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Florida makes quarantine optional for asymptomatic students

Florida makes quarantine optional for asymptomatic students
Florida Gov. Ron Desantis says removing healthy children from classrooms after exposure to COVID-19 is disruptive. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state will follow a new "symptoms-based approach" to quarantining students, saying it will be up to parents to decide if their children who do not exhibit symptoms should stay home after coming into close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.

The Republican governor announced the new rule Wednesday during a press conference after newly appointed Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo published the new emergency rule, which says removing healthy students from classrooms should be limited, as it "poses a threat to the welfare of children, including their social, emotional and educational development, and is not necessary absent illness."

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DeSantis said the removal of children from classrooms is "incredibly disruptive" to not only the students' education but the livelihoods of their parents and the successful operation of the school year.

"Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement. It's also incredibly disruptive for families all throughout the state of Florida, but particularly here in Central Florida, and so we are going to be following a symptoms-based approach," he said. "If a parent has a healthy child, that child has a right to school, and that's going to make it so much better for so many folks."

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Ladapo, who has been a critic of COVID-19 mitigating measures, including masks and vaccines, said that he shares a similar vision concerning weighing costs and benefits concerning the pandemic as the governor.

He said they respect that some parents may be less comfortable sending their children to school after being exposed to the virus, so the new rule allows them to keep them home.

"The new rule also allows for parents who are more comfortable letting their healthy child return to school," he said.

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Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Carlee Simon criticized the new rule on Wednesday, saying it will likely promote the spread of the virus by preventing them from implementing quarantine and masking rules.

"The state is, in fact, doubling down on policies that may ultimately put students, staff and the entire community at greater risk," Simon said via Twitter.

She said they will be reviewing the new rule though "we will continue to follow the masking and quarantine policies currently in place in our schools."

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The announcement of the new rule comes amid litigation over DeSantis' controversial rule barring local mask mandates in schools.

The federal Department of Education has opened an investigation into Florida and four other states that have imposed policies prohibiting schools from issuing mask mandates.

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During the press conference Wednesday, DeSantis was confident they would defeat the legal challenges.

"There is still litigation going on, but we're going to end up winning that case," he said.

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