Florida's new Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Wednesday, Sept. 22, issued an emergency rule stating students who are exposed to COVID-19 won't have to quarantine from school if they are not showing symptoms.
The new surgeon general was recently appointed Tuesday, Sept. 21, by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
"Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health; we’re done with fear,” Ladapo said. “We are compassionate; we get it. … But the way to approach that is not from a place of fear, because it doesn’t lead to good decisions. And we’ve seen a lot of that — where the risks and benefits of decisions haven’t been considered, wholly or thoughtfully.”
The Florida Department of Health pointed out a need to “minimize the amount of time students are removed from in-person learning."
The ruling also continues to require that parents be able to opt students out of school-mask requirements but includes a change that takes aim at some school districts that only allow opt-outs for documented medical reasons. That change states opting out of mask requirements is “at the parent or legal guardian’s sole discretion.”
Another change included in the ruling states that schools “shall allow parents or legal guardians the authority to choose how their child receives education after having direct contact with an individual that is positive for COVID-19.”
As long as the student remains asymptomatic, parents have the option to allow their children to attend school and related activities. Parents also can choose to quarantine their student for up to seven days.
The state Department of Health continued its explanation on the new ruling by saying "the department observed no meaningful difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in school-age 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.”
Following Ladapo's emergency rule, Orange County Public Schools officials stated: "The district is currently reviewing the Florida Department of Health’s new rule that was issued today by the state surgeon general. As a reminder, our current mask requirement for students and adults remains in place through Oct. 30. Our goal is to keep our students and staff safe and keep our schools open."