More Victories for Florida and DeSantis -- School Data Shows Lowered COVID Activity

AP Photo/Phil Sears, File

This is only considered good news, which means the press can only see it in a negative light. 

While being scorched in the media and even challenged in the courts by teachers’ unions, the plan installed by Governor Ron DeSantis for reopening the schools across the state of Florida has been a success. Parents who wanted children back in social settings and students in the most need of personal guidance have been given the chances they asked for, and the results have been only positive across the board. Now, data is supporting this decision as well.

During the pandemic, the media have been operating in a paradox. While members of the press declare the need to keep the public informed and adhering to the principles of science and medicine — all in the name of safety — they behave in the opposite fashion, politicizing pandemic details and doing what is needed to keep their mask-mandates and lockdowns in effect. Often this was done while ignoring or even defying the science. 

This tactic is now further exposed with the continuing good news coming out of Florida. The Wall Street Journal has a new report that shows the schools in the state have not become the dangerous incubators of COVID outbreaks as the unions and many in the press had promised. This becomes the latest example of the proper handling of the pandemic from the state that defies becoming a super spreader hotspot and serves as another reason for Ron DeSantis to maintain his aggressive defensive approach with the media.   

DeSantis arranged for the schools to be reopened last fall, with options provided and numerous safeguards put into place in the name of blunting a viral spread. By January, even more restrictions on schools were taken down, and the results have been more than encouraging; they are defying almost all predictions. There have been few — if any — major outbreaks seen in schools, and the case rates have been shown to be lower than in the locations of the schools themselves.

Florida consistently has had lower rates of Covid-19 in schools than in the community at large, according to a data dashboard created by Brown University, data company Qualtrics and others. In the last two weeks of February, the daily case rate per 100,000 people was 22 among students and 15 among school staff, compared with 27 in the community, according to the data. In earlier periods going back to October, the student and staff rates were almost always less than half the community rate.

To make this even more impressive, this data predates the expansion of vaccine availability. The next phase of qualification has been cleared and for the past couple of weeks, teachers were included in the next category of priority to receive the vaccines. These figures defy most predictions that were intoned at the start of reopening schools, leading to DeSantis opponents even willing to grudgingly admit to the success.

School reopenings ended up being safer than many feared, said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, a teachers union that unsuccessfully sued Florida to try to stop the executive order. 

Of course, this position means that there still needs to be a voice of doom attached to the good news. 

But he criticized the state for failing to enforce federal guidelines on mask mandates and air ventilation, and not giving priority to school employees for Covid-19 vaccines. “Every day in the state of Florida, thousands of students are impacted by Covid in some fashion, like quarantine or being exposed,” Mr. Spar said. “Those disruptions to the learning process are very real.”

This can only be spoken if one believes that keeping schools shuttered and submitting to sub-par virtual learning was not a disruption to the learning process. That was something that affected every single student.

Amazingly, there were comments from the superintendent in my own home county, Broward, which are actually in support of the program. Robert Runcie, who is a Barack Obama acolyte, noted that a significant number of students who had opted to stay home initially were falling behind. With the January threshold of provoking most students to return it has been a rewarding move, and this has Runcie delivering an endorsement that teachers unions across the country should heed.

If we’ve been able to successfully open without any major outbreaks in our schools,” in a county with high infection rates, Mr. Runcie said, “I believe that it can be done nationwide.”

While teachers in other states are finding more reasons to demand schools remain closed, one thing they are also finding out — the science and data are no longer on their side.