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DeSantis 'Cautious' About Tying Florida School Reopenings To Coronavirus Positivity Rate

Sky Lebron/WJCT
Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters that while he was "religiously hyping positivity in March, April and May," he now is unconvinced the positivity rate is an efficient barometer.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he would be “cautious” about linking school reopenings in Florida to COVID-19 positivity rates in communities.

The governor's remarks came a week after the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics sent a white paper to DeSantis advising that schools should not reopen unless they are in locales with a positive COVID-19 test rate below 5 percent when averaged over a 14-day period.

The pediatricians said that in many areas of Florida where districts are grappling with reopening classrooms amid the pandemic, “coronavirus prevalence will not decrease enough in the next 4-6 weeks to make the benefits of school attendance outweigh the risks.”

DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that while he was “religiously hyping positivity in March, April and May,” he now is unconvinced the positivity rate is an efficient barometer.

“Some labs don’t report negatives (cases) religiously,” the governor said during a press conference in Jacksonville. “I’d be very cautious of tying a child’s future to the efficacy of some private lab dumping the results into a system. And that’s a change for me. ... I’m not saying it’s not something you would never consider ever, but I think we’ve understood some of the limitations."

State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran last month issued an order requiring districts to reopen brick-and-mortar schools at least five days a week in August, unless state and local health officials direct otherwise.

The governor, who has focused heavily on a need for families to have choices about whether to send their children back to school or to use distance learning, said Tuesday he understands if parents choose to have their children continue learning from home.

“It’s a difficult time. We understand that and we want to empower the parents. But I would rather have the opt-out available than to deny all the kids the ability for in-class instruction,” DeSantis said.