Florida Department of Health revamps COVID-19 rule for schools


TALLAHASSEE — Emphasizing the need to “minimize the time that students are removed from in-person learning,” the Florida Department of Health on Wednesday released a revised rule that gives parents more power to decide whether children will go. at school after being exposed to people with COVID-19.

The emergency rule also continues to require parents to be able to remove students from school mask requirements, but includes a change that targets certain school districts that only allow withdrawals for documented medical reasons. This change indicates that the removal of mask requirements is “at the sole discretion of the parent or legal guardian.”

The release of the revised rule quickly bypassed legal challenges by five school districts against a rule the Department of Health released on August 6 to help carry out Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to prevent mask warrants. school. Administrative law judge Brian Newman said in a telephone hearing Wednesday morning that he had no “wiggle room” after the revised rule was released.

“I don’t think I have jurisdiction to do anything other than dismiss this case,” Newman said.

New state surgeon general Joseph Ladapo, whose appointment was announced by DeSantis on Tuesday, has signed the state of emergency. It replaced the August 6 rule which has garnered a lot of attention as some school districts have sought to require students to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Alachua and Leon county school boards challenged the August 6 rule, which did not include the new provision regarding parents or legal guardians with “sole discretion” to opt out. requirements for school masks.

Another substantial change in the revised rule concerns protocols for students who have been exposed to COVID-19. The new rule states that schools “must allow parents or legal guardians to choose how their child receives education after having direct contact with someone positive for COVID-19.”

It gives parents the option of allowing “the student to attend school, participate in school sponsored activities or be on school property, without restrictions or disparate treatment, as long as the ‘pupil remains asymptomatic’. Parents would also have the option of quarantining their students for up to seven days.

The August 6 version of the rule said that students who have been in contact with people positive for COVID-19 “should not attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property. school “until they either receive negative COVID-19 tests four days after the last exposure or are asymptomatic and wait seven days after their last exposure.

The change in the revised rule reflects DeSantis’ oft-made arguments that parents should be able to make choices for their children and that students need to be in school — arguments echoed by Ladapo on Tuesday during the ‘a press conference to announce his appointment.

An explanation accompanying the revised rule says that the Department of Health conducted a review of data regarding children who tested positive for COVID-19 and children who had been in contact with those infected.

“The department observed a large number of students who had to be quarantined for long periods, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of days of in-person learning,” the explanation said. Additionally, the department saw no significant difference in the number of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children in counties where school districts have imposed mask warrants. There is a need to minimize the time during which students are withdrawn from in-person learning solely on the basis of direct contact with a person positive for COVID-19, in order to ensure that parents and legal guardians have the ability to control education and health care. decisions of their own children and protect basic parental rights guaranteed by Florida law.

The revised rule also establishes protocols for students who are symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19.

According to a protocol, students will be able to return to school after receiving negative tests and be asymptomatic. Under another protocol, they may return 10 days after symptoms appear or have positive test results if they have not had a fever for 24 hours and other symptoms improve. Under a third protocol, students could return with the written permission of doctors or graduate nurse practitioners.

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