State changes school quarantine policy, gives parents the option

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Health issued a revised rule Wednesday that gives parents more power to decide whether to send their children to school after being exposed to COVID-19.

Florida’s new Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who was appointed Tuesday by Governor Ron DeSantis, signed the emergency rule which replaces the August 6th order that students would need to show a negative test or quarantine after exposure.

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The emergency rule also continues to require parents to be able to opt students out of school mask mandates.

The rule states schools “shall allow parents or legal guardians the authority to choose how their child receives education after having direct contact with an individual that is positive for COVID-19.”

It gives parents the option of allowing the “student to attend school, school-sponsored activities, or be on school property, without restriction on disparate treatment, so long as the student remains asymptomatic.”

Parents would have the option of quarantining their students for seven days if they choose.

The August 6th ruling states students should stay out of school after coming in contact with a positive case until:

  • Receiving a negative test at least four days after exposure

or

  • Asymptomatic students wait seven days after exposure

“The department observed a large number of students who have been required to quarantine for long periods of time, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of days of in-person learning,” the Florida Department of Health’s explanation read.

Victoria Dyke’s son is repeating third grade. She said he’s already quarantined twice so far this year, missing a total of 13 in-person school days.

“It just feels like how is he ever going to get to where he needs to be if we’re constantly being quarantined and he’s sitting at home,” she explained to Action News Jax’s Robert Grant.

Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, the former director of the Duval County Health Department and Jacksonville pediatrician said the new ruling is risky and could lead to more COVID-19 cases in the long run.

“It’s like Russian roulette — we won’t know which child is infected and which is spreading disease to your child.”

He explained that asymptomatic students can still be infected and transmit the virus. According to the CDC, the Delta variant is as transmissible as chickenpox. For every one person infected, up to nine more can come down with the virus.

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A Duval County Public Schools representative told Action News Jax, “There are no immediate changes to our current COVID-19 protocols. Leadership of the Florida Department of Health—Duval has advised us that they are awaiting guidance from the state Department of Health. We will work closely with our local Department of Health team and the City of Jacksonville’s Office of General Counsel to determine if this rule has any impact on the district’s procedures or operations.”