On Wednesday, Sept. 22, Florida added a new COVID-19 protocol, making it optional for parents to isolate their kids after exposure to the coronavirus.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the new rule was issued by Florida’s freshly appointed surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo who was sworn in only a day earlier.

Ladapo will allow students to continue in-person learning after COVID-19 exposure as long as they remain asymptomatic. And if their parents chose to quarantine their child, it must not be longer than seven days.

The new guidelines have scrapped the previous four-day in isolation demand for the students.

Likewise, the four-day period was still minimum compared to guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which suggests two full weeks of quarantine for unvaccinated people who may have been within six feet of a COVID-positive person for at least 15 minutes.

“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said in justifying the new protocols on Wednesday. “It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”

President of the Florida Education Association Andrew Spar criticized the bold approach. 

“Limiting districts’ options and blocking them from following CDC guidelines is not in the best interest of the health of our students, employees or families,” Spar said.

In schools, the CDC recommends three feet distance in addition to mask-wearing to reduce risks of COVID-19 transmission.

Although children are less likely to be severely affected by COVID, experts say they can still transmit it to others. 

Vaccines for COVID-19 are not yet available for children under 12 years old, leaving the defense options to masks and physical distancing for these age groups.

The newly appointed surgeon general shares the same skepticism as Governor Ron DeSantis has about using forceful policies when facing airborne diseases, including mask and vaccine mandates.

“This idea that people don’t get to make their own decisions on issues of health related to their own personal health is wrong,” he said, as quoted by NPR.

“Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health. So we’re done with fear,” Ladapo said at a news conference

“That’s something that unfortunately has been a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic,” he stated.

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