Florida County Health Departments Gagged by DeSantis.

It is shocking the lengths Gov. DeSantis will go to open schools even when science may not support the decision. DeSantis can’t order schools to reopen, Florida School Boards make that decision. But DeSantis has claimed that school boards can’t make that decision without the health department’s approval.  DeSantis runs the County health Departments. Typically, school boards take recommendations from their local county health directors.  School boards have relied on recommendations from health directors for years about such things as measles, tuberculosis and the flu. But in a turnabout DeSantis told his county health directors not to give their opinion if asked whether schools could reopen safely. He directed them to only provide guidelines on how to reopen.

In the middle of the worst pandemic in American history and with their jobs presumedly at risk, County Health Directors at the direction of the Governor could not tell school board members whether they believed their local schools could reopen safely.

The Palm Beach Post found, “The heath directors’ refusal to guide educators through the roiling school-reopening debate stemmed directly from a directive by Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, DeSantis’ appointee to oversee the Department of Health and its county offices,.”

Rivkees appointed by DeSantis had a difficult appoint process due to concerns about his qualifications regarding public health. After his appointment, according to the Florida Phoenix “Rivkees was criticized about the department’s lack of transparency when it came to releasing information about people in Florida being tested for the coronavirus-related disease known as COVID-19.”

“Yes, we always advise them what to do. They call us every time there is an outbreak,” Dr. Claude Dharamraj, who served as Pinellas County’s health director from 2006 to 2015, said of the public schools. “Schools are educators; they are not health experts. They have nowhere else to turn but us.”

Now lacking any guidance from county health directors about whether it was safe to open their schools, many school boards were concerned.

“When we voted to reopen schools, I’ll be honest and tell you I did it because we are under an executive order to do so,” Marc Dodd, a school board member in Lake County, said last week. “Do I think they’re safe? Absolutely not.”

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