Florida's newly appointed surgeon general signed new protocols on Wednesday allowing parents to decide whether to quarantine their children or send them to school after being exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Joseph Ladapo, who was sworn in on Tuesday, got rid of a previous rule that required students to quarantine at home for at least four days if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19, The Associated Press reported.
Under his new rules, students may continue attending school in-person “without restrictions or disparate treatment” as long as they are asymptomatic.
“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe CDC's Title 42 order fuels racism and undermines public health Chicago sues police union over refusal to comply with vaccine mandate Crist says as Florida governor he would legalize marijuana, expunge criminal records MORE (R) said on Wednesday. "It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, spoke out against the state's new rules, the AP reported.
“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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends unvaccinated people quarantine for 14 days if they have been within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes — though it makes exceptions in schools if the contact stayed at least three 3 away from the infected individual and both were properly masked the entire time.
Most school-aged children, those under the age of 12, are still not eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Though children are believed to be less likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19, health experts have warned that they are just as capable of spreading the virus.
Ladapo's appointment as Florida's top public health official sparked criticism from DeSantis's opponents over Ladapo's opposition to vaccine and mask mandates.
“Instead of going with a trusted advocate for science, DeSantis is once again playing games with peoples’ lives by appointing someone who has trafficked anti-vaccine and anti-mask rhetoric," said Democratic National Committee spokesperson Adonna Biel.
DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw defended the hire.
“Like Governor DeSantis, Dr. Ladapo is not against vaccines or masks — he is against vaccine mandates and forced-masking,” she said.
“The state should be promoting good health," Ladapo said during a press conference on Tuesday, "and vaccination isn’t the only path to that. It’s been treated almost like a religion, and that’s just senseless."