Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday his state Department of Health has issued a rule banning schools from requiring students to self-quarantine if they may have been exposed to COVID-19 if they don’t exhibit any symptoms, calling such a requirement “draconian.”
Citing parents’ work schedules and the potential for kids to miss a lot of school, DeSantis said Emergency Rule 64DER21-15’s “symptom-based approach to quarantining” was “long overdue.”
“[Parents] get a call maybe the night before, saying ‘Hey, your son or daughter was quote exposed and they’re going to have to quarantine.’ That makes it very difficult for them to continue doing their jobs and continuing to put food on the table,” DeSantis explained at a news conference.
“There’s been a lot of discussion, of course, about parents’ rights,” said DeSantis, who has battled with state school districts over his mask mandate ban and pushback on other COVID-related restrictions.
“Whether kids, particularly these young kids, can be forced to have to wear a mask or whether that’s something that parents should be able to decide based on the health and wellbeing of their kids. I would note there’s still litigation going on but we’re going to end up winning that case in the First [District Court of Appeal],” DeSantis predicted.
The Republican governor then likened the same “parental rights” concept to the decision on whether or not to require kids to quarantine.
“Parents have the right to have their healthy kids in school. In-person education is important for a students’ wellbeing, their educational advancement, and their social development,” said DeSantis.
“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,” he added.
DeSantis’ comments come a day after he appointed Harvard-educated Dr. Joseph Ladapo as state surgeon general, a UCLA researcher who agrees with the governor’s pushback on mandates for masks and vaccines.
“We’re done with fear, it’s been something that’s been unfortunately a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s over here – expiration date, it’s done,” Ladapo said during a Tuesday press conference.
“The state should be promoting good health, and vaccination isn’t the only path to that. It’s been treated almost like a religion, and that’s just senseless, right? There are lots of good pathways to health, and vaccination’s not the only one. So we support measures for good health,” he added. “Vaccines are up to the person. There’s nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure.”
On Wednesday, Ladapo also said he shared the governor’s vision regarding student quarantines.
“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,” he said. “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,” he added.
Later, DeSantis echoed his surgeon general’s statements regarding the lack of empirical data to support the forced quarantining of students.
“As the doctor mentioned, you haven’t seen a lot of data or studies to justify those types of draconian actions, and the places that have done a symptoms-based approach have had very similar outcomes to places that have done more draconian quarantines,” DeSantis said, adding that “the European CDC always advised against healthy quarantines.”
“They advised a symptom-based approach last year and basically if someone is sick, obviously they stay home, and if they come to school sick then you send them home, of course,” DeSantis added. “But anyone that may have been in contact without symptoms should be able to stay in school.”
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