Florida’s new Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, issued a new measure allowing parents to decide whether their children who have been exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine rather than giving schools the authority to do so.
Guidelines signed on Wednesday by Ladapo remove prior statewide rules requiring students to quarantine for at least four days off-campus if they were potentially exposed to COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. Students who have been exposed, under the new rules, can continue to attend class in person without restrictions or separate treatment if they are asymptomatic.
“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Wednesday at a news conference in Oscelola County. “It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that students should quarantine for 14 days if they are not vaccinated against COVID-19. If they test negative, the CDC recommends that students quarantine for seven days.
Florida rules saying that COVID-19 infected students quarantine for 10 days, get a negative test, or offer a doctor’s note granting permission to return to school remain intact.
On Wednesday, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said that the new rules would put an end to “chronic absenteeism” and described the mandate as “common sense.”
But some local school district officials and teachers unions disagreed with the DeSantis administration’s quarantine rule.
“The spread of the virus among children has gone up by triple digits, yet our governor and his newly appointed surgeon general continue to bury their heads in the sand,” Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, said in a statement. “This is clearly politically, not public health, motivated. Contact tracing and quarantining are working to minimize the virus’s spread. Why are we fixing what’s not broken?”
DeSantis named Ladapo as Surgeon General on Tuesday. Ladapo, who previously was a UCLA doctor and health policy researcher, shares the governor’s approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Like DeSantis, Ladapo has said he doesn’t believe in school closures, lockdowns, or vaccine mandates.
Ladapo said during the news conference on Wednesday that he is “very happy to be working with someone like the governor, who has a similar vision about how to think about weighing costs and benefits with managing this pandemic.”
“We respect that some parents may be less comfortable sending their kid back to school after being exposed,” he said. “And so the new rule allows for those parents to keep their children home for a period of time. And the new rule also allows for parents who are more comfortable letting their healthy child return to school.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.