The Florida Times-Union | By Emily Bloch | September 23, 2021
Florida’s newly appointed surgeon general announced new quarantine protocols in schools giving parents the option to keep a child at home following COVID-19 exposure or send them back to school. But Duval Schools officials say the district’s policy will remain in place — for now.
A day after his appointment, Dr. Joseph Ladapo signed off on a policy that would eliminate requirements for students to quarantine for at least four days after COVID-19 exposure. Like Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed the new surgeon general, Ladapo says he does not believe in school closures, lockdowns or vaccine mandates.
Now, Ladapo’s guidance says students who have been exposed can return to campus “without restrictions or disparate treatment,” as long as they are asymptomatic. Students still can quarantine under the new policy, but for no longer than seven days if they don’t contract symptoms.
Duval County Public Schools officials said its current quarantine protocol, which varies from four to 10 days depending on if a student tests positive and is symptomatic or not, remains in place.
“There are no immediate changes to our current COVID-19 protocols,” Duval Schools officials said in a statement. “Leadership of the Florida Department of Health—Duval has advised us that they are awaiting guidance from the state Department of Health.”
A spokeswoman added that the district will work with the local health department and the city of Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel to determine if the new rule has any impact on current procedures.
“If there are any changes, we will inform our families and the media at the appropriate time,” the statement said.
GOP officials and supporters have lauded Ladapo’s move as another opportunity to give parents freedom to make medical decisions for their children and a way to get students back into schools faster. Critics say it’s overstepping medical advice and safety restrictions that are put into place for a reason.
Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said the move “is not in the best interest of the health of our students, employees or families.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who get infected can spread the virus starting from two days before they have any symptoms and recommends a 14-day quarantine period if the person is unvaccinated or seven if they are vaccinated.