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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Florida's new surgeon general signs off on rule allowing students exposed to COVID-19 to keep attending school

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2021 at 4:53 PM

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Florida's newly appointed Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo wasted no time getting onboard with Governor Ron DeSantis' continued fight against any and all pandemic precautions. In his first full day on the job, Ladapo signed off on a new rule that would allow students exposed to COVID-19 to continue attending school so long as they remain asymptomatic.

The rule gives parents say over whether or not an exposed child is placed in quarantine, marking yet another point where the state has kneecapped public schools' ability to keep children safe from the virus. The administration is currently battling in courts over its ban on mask mandates at the school district level. That ban was overturned by a circuit court judge and then reinstated while the state appeals the decision.

The new rule also effectively ends a lawsuit against the state from several school districts, including Orange County. As that rule around masking policies was overwritten by the new one, the lawsuit from schools is effectively moot.

In an explanation of the new rule from the State Department of Health, officials made it clear that they are prioritizing in-person learning days over the health and safety of the state's children, all of a piece with Florida's push to get parents back to work.

“The department 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,” the explanation read. “In addition, the department observed no meaningful difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in school-aged children in counties where school districts have imposed mask mandates. It is necessary to minimize the amount of time students are removed from in-person learning based solely on direct contact with an individual that is positive for COVID-19, to ensure parents and legal guardians are allowed the flexibility to control the education and health care decisions of their own children, and to protect the fundamental rights of parents guaranteed under Florida law.”

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