TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WPTV) -- Florida students who are exposed to COVID-19 won't have to quarantine from school if they're not showing symptoms of the virus, according to a new emergency rule issued by the state's surgeon general on Wednesday.
The directive from Dr. Joseph Ladapo -- whose appointment was announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday -- will likely prevent thousands of students statewide from having to stay home from school after being exposed to the coronavirus.
"Quarantining healthy students is incredible damaging for their educational advancements," DeSantis said Wednesday during a news conference in Kissimmee. "It's also incredibly disruptive for families all throughout the state of Florida."
Under the emergency rule, if a student is exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 but is asymptomatic, their parent or guardian can decide "how their child receives education."
Students will be allowed to attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property without restrictions "so long as the student remains asymptomatic."
If a parent or guardian desires, the student may quarantine at home for no more than seven days "from the date of last direct contact" with the infected person.
If, however, the student becomes symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19, they can't attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property until one of the following conditions is met:
- The student receives a negative diagnostic COVID-19 test and is asymptomatic
- 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms or positive test result, the student has had no fever for 24 hours, and the student's other symptoms are improving
- The student receives written permission to return to school "from a medical doctor licensed under chapter 458, an osteopathic physician licensed under chapter 459, or an advanced registered nurse practitioner licensed under chapter 464."
The rule states that "direct contact" with a COVID-19 positive individual means exposure for at least 15 minutes within six feet.
Calling the emergency order a "symptoms-based approach," DeSantis said schools are not driving the epidemic, and as a result, healthy students should not be kept out of classrooms.
"We want to make sure we're following that data. We're following science," DeSantis said.
Ladapo argued that learning losses from keeping healthy children out of school outweigh any potential medical benefits of quarantining students as a precaution.
"It's not a sensible policy, so we're not going to do it," Ladapo said. "That's how we're gonna lead public health. It make sense, guys. It's just benefits and costs."