MIAMI (AP) — Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Monday that schools will be required to remain open despite the rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, arguing lockdowns and closures have not worked.
DeSantis also said the state was not considering any further restrictions on businesses that could lead to layoffs or financial loss.
DeSantis said countries like Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland all kept children in schools with positive outcomes, and argued that some studies show the virus can spread more when children don’t go to school because they socialize off campus. DeSantis criticized those who are pushing again for closures as cases rise.
“Closing schools due to coronavirus is probably the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” he said at a news conference. “People who advocate closing schools for virus mitigation are effectively today’s flat-earthers.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the spread of the virus among children “is not really very big at all” and is now advising to get children back in the classrooms.
The governor said schools will continue to offer online classes for families who have chosen not to physically return, but school districts will require students who have fallen behind in the virtual mode to go back in person.
“The virtual learning is not the same as being in person,” DeSantis said.
Florida has seen cases rise again, now totaling more than 990,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began earlier this year. More than 18,700 people have died with COVID-19 since March.
The governor acknowledged the rise in cases, but said a surge in other states is more concerning. He also compared the current COVID-19 hospitalizations at 4,100 to about 10,000 reported in the summer.
“We’ve seen cases increase but look at all the other states that are seeing them increase way, way more,” DeSantis said. “If you look at the per-capita hospitalizations, we are not even close to the top of the stuff. So I think people should put it in perspective.”