Florida has a new surgeon general who has immediately made quarantine optional for students exposed to COVID-19 on his first day on the job. Dr. Joseph Ladapo signed the new guideline Wednesday, taking the decision off school officials' hands.
Ladapo also changed the ban against face mask mandates in schools to leave the choice up to the parents. These new rules filed in court will effectively replace the emergency measures set in place since August, which some school districts have challenged in Florida courts.
Florida previously required students exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine for four days. Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference that the state will take a symptom-based approach and make quarantine optional so that healthy students can still go to school. He stressed that four days off might be "incredibly damaging" for their learning and disruptive for families.
"I trust parents and families, and I don't think they are going to go around lying," the governor said.
What About Asymptomatic Students?
However, Thomas Hladish of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida said that they should "err on the side of caution" and insist on quarantine for exposed individuals since they could be asymptomatic. The expert noted that people who don't show any signs of COVID-19 could be a "major source" of virus transmission.
School district officials challenging the previous mandates in court found their complaints thrown out as Ladapo's new rules took effect. Jamie Cole of the Miami-Dade and Leon County school districts said there were no consultations and no transparency to Lapado's guidelines.
Other school officials claimed this move was purely political to undermine their efforts. Andrew Spar of the Florida Education Association said that blocking schools from implementing guidelines based on the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not in the best interest of the students, the staff, and their families.
However, some school districts plan to retain their policies on strict quarantines and face mask mandates and consult with their lawyers on their next moves. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education said they would be backing school boards who impose mitigation measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 based on CDC recommendations.
Who is Dr. Joseph Ladapo?
Ladapo replaces Dr. Scott Rivkee, who is back as a tenured professor at the state university. Ladapo is a Harvard Medical School graduate who worked in the state's Department of Health and, more recently, at the David Geffen School of Medicine.
The doctor said that he would not base his policies on fear and would instead encourage the people to make their own choices about their health. According to NPR, Ladapo doesn't believe that vaccination against COVID is the only measure out of this pandemic. He wrote an op-ed piece called "Vaccine Mandates Can't Stop Covid's Spread." CNN reported that he supports COVID-19 therapies like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
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