Gov. Ron DeSantis defended his controversial decision to send students back to school this August by telling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that he would have “zero concern” sending his own kids back into a classroom.
“My kids aren’t school-age yet,” DeSantis said. “I got a 3-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, and a newborn daughter. And I can tell you if they were school-age, I would have zero concern sending them.”
The remark came Wednesday during an interview on the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show. There, DeSantis detailed his rationale for reopening schools despite the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Florida.
“With respect to the schools,” DeSantis said. “Walmart, essential service. Home Depot, essential service. Fast food, essential service. “How is it that the schools for our kids would not be considered an essential service? And I think it’s vital. I think that they’ve fallen way behind.”
The interview came two days after Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered public schools to reopen in August and offer “the full panoply of services” to students and families.
DeSantis offered a ray of light onto the ambiguous phrase “the full panoply of services” with Limbaugh.
“I want our high school athletes to be able to play football and do all these other things,” DeSantis said. “It’s very, very important, and I think that the data is clear. CDC’s been very clear on this. Under 18, your chance of being hospitalized by coronavirus is far, far less, for influenza and deaths, far less. And if you have no underlying condition, it probably is as close to zero as you can get.”
From national and local media to a plaza-level war-of-words between him and Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, DeSantis has taken heavy criticism for his unwavering commitment to reopening the Sunshine State.
In his mind, however, reopening schools is supported by science and past decisions from the European Union.
“All of the European Union countries have come to this conclusion, that the kids aren’t vectors of transmission,” DeSantis said, adding: “So we have to look at the facts, the data, the science, and then we need to be governed by that rather than politics or emotion.”
DeSantis attributed the criticism, in part, to fearmongering perpetuated by the media for “political reasons.”
“One of the things that the media is doing in Florida is they’re going around saying there are all these counties that have no ICU capacity, which was actually a grain of truth,” DeSantis said. “Cause we have a lot of rural counties that don’t have ICUs at all. So if somebody needs that type of care, they go to one of the bigger medical systems in the state. So a lot of this is being put out, I think, to scare people. It’s not productive. And look, if they’re using it for political reasons ’cause they don’t like Republican governors.”
He also called into question the viewpoint of today’s public health experts.
“Here we’re in a situation where we know the data is so clear about who is the at-risk population and who is very low risk. And so you’re exactly right,” DeSantis told Limbaugh. “Society needs to function. And, you know, that used to be the standard view among people who were considered public health experts, that you want society to function. Shutting down is not gonna help things. It creates all kind of other problems, and we gotta keep society going.”
DeSantis’s ‘Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step’ reopening plan has called for a triage-like approach to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor has contended, even from the earliest days, that the old and those with underlying health problems are most vulnerable for serious illness or fatality.
A hyper-focus on protecting the elderly and vulnerable is the cornerstone of his plan.
“Part of the reason we have a lower fatality rate in Florida is [that] we really focused on protecting those people who are most vulnerable to the virus, such as our senior citizens living in long-term care facilities,” DeSantis said. “We barred hospitals from sending the sick coronavirus patients back into nursing homes ’cause we knew it would lead to spread and more death among the most vulnerable population. And if you compare us to states that did the opposite where they forced them back in, you know, the numbers speak for themselves.”