The full news conference can be viewed here.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida physicians, teachers and parents today slammed Gov. Ron DeSantis for preventing schools from implementing COVID-19 safety measures and threatening to punish schools that seek to protect their students and communities. The physicians, teachers and parents called on DeSantis to repeal an executive order he signed Friday that prohibits local school districts from implementing COVID-19 safeguards such as requiring masks, and cutting funds for those that do. Florida has the nation’s highest rate of children hospitalized for COVID-19.
“Physicians across Florida have asked, and continue to ask, Gov. Ron DeSantis to do his part to protect Floridians from COVID-19, yet he still ignores our calls and puts more lives at risk,” said Dr. Mona Mangat, an immunologist in St. Petersburg and Board Member for the Committee to Protect Health Care. “We all want our children to be learning with their friends and peers in person, yet Gov. DeSantis’ edict increases the likelihood that COVID-19 will sicken people when kids return to the classroom. Schools across Florida are already struggling with outbreaks, classes have just started and we are now seeing more pediatric patients hospitalized and in ICUs. By putting self-serving politics ahead of science, Gov. DeSantis has chosen to ignore the terrible realities of COVID-19 and hogtie schools in our local communities from making decisions that can protect children.”
Florida leads the nation in children hospitalized with COVID-19. In the last week of July, 35 children were hospitalized every day for COVID-19 in Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida has the nation’s highest rate of children hospitalized for COVID-19, at .76 children per 100,000 residents. At the same time, COVID-19 vaccinations are authorized for use only in people ages 12 and older. In the last week of July, the largest number of cases reported in Florida — more than 11,000 — was among the 12-19 age group, which is also the age group with the lowest vaccination rate at 38 percent.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis’ incompetent, ill-informed COVID-19 response is allowing the virus to spread, adapt and mutate, and his do-nothing, know-nothing strategy against a deadly disease is responsible for Florida’s devastating surge, our record hospitalizations and unnecessary, avoidable deaths — including the suffering of children,” said Dr. Bernard Ashby, a cardiologist in Miami and Florida State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care. “As a physician, I am deeply concerned that Gov. DeSantis is turning his back on simple safety measures that can save lives, such as wearing masks. As a parent, I am outraged that Gov. DeSantis is playing Russian roulette with our children by preventing schools from taking simple precautions to protect children, staff and their families — and then threatening to take away resources if local schools choose to implement those safety measures. At a time when school districts must respond to COVID-19 outbreaks in their communities and make decisions to protect students and staff, Gov. DeSantis is ripping away local control and imposing a misguided top-down, one-size-fits-all policy that will only endanger lives.”
COVID-19 remains a serious danger to people of all ages. In addition to killing 614,000 Americans, COVID-19 has also led to the deaths of more than 500 children nationwide. Around 4,200 children nationwide have been diagnosed with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, and this number may be an undercount as investigations continue into additional pediatric fatalities. If left untreated, the illness can be fatal or cause permanent damage to the heart, brain functions and a child’s gastrointestinal system.
“By blocking widespread mask use and other science-based safety measures, Gov. Ron DeSantis has effectively taken away the rights of every parent in Florida to keep our children safe, and that is unforgivable,” said Dr. Jennifer Zimmerman, a pediatrician in Santa Rosa County. “I am angry at Gov. DeSantis for putting my child’s life, and the lives of my young patients, in danger by preventing local school districts from implementing safety precautions that can keep students, their teachers, school staff and their loved ones safer. I am angry that Gov. DeSantis continues to spread dangerous disinformation about COVID-19, including the baseless delusion that children don’t spread the virus, because the facts and the data clearly show they do. Gov. DeSantis’ foolish, negligent decision to tie the hands of schools, and punish them if they don’t follow his orders, takes away the rights of my patients’ parents to keep their kids safe.”
The American Association of Pediatrics urges all schools to require mask wearing among students, staff and teachers, aligning with overwhelming scientific evidence that shows masks reduce COVID-19 spread. The AAP also encourages in-person learning, and urges more widespread vaccinations in addition to masks as part of a coordinated back-to-school safety strategy. In addition to banning schools from requiring masks, DeSantis also prohibits schools from requiring vaccinations.
“Wearing masks isn’t always fun, but it’s a valuable tool to protect my health and that of my students,” said Kendra Vincent, a teacher in north-central Florida. “Despite what Gov. DeSantis says, most kids don’t mind wearing them. They’re used to having rules in place to keep each other healthy and facilitate a safe learning environment. I love teaching, but it’s a demanding job, and DeSantis is only making it harder right now. After everything teachers have been through over the past year and a half, to have DeSantis take away the tools we have to stay healthy and safe is shattering.”
About the Committee to Protect Health Care
The Committee to Protect Health Care, formerly known as the Committee to Protect Medicare, is a national mobilization of doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who are building a pro-patient health care majority in Congress and in states so that we can live in an America where everyone has the health care they need to thrive. To learn more: www.committeetoprotect.org