TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s new Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, issued a new emergency rule Wednesday that states parents must be the ones to decide whether their asymptomatic children need to quarantine if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said parents were concerned about rules that would quarantine healthy students and prevent them from having a “normal functioning school year” and inconvenience their parents. He said parents will be notified of the test result.
“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging … it’s also incredibly disruptive,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Osceola County.
Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran celebrated the end of “chronic absenteeism” and he said he was grateful for DeSantis and Ladapo’s decision to issue a “common sense” rule. Anna Fusco, the Broward Teachers Union president, strongly disagreed with Corcoran and said Ladapo is extremely ill-advised.
“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,” Fusco 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?”
Under the rule, parents or legal guardians will decide whether their child “attends school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property, without restrictions or disparate treatment, so long as the student remains asymptomatic.”
“It’s also important to respect the rights of parents,” Ladapo said.
Robyn McCarthy said she is now more concerned as a parent because the decision by Ladapo and DeSantis was “absolutely ludicrous” and does not prioritize public health.
“I feel like we’re in the twilight zone,” McCarthy said. “We’re already playing Russian roulette and I’m already throwing my kid in the lion’s den so how much more to the breaking point are you going to put parents in?”
Parents and legal guardians may also choose to have their child quarantine for up to seven days from the date of last direct contact with the person who tested positive.
“We do encourage everybody to monitor closely for symptoms,” Osceola County Public Schools Superintendent Debra Pace said.
The emergency rule, however, states that students must stay home from school if they are sick and quarantine if they test positive for the virus until they receive a negative COVID-19 test and are no longer symptomatic, or 10 days have passed since their symptoms began.
The student may also return to school if they receive written permission from a doctor or advanced nurse practitioner. The new rule replaces a previous one that required students to quarantine for at least four days after being exposed to someone who had tested positive. It went into effect after being issued Wednesday.
In schools, coronavirus testing can help promptly identify and isolate cases, quarantine those who may have been exposed and are not fully vaccinated, and identify clusters to reduce the risk to in-person education, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Based on our understanding of the rule, it has no basis on any scientific or medical expertise that’s been published by the CDC,” Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said.
Watch the news conference
READ FULL EMERGENCY RULE BELOW: