Fabiola Santiago: With his latest school rules, Florida's Gov. DeSantis is writing the book on COVID quackery

Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald on

Published in Op Eds

Welcome to Florida’s weekly show of COVID-19 quackery, with Gov. Ron DeSantis taking center stage.

We’ve got a lot to unpack since the ambitious DeSantis is completely out of the closet now, shamelessly peddling disinformation debunked by leading infectious-disease experts and those pesky know-it-all “disease detectives,” the epidemiologists.

His latest, despicable COVID order makes attending school even riskier for vulnerable, unvaccinated children. Yes, he went there again, then stooped even lower.

DeSantis wants our children infected with the highly contagious and deadly delta variant — and whatever comes next. Because with leaders like this Republican, who want free-flowing COVID to achieve the discredited so-called “herd immunity,” there will be a next and a next.

DeSantis is COVID’s best friend, not our children’s.

Quarantine optional

Not content with bullying local school districts that have high numbers of COVID-19 infection like Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Florida’s emperor has now decreed that it’s up to parents whether or not to quarantine their asymptomatic children after they’ve been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19.

Who’s he trying to fool?

Everyone knows parents desperate for daycare — and who have nothing to lose because their child may already be infected — will choose to send their possibly COVID-positive children to school.

The same thing happens during flu season — and the trail of sickness it leaves is a never-ending cycle of misery. COVID-19 is worse; it can cause severe illness in children and adolescents, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warns.

Debunked immunity theory

Aiding and abetting DeSantis is his new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who quickly wiped out the rule that required students to quarantine off-campus at least four days after exposure to COVID-19.

DeSantis went shopping for a flake who supports his deflated natural-immunity theory — and found him in Lapado because the medical profession isn’t exempt from oddballs.

“Quarantining healthy students is incredibly damaging for their educational advancement,” DeSantis said at a Wednesday news conference in Kissimmee, claiming he cares. “It’s also disruptive for families. We are going to be following a symptoms-based approach.”

It’s humbuggery.

Asymptomatic people are super spreaders, precisely because they look like they’re not sick when they’re carrying the virus. A recent University of Chicago Medicine study using a mathematical model and testing surveillance data concluded that more than 50% of community transmission is from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases.


But DeSantis never met science he couldn’t discard, especially if doing so makes it more difficult for the Biden administration to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. With DeSantis, the motive is always political.

COVID-19 politics in Florida

If President Biden stamps out COVID with life-saving vaccines and other public-safety measures that also keep the economy running, that scenario is bad for Republican politics going into the 2022 midterms.

And that’s more important than our children’s health in DeSantis World.

Vaccines didn’t bother DeSantis when he was handing them out to wealthy donors when they were only available to the elderly, and certainly not when he was using them to travel the state taking credit for getting them to Floridians under Donald Trump.

But now they’re a question of “freedom” under Biden — so he’s pushing the talking point that the federal government is ignoring the benefits of natural immunity against COVID-19 reinfections.

“You can’t tell noble lies to try to get [people] to behave in a way that you think you want them to behave in. And so we see that time and time again in this issue of natural immunity,” DeSantis said in that rambling style of his at the Tuesday press conference where he introduced like-minded Lapado, who opposes mask and vaccine mandates.

In Lapado, a physician and health-policy researcher whose controversial positions have been widely rejected as misguided and dangerous by most of his medical peers, DeSantis has found his court jester.

And, in Biden, he’s found a skilled opponent. Biden’s Education Department began Thursday compensating Florida school board members whose pay DeSantis’ administration docked this month for defying the governor’s ban on mask mandates.

Making schools safer is the point, not DeSantis’ epic policy failures.

It’s telling that Florida, at one point this summer, saw more hospitalizations and deaths than any other state in the country, except for Texas, also led by Republican extremists. He may be governor, but DeSantis is no better than the uninformed tool one encounters now and then evangelizing about not wearing masks and not vaccinating.

And he’s no better than the guy DeSantis featured in a Gainesville press conference falsely claiming that the vaccine alters your RNA. But now we know why the governor stood silently by and let the Alachua County employee spread misinformation.

He, too, endorses and publicly spews untruths that undermine public safety in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

With Lapado, DeSantis is co-authoring the book on COVID quackery.


©2021 Miami Herald. Visit at miamiherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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