Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis says it’s perfectly safe to send kids back to school this fall despite rapidly rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the Sunshine State — arguing that if Walmart was open, schools should be too.
“I’m confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools,” he said Thursday during an appearance in Jacksonville with US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.
“I want our kids to be able to minimize this education gap that I think has developed.”
But he also noted that not all parents may agree with him.
“Different parents have different calculations. If a parent wants to opt for virtual education, they should absolutely be able to do that. We shouldn’t be forcing them to do any types of decisions,” he added.
DeSantis claimed that data showed the risk of the virus in children was low, and that the risk of hospitalization from the virus for those under 18 was “substantially less” than for the flu.
Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Task Force said earlier this week that cases appeared low among children because so few had been tested.
DeSantis made similar remarks a day earlier during an appearance on the Rush Limbaugh show, adding the reopening of fast food joints as another piece of evidence to back his theory.
“My kids aren’t school-age yet. 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,” he told Limbaugh.
“With respect to the schools,” DeSantis continued. “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.”
Meanwhile, Florida’s Department of Health on Friday confirmed 11,433 new cases of COVID-19, the second highest single-day total recorded since the pandemic began in March, The Miami Herald reported.
The highest 24-hour total recorded in the state was on Saturday, with 11,458 new cases.
Florida now has 244,151 confirmed cases, and there were also 93 new deaths announced, raising the statewide death toll to 4,102, the paper reported.
DeSantis dismissed the rising cases as a “blip” and told residents not to be afraid.
“I know we’ve had a lot of different blips,” DeSantis said. “We’re now at a higher blip than where we were in May and the beginning of June.”
Florida does not disclose the number of hospitalized COVID patients — but about 50 Florida hospitals reported their intensive care units reached full capacity this week.