If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis needed an ally in his approach to public health in the age of COVID, he just got one in his new surgeon general, who announced a new emergency order this week on student quarantines. "Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health," Dr. Joseph Ladapo said Tuesday, per WPTV, noting he supports a "benefits and costs" approach in the state, which has among the highest number of COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, per CBS News. "We're done with fear." What that means, exactly, per Ladapo's new order issued Wednesday:
- Asymptomatic students: Students in the state who've been exposed to COVID won't have to quarantine if they're not showing symptoms themselves. If parents do opt to keep their asymptomatic exposed child home, they can only do so for seven days "from the date of last direct contact."
- Symptomatic students: The rules change for exposed students who are showing symptoms, per Ladapo. In those cases, they won't be permitted back on school grounds until they test negative and have no symptoms; have waited 10 days, no longer have a fever, and are seeing improvements in their symptoms; or bring in a note from an approved medical professional.
- Face masks: In his order, Ladapo also reminded that while school districts may implement mask mandates, parents must have the ability to opt out if they choose. At least a dozen districts have been ignoring that latter part, per WPTV.
- DeSantis' thoughts: The governor is backing his new SG, noting Wednesday at a Kissimmee presser that quarantining healthy students is "[incredibly] damaging" for their education and "incredibly disruptive" for their families.
- Ladapo's background: CNN notes the doctor graduated from Wake Forest University and got both his medical degree and PhD in health policy from Harvard. He most recently worked at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He has been critical of public health measures on COVID, such as lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates; called COVID vaccines "nothing special," per CBS; and supported controversial treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
- Critics: "Instead of going with a trusted advocate for science, DeSantis is once again playing games with peoples' lives by appointing someone who has trafficked anti-vaccine and anti-mask rhetoric," a Democratic National Committee spokeswoman says in a statement, per CBS Miami.
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