Gov. Ron DeSantis announces new DOH rule

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KISSIMMEE – On Sept. 22, Governor Ron DeSantis was joined by State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and 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-19.
 
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 was effective as of  Sept. 22, 2021.
 
“Parents have the right to have their healthy kids in school,” said Gov. Ron 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 State Surgeon General Joseph 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 Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, father of 6 kids who missed over 100 days of school last year due to quarantines. “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% 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.” 
 
“Safety is our No. 1 priority, but learning is so critical for our students and our families here in Osceola County,” said Osceoloa County Superintendent Debra Pace. “When I looked at our data on day 15, 19% 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.”
 
“As a principal, I have to make phone calls to parents or talk to students and say, ‘You know, I'm so sorry, you have to quarantine again’ or ‘Your son or daughter has to quarantine,’” said Principal James Long of Gateway High School. “To look them in the face and just see that disappointment of a kid who says, ‘Please, I do not want to be quarantined, five times.’ Any opportunity to allow our students to have an option to stay in school and parents to have that option to keep their kids in school, I'm in favor of it because I really believe that that's where kids need to be."
 
“(After) last year being in and out, in and out, we were really excited about this school year and things getting back to normal,” said Anthony Cook, a teacher and a parent of three children. “We're excited about the opportunity of being able to send back our kids should somebody in the classroom test positive with covid. You know, I'm a firm believer in following the safety protocols – doing what you need to do to keep yourself safe. But just having an opportunity for them to be face-to-face learning, as the evidence shows, that is the best form to get their education delivered to them.”

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