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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Florida Department of Health issues emergency rule giving parents choice to quarantine

The Florida Department of Health issued an emergency rule this week that grants parents the ability to decide whether asymptomatic children will quarantine or attend classes after exposure to an individual that tests positive for COVID-19.

The new rule (64DER21-15) went into effect on Wednesday and enables parents and legal guardians to “choose how their child receives education after having direct contact with an individual that is positive for COVID-19.”  Parents may choose to send students to school and school-sponsored activities, so long as their “student remains asymptomatic,” according to the rule.

If a parent chooses to quarantine a child student that has been exposed, the quarantine period may not “exceed seven days from the date of last direct contact with an individual that is positive for COVID-19.”

The rule indicates that if a student becomes “symptomatic” following direct contact, that student will follow the same protocols for those that test positive. That means they will have to either quarantine until they test negative or wait until ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms.

In support to the rule, Governor Ron DeSantis issued comments suggesting schools are not the “problem.”

“In-person education is important for a students’ wellbeing, their educational advancement, and their social development. The idea that schools are somehow a big problem when it comes to the spread of the virus has been refuted yet again,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis says he believes “forced quarantining of healthy children” is “disruptive to a student’s education” and creates logistical issues with parents unable to work from home.

“With this rule, we are following a symptom-based approach to quarantining students in Florida,” said DeSantis.

During an emergency meeting in August, the Marion County School Board voted to implement a mask mandate with an opt-out clause for students across the district. That mandate went into effect on August 19. 

At the time, COVID-19 cases and quarantines were at an all-time high.

In recent weeks, Marion County schools have reported a steady decline in both the number of overall positive cases and quarantines among students and employees.