which protocols to implement when their student has had direct contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. It is effective as of September 22, 2021.
“Parents have the right to have their healthy kids in school,” said DeSantis. “In-person education is important for a students’ wellbeing, their educational advancement, and their social development. The idea that schools are somehow a big problem when it comes to spread of the virus has been refuted yet again. Not only is the forced quarantining of healthy children disruptive to a student’s education, but many folks in Florida are not able to work from home. With this rule, we are following a symptom-based approach to quarantining students in Florida.”
“The governor and I share a similar vision of weighing the costs and benefits of public health policies – and our new rule today is an example of that,” said Ladapo. “We must make sure that we are doing what is right for parents and for students. There’s not a single high-quality study that shows that any child has ever benefited from forced quarantining policies, but we have seen demonstrable and considerable harm to children. It’s important to respect the rights of parents.”
“What we did over the past year was nothing less than amazing – we gave parents in our state the option to send their children to school for face-to-face instruction with more students, over a longer time than any state in the nation – but we did see massive quarantining,” said Corcoran “If you take the number of kids that had to quarantine, and added up the days they missed in school, in the education arena, we would call that a chronic absenteeism pandemic. Now we have the data telling us that factually 98 percent of those children who quarantined never became symptomatic. That’s why the previous policy didn’t make any sense. This is a brilliant change, and I’m so thankful for this new common-sense rule.”
The new DOH rule empowers parents to decide if their healthy child should quarantine. Under the new rule, the only children required to quarantine are those that either test positive for COVID or who are symptomatic.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority, but learning is so critical for our students and our families here in Osceola County,” said Osceola County Superintendent Debra Pace. “When I looked at our data on day 15, 19 percent of our students either were quarantined or had been. That’s one in five, and that is devastating for families who have to go to work and have to make alternative arrangements for their kids. Yet, we are still continuing to see a decline in cases in that five- to 17-year-old age group. We are excited to have this new opportunity to let parents make decisions in the best interest of their students. Overall, we know that learning happens best when they’re in a classroom with a caring teacher, with their peers, and learning from each other.”
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