Florida Governor Ron DeSantis blasted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week after the agency put out new guidelines for reopening K-12 schools last Friday. Governor DeSantis called the new recommendations “a disgrace,” saying that the guidelines, if followed, would lead to 90% of schools being shuttered around the country.
The guidelines include color-coded recommendations for when to reopen K-12 schools based on how much “community spread” of COVID-19 is occurring in each county. If a county is in a blue “low” or yellow “moderate” transmission category, it’s recommended schools be “open for full in-person instruction.”
However, if a county is in an orange “substantial” or red “high” transmission category, the CDC recommends schools transition to a “hybrid learning mode.”
“What the CDC put out, 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, I wonder why they would do it then, was quite frankly a disgrace,” Gov. DeSantis said about the guidelines in a press conference. “It would require, if you actually follow that, closing 90% of schools in the United States. We are open, we remain open, and we are not turning back.”
The governor added that even though Florida has been almost completely open since last summer, his state is doing very well on a per capita basis for COVID-19 cases among children.
Gov. DeSantis reiterated this in a tweet he posted this week showing how well Florida is performing with COVID-19 among children, even though the state is offering far more students the opportunity to learn in-person.
According to a graph included in the tweet, Florida is offering 99.8% of children in-person instruction, compared to Ohio only offering it to 31.2% of kids, Illinois providing it for 8.5% of children and California only giving 5.4% of students the chance to learn in-person.
And yet, Florida is performing better than all three of the other states that have stricter lockdown measures in place. In pediatric cases of COVID-19, Florida numbers 3,794 cases per 100,000 children while Ohio is at 3,945, Illinois is at 5,378 and California is at 4,724 cases.
Our kids belong in school and Florida’s decision to keep schools open was the right thing to do. When compared to other states of similar size, Florida has fewer pediatric cases per 100,000. pic.twitter.com/U1boNXKmAr
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) February 16, 2021
“We’ve been open the whole time, since August,” Gov. DeSantis added at the press conference. “We had kids doing camps and athletics and all that over the summer and we’ve been in-person as much as anybody in the country and yet, we are 34th out of 50 states and D.C. for COVID-19 cases on a per capita basis for children.”
“Thirty-three states have more cases per capita than Florida children and many of those don’t have a lot of in-person instruction in school,” he said.
The Biden administration has been on defense recently over its goal of reopening the majority of schools within the first 100 days of his presidency. But to qualify as “open,” the school just needs to provide in-person learning one day per week.
“His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools, so more than 50 percent, open by day 100 of his presidency,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a recent press conference. “That means some teaching in classrooms, so at least one day a week.”
However, President Biden contradicted Psaki’s statement during a CNN townhall this week.
Asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper why his administration just wanted to open schools one-day per week, Biden responded, “No, that’s not true. That’s what was reported. It was a mistake in the communication.”
Also this week, White House Senior Advisor for COVID Response Andy Slavitt failed to respond to a question from MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle on lockdown policies.
“Contrast states like Florida and California,” Ruhle requested. “California [is] basically in lockdown, and their numbers aren’t that different from Florida.”
“Look, there’s so much of this virus that we think we understand, that we think we can predict, that’s just a little bit beyond our explanation,” Slavitt replied.
According to a poll conducted late last year, a rising number of parents are concerned that their children are falling behind in school.
The poll, conducted by MassINC Polling Group, found that of parents with kids who are learning with the hybrid education model, 31% were concerned their child was falling behind compared to just 10% who were before the onset of the pandemic.
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Photo from ERIC HASERT/TCPALM via Imagn Content Services, LLC/REUTERS