The state’s American Academy of Pediatrics warns the governor that if schools reopen for in-person learning, many children and families will likely become ill with COVID-19.
FLORIDA — As cases of COVID-19 keep climbing across the Sunshine State, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran continue to defend their plan to reopen brick-and-mortar schools in the fall.
During a televised news conference held Thursday at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Gov. DeSantis said that distance — or online — learning isn’t the same as in-person classes, adding that “there’s a lot of parents who’ve seen a regression in academics and have seen their kids miss some of the great things about being in school.”
But for some, reopening schools at this particular time for in-person classes can have serious consequences.
A Recipe for Disaster
According to state data, as of last Friday, close to 17,000 children across the state had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In fact, in Florida, the positivity rate of COVID-19 in children under 18 is over 31%. By comparison, the positivity rate for the entire population of the state stands at approximately 11%.
For this reason, on Thursday the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FCAAP), which represents 2,600 pediatricians in the state, sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis, urging him to reconsider his stance on this issue.
WATCH: American Pediatrics Urges DeSantis Not to Reopen Schools
In the letter, FCAAP President D. Paul Robinson cited data from the state’s department of health showing that the current viral infection rates in Florida are “extremely high with a rolling average of 14.2% of tests positive for new infections over the past two weeks.”
For this reason, Robinson alerted DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran that “if children go to school with such high infection rates, schools will be forced to close very quickly after opening, and many children and families will likely become ill with SARS-CoV-2,” the virus that causes COVID-19.
But DeSantis, who during the press conference admitted that he hadn’t read the letter, continues to voice his belief that children are less likely to catch COVID-19 than adults. And while some studies suggest just that, children and teens can still spread the disease to others who might have a higher risk for serious complications. They could also suffer serious consequences as well, as COVID-19 can make children susceptible to complications such as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome and future chronic health problems such as lung damage.
DeSantis and Corcoran remain adamant that schools should reopen in August for parents who want to send their children to campus, while the FCAAP believes that each school district in the state should have the opportunity to decide when and how they reopen in-person learning, based on how the pandemic is impacting their community.
At this time, the Florida Education Association announced a lawsuit against the state’s emergency order forcing districts to reopen brick-and-mortar public schools five days a week in August.