Gov. Ron DeSantis, in Jacksonville Tuesday, said that no matter what happens to the state’s positive testing rate for the novel coronavirus, schools need to reopen.
The Governor was addressing reporters after a roundtable event in the Mandarin area, where he discussed potential ways to resume visitation at long-term care facilities.
DeSantis looked to Scandinavia to make his point that whether schools open or not will make little difference in the fight against COVID-19.
“Sweden was right,” DeSantis said, noting that while Norway shut its schools down and Sweden did not, the two countries found little difference in virus transmission.
“Sweden kept it open the entire time. They didn’t have a lockdown. Sweden and Norway put out a joint statement recently saying ‘Norway shut down schools. Sweden didn’t. Guess what? Sweden was right.’ It did not increase the spread in the community.”
The Governor noted an evolution in his own thought processes, driven by limitations in data sets.
“I was religiously hyping positivity in March, April, May,” DeSantis said, describing a “change” in his mindset since.
“The problem is the way these tests are reported. Some labs don’t report the negatives religiously. Sometimes they do data dumps. I’d be very cautious to tying a child’s future to the efficacy of a private lab dumping results into the system.”
“The best indicator of prevalence in the community has been Emergency Department visits with COVID like illness.” DeSantis said.
Those emergency room visits began surging in mid-June, when “testing wasn’t even catching” the increased spread.
“I would say look at those ED visits, but also look to see if primary schools have been engines of transmission,” DeSantis said. “There’s also been studies that show people in the school system don’t have any more chance of getting infected than people in the community.”
It’s worth noting that schools have been closed since late March with only limited summer programming, leaving little evidence available to support DeSantis’ claim about primary schools being “engines of transmission.”
The Governor noted that parents “have the right to opt for distance learning for any reason,” continuing his line of thinking from recent weeks when he said that while children need schools to open, and teachers are “chomping at the bit” to get in there, that virtual options and delayed brick and mortar options are possibilities.
Pediatricians have warned that opening schools does not come without risk. Yet for DeSantis, not opening them poses a greater risk still.