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Despite the spike in Coronavirus cases, Florida says all schools must reopen in August

The state on Monday issued an emergency order requiring all "brick-and-mortar" schools to reopen full-time starting next month.

Despite the spike in Coronavirus cases, Florida says all schools must reopen in August
Image Source: Getty/Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (C), seated next to Mayor of Miami-Dade Carlos A. Gimenez (R), speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus held at the Pan American Hospital on July 07, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Rae

Amid mounting pressure from the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' office said last week that the state would finally begin reporting daily hospitalization data for all 67 counties. However, as of Tuesday, the state was yet to make good on the promise—a fact DeSantis refused to address at an indoor press conference held at Florida's 12th COVID-only nursing facility near Miami International Airport. "Obviously not everything is presented in this report but just an unbelievable amount of data is available," he responded to a Miami Herald reporter's question about the daily numbers.



According to the Herald, the governor also refused to respond to a follow-up question from CNN correspondent Rosa Flores about why the state chooses not to publish the daily hospitalization data. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez—who was seated beside DeSantis at the Tuesday press conference—ordered hospitals in the county to report patient admissions, ICU capacity, ventilator inventory, and any other data since April 4. These numbers hold great significance in the fight against the pandemic as public health experts measure the intensity of the disease at any given time and the potential strain on hospital systems by monitoring the number of people entering hospitals each day for COVID-19.



Florida, however, only has the Agency for Health Care Administration reporting daily hospital bed capacity and the state Department of Health reporting the total number of patients admitted to hospitals during the course of the pandemic so far—not the number of people actively in a hospital at any given time. "They have so much raw data on there," DeSantis said on Tuesday, flipping through the health department’s daily report. "It’s really incredible... people do the charts and the graphs and everything. That’s all available for folks and they are able to do it."



Meanwhile, on Monday, the state issued an emergency order requiring all "brick-and-mortar" schools to reopen full-time starting next month. According to NPR, Education Commissioner Richard Corcora said in the order that Florida schools must be open "at least five days per week for all students" and provide all services required by law, including in-person instruction "so that families who wish to educate their children in a brick and mortar school full time have the opportunity to do so."







The order—that is "subject to advise and orders" from state and local health departments and other executive orders—also requires schools to provide specialized instruction for students with Individualized Education Programs or remote instruction that enables interaction with a student's teacher and peers. Educators' reaction to the order has been divided. Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, called the order "fair and measured," noting that "it allows for different instructional models, traditional schoolhouse as well as other innovative options; and guarantees fiscal stability during a highly-unpredictable time, the first quarter of the year."



However, the Florida Education Association—the state's largest teachers union—expressed concern about the state order. Union President Fedrick Ingram explained that while no one wants schools to open more than the teachers, they want the reopening plan to be focused on science rather than economic interests. "We also want to ensure the safety of everyone who is in our public schools. We're going to have to listen to the voices of those public health officials from the federal government and from our state government," he said.



"We are hoping that as Florida pushes through this virus that is ravaging throughout our state, with our cases being diagnosed on thousands across the state a day, that our commissioner of education and our governor are being guided by scientific knowledge, more so than the economy," Ingram added. He also revealed that the order has raised anxiety among teachers since it doesn't outline measures to ensure the safety of staff and students. "It does not give a detailed account of what schools are expected to have," he said. "How much we're going to be able to clean schools, cleaning stations, how do we adhere to the social distancing, mask-wearing from students and our teachers? There's a lot to be desired as it relates to a particular plan, but we have not seen that yet. So there's a lot of angst from teachers across the state."


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