DeSantis wants to protect college students from punishment for not following COVID-19 rules
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday proposed a “bill of rights” for college students in response to schools punishing students for hosting parties and other social gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press reported.
“I understand that universities are trying to do the right thing,” the governor told reporters at a press briefing at the Capitol in Tallahassee. “But, I personally think it’s dramatically draconian that a student could get potentially expelled for going to a party. That’s what college kids do.”
DeSantis added that he planned on blocking local governments from closing restaurants, claiming there is little evidence that stopping service at these businesses would lower the number of COVID-19 cases. The governor previously took similar action in April when he issued an executive order saying that state guidelines “supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19.”
The governor’s defense of college students follows a reported spike in cases at Tallahassee’s Florida State University earlier this month after photos of hundreds of people at parties around campus went viral on social media. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, figures released by the university on Sept. 8 showed more than 700 students tested positive over a one-week period.
DeSantis’s announcements Thursday came after he hosted a virtual roundtable with three experts who have questioned widely recommended measures such as school closures and wearing face masks, according to the AP.
DeSantis said following the virtual event that “we’ve got to be reasonable about this and really focus the efforts on where the most significant risk is.”
Earlier this month, local health officials in Orlando said in a press conference that due to privacy rules, they were barred from releasing detailed COVID-19 data about public schools. The Orlando Sentinel noted at the time that local health officials had previously released the number of cases associated with schools as well as the number of students and staff under quarantine.
DeSantis has repeatedly questioned the need for statewide mask mandates and other precautionary measures during the pandemic, although he has imposed restrictions on bars, nightclubs and other businesses. More recently, DeSantis has eased restrictions in a push to reopen the state economy.
The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported 2,541 new coronavirus cases and 177 new deaths. The Southeastern state now has a total of more than 693,000 cases, as well as 13,795 fatalities as a result of the virus.
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