- Florida’s new surgeon general is leaving quarantine decisions up to parents.
- Students will only be required to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure if they develop symptoms of the virus.
- Experts say the new policy could lead to more COVID-19 outbreaks.
Florida’s new surgeon general announced last week new guidance for students for quarantining after a COVID-19 exposure. The decision will now be entirely up to Florida parents.
The new guidance, Emergency Rule 64DER21-15, states that children will not need to quarantine if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and they’re asymptomatic. Parents can still opt to have their child stay home from school, but can only do so for up to seven days after the student had direct contact with someone with COVID-19, the guidance states.
Students who were exposed to a COVID-positive person and show symptoms of the virus must quarantine until they meet certain criteria:
- It’s been 10 days since they developed symptoms, the student has no fever, and their symptoms are improving
- They test negative for the virus and have no symptoms
- They bring in a note from a medical professional
“The governor and I share a similar vision of weighing the costs and benefits of public health policies—and our new rule today is an example of that,” Joseph Ladapo, MD, PhD, Florida surgeon general, said in a statement. “We must make sure that we are doing what is right for parents and for students. There’s not a single high-quality study that shows that any child has ever benefited from forced quarantining policies, but we have seen demonstrable and considerable harm to children. It’s important to respect the rights of parents.”
Governor Ron DeSantis previously banned mask mandates in schools. That ban has been lifted and reinstated due to different court rulings.
COVID-19 Quarantine Guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that people quarantine for at least 10 days after exposure to a person infected with COVID-19. However, there are nuances.
Under the guidance, people can end their quarantine on day seven after receiving a negative test.
Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19 unless they develop symptoms, the CDC says.
However, the CDC recommends that they get tested three to five days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms, and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days after their exposure or until their test is negative.
What This Means For You
If you live in Florida, your child and their classmates will not automatically need to quarantine if they’re exposed to someone with COVID-19. However, experts recommend following CDC guidelines for quarantining to the best of your ability after your child has had exposure to the virus.
‘Not Based in Science’
Infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Get Meds Info that Florida’s guidance could work if more testing was involved.
“For asymptomatic children who are not vaccinated, the best way for them to avoid the need for quarantine is to be tested,” he says. “The ‘test to remain’ strategy is the best practice in this context to avoid unnecessary quarantines.”
But the way the policy is currently laid out isn’t great, Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Get Meds Info.
“It is not based in science and is very irresponsible, especially given the high rate of COVID-19 transmission in Florida now,” he says.
Watkins is especially concerned about parents making this decision. “Having kids at home [during the workday] is very inconvenient for parents, so they will likely not make a rational decision,” he says.
Ultimately, Watkins expects that the new policy will lead to more spread of COVID-19 in Florida schools. “People who make these reckless decisions that put kids at risk need to be held accountable,” he says.