The day after coming to Florida, the Sunshine State’s new Surgeon General and Department of Health Secretary, Dr. Joe Ladapo, joined Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ COVID-19 policy promotion tour, saying public health policies have to weigh both costs and benefits.
On Wednesday, Ladapo joined DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran in Kissimmee to promote their latest policy and his first public health order, announced earlier Wednesday. It bans institutionalized quarantining of school students for COVID-19 exposures, turning any stay-home-sick or go-to-school decisions over to parents.
“I’m really very happy to be working with someone like the Governor who has a similar vision about how to think about weighing the costs and benefits in managing this pandemic,” Ladapo said at NeoCity Academy, just outside Kissimmee.
“Yesterday, when the Governor introduced me, one of the things I said was that we would make policies about public health that considered both costs and benefits. When I went to graduate school, that was not a radical idea,” Ladapo added.
Supporting his order forbidding schools from quarantining students who were exposed to COVID-19, Ladapo, DeSantis, and Corcoran made the case that there were clear costs associated with forcing children to stay home, but there were no clear benefits.
“Basically there is no high quality data about benefits. We’re about 18 months into this pandemic and there is not a single high-quality study that shows that any child has ever benefited from that policy,” Ladapo said.
“We actually do have good data about the costs,” he added. “There have been several studies that show that kids taken out of school, it’s extremely harmful. It’s too bad that we needed a study to know that. But it’s great that the studies agree with what I think most parents would have known without the study.”
DeSantis pointed out that Florida’s COVID-19 cases have declined for 26 days in a row, even as schools opened.
“Schools are not driving this pandemic,” he said.
“We here today, Dr. Ladapo, put out a revised rule for the school year that basically recognizes this: that quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for the educational advancement. It is also incredibly disruptive for families all throughout the state of Florida, but particularly here in Central Florida,” DeSantis said.
“And so we are going to be following a symptoms-based approach. If someone is symptomatic, of course they stay at home. If there is a close contact but someone has not developed any symptoms, you monitor them. You notify a parent. The parent always has the right to make their kids stay home, if they think that is in the best interest of the student and the family, 100% we would not want to intrude upon that,” DeSantis said.
They were not as specific in discussing costs and benefits of the alternative, now the state’s order for schools, of keeping students in school unless they are symptomatic.
Ladapo, who was an associate professor from UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine whose public health philosophies in many ways mirrored the conservative, personal freedom policies of DeSantis, already has shown far more visibility and offered far more expressions of his views than his predecessor, Dr. Scott Rivkees, whose public profile all but vanished during most of the now 19-month long coronavirus pandemic.
Rivkees last day was Monday. He left without fanfare or comment.