Gov. Ron DeSantis continued Wednesday to wax rhapsodic about the need to reopen physical schools, even as pediatricians urge a cautious approach.
“The benefits must outweigh the risks,” asserts the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a white paper provided to Florida’s school superintendents.
“While it is clearly in a child’s best interest that he/she attend classes on-campus, the benefits must outweigh the medical risks to the children, teachers, school staff, and families. This goal must be the most important factor,” the pediatricians advise.
Some, including the Governor, have suggested that children are at lower risk from COVID-19 than older cohorts. While this may be true, the doctors caution that reduced risk is not the same as no risk.
“However, if children, as a group, do not become as ill as adults, it does not mean every child with COVID-19 does not become ill,” the paper notes, citing a study where 12% of cases among children were severe.
Especially imperiled are those youngsters with medical challenges.
“There is great concern about children with special health care needs infected with SARS-CoV-2 (asthma, obesity, diabetes, congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, and immune deficiencies, to name a few.)”
Multi-system inflammatory disorder is also a concerning comorbidity.
Children also are positioned to spread to adults, warn the doctors, with middle and high school students posing the greatest threat to parents and guardians.
The pediatricians suggest various mitigation measures, including at-home symptom checks, staggered school openings, cohorts of students isolated from other groups, and more aspirational goals, such as ensuring that school ventilation systems are in “optimal working order.”
Recent weeks have seen the Governor advocate less strongly for children getting back into brick and mortar schools, with choice becoming the buzzword and the potential of a short delay to reopening being extended as a virus and crisis mitigation strategy.
DeSantis said during a news conference that the decision to reopen brick and mortar wasn’t his call. He asserted the order came from the Department of Education.
The Florida Education Association, representing teachers, filed a lawsuit earlier this month charging it would violate the state constitution to reopen schools that are not “safe” and “secure.”
The suit, filed in Miami-Dade County, lists several defendants, including DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.
Corcoran has lauded the current approach as having “flexibility,” adding that “most are going to choose face to face” instruction.
The Governor’s position is that there are avenues for choice, including remote instruction.
“Our view is that every parent needs a choice,” DeSantis said Wednesday in Clearwater.