Ron DeSantis Bans Quarantine Mandates For Students Exposed To Covid, Calls Them ‘Draconian’
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced on Wednesday that the state Department of Health issued a new rule banning schools from mandating quarantines for non-symptomatic students who were in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
DeSantis said the state would be following a “symptom-based approach to quarantining,” and called the change “long overdue.” He cited parents’ work schedules and missed school days as main reasons why Emergency Rule 64DER21-15 was necessary.
“[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,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, DeSantis has opposed masking mandates in schools, going so far as withholding state funding the equivalent to school officials’ salaries from schools that mandated face coverings.
“There’s been a lot of discussion, of course, about parents’ rights,” DeSantis said. “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].”
He then applied the same “parents’ rights” idea to mandated quarantining due to an exposure.
“Parents have the right to have their healthy kids in school,” he said. “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.”
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who was named to the position yesterday and sparked headlines for his skepticism of Covid vaccines and masking policies, joined DeSantis in emphasizing parents’ rights.
“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,” Ladapo 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.”
DeSantis later added that taking students out of school poses “a huge, huge burden” on both the student and their families.
“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,” he said.
During the presser, DeSantis said 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,” he continued. “But anyone that may have been in contact without symptoms should be able to stay in school.”
However, the European CDC explicitly labels those who were exposed to the virus “in a closed environment (e.g. household, classroom, meeting room…)” as a “high-risk exposure,” and notes that “quarantine is recommended for high-risk exposure contacts.”
The CDC in the U.S. limited its definition of close contacts and quarantine recommendations over the summer to a similar position of the Florida Department of Health, with the important difference being the masking requirement.
Vaccinated individuals who were exposed can forgo a quarantine if asymptomatic, the guidance states. It also states that in indoor classrooms where masks are worn, an individual who is more than 6-feet away from a Covid positive student are also not considered “close contacts.”
In the notice of the emergency rule, the Health Department reviewed data of students who had been exposed to Covid and “observed a large number of students [who] have been required to quarantine for long periods of time, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of days of in-person learning.”
Covid cases in Florida peaked in August, but have since fallen to about half the rate; yesterday, the state reported 13,201 new cases.
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