Governor Ron DeSantis to allow all youth activities and summer camps to reopen as pandemic continues

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Governor Ron DeSantis announced Friday that all youth activities would be allowed to reopen in the state of Florida, citing research showing that children have a lower risk of contracting and acting as vectors of COVID-19.

“I am pleased to announce today that effective immediately, Florida will lift all restrictions on youth activities, including summer camps and athletics. meaning based on data and observed experience,” DeSantis said. “We’re not going to institute a lot of rules, or really any rules.”

The governor said the decision to reopen these activities stemmed from parents’ ability to make the best decisions for their children’s health as the summer months approach.

[READ MORE: Here’s what schools could look like when they reopen as the COVID-19 pandemic continues]

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“At the end of the day, we trust parents to be able to make decisions in conjunction with doctors, community leaders and coaches so that we can do these activities in a safe way, but I think our children no longer participated in organized activities. for a few months now and I think we need to have a pathway to get it back,” DeSantis said.

The governor said he based his decisions in part on data indicating that children have a lower risk of contracting and developing a severe case of COVID-19.

“When you look at how the virus has affected the state of Florida, here are some interesting statistics,” DeSantis said. “We in the state of Florida have not seen any deaths under the age of 25 throughout the pandemic. We also observed more total deaths for people aged 90 or over than the total number of deaths for those under 65 combined. »

News 6 could not independently verify these statistics provided by the governor.

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Although fewer children have died from COVID-19, health experts say they face additional complications after being infected with another disease called “multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children”.

According to news partner Florida Today, Florida’s Surgeon General has acknowledged that a syndrome that attacks children and is associated with COVID-19 has surfaced in Florida, adding yet another critical layer to diagnosing and treating the disease. .

MIS-C manifests in people younger than 21 who are positive for COVID-19 or have antigens or who have been exposed to COVID-19 within four weeks before the onset of symptoms.

[RELATED: Florida has cases of child illness linked to COVID-19]

News 6 spoke with emergency physician Rajiv Bahl, MD, who said it was too soon for the children to start playing together and going on dates.

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“While children should stay indoors and also practice social distancing, many parents are beginning to wonder if it is acceptable to relax restrictions on children. As difficult as it is, to make social distancing truly effective, there shouldn’t be any playdates yet,” Bahl said. “As more data and information comes out about the virus, children, including those who are very young, may develop symptoms of COVID-19 or the most recent complication, Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).”

[MORE: Playtime is over: Coronavirus experts say it’s too soon for children to have playdates]

However, Dr Bonnie White, a pediatrician with Ascension Medical Group, said at the press conference with the governor that she felt it was time for children to start socializing again.

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As the state slowly reopens its imperative not to forget the children. They have been home for 3 months without any social interaction,” White said. “But it is really important that we allow our children to socialize again. They need to see their friends. They need to be outside, running and being active. to be able to laugh with their friends and they need to explore and learn from all the talented teachers we have there.

White said when camps and activities reopen “obviously they have to follow the strict precautions that have been recommended.”

“Temperature checks for proper hand washing, possibly masks, social distancing as well as parental due diligence,” White said. “If your child is sick, stay home.”

the Orlando Science Center will host its popular STEM summer camps for kids, though the facility has yet to reopen to the general public.

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“Orlando Science Center is hearing from a number of caregivers who are truly grateful for a quality program where they can enroll their children,” said Jeff Stanford, the organization’s vice president of marketing.

When camp programs begin next month, Stanford said children and instructors will be required to wear masks until they separate into small groups, where social distancing practices will be enforced.

Staff will also check the temperature of attendees upon arrival and parents will have limited access to the building.

“We take health and safety very seriously, even before the pandemic,” said Stanford, who said the Orlando Science Center will follow guidelines set by the CDC and the American Camp Association.

For families who don’t yet feel comfortable sending their kids to a group program or can’t attend, the Orlando Science Center is also offering an online “virtual” summer camp.

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“We’re trying to make summer as normal as possible, but taking into account that it’s not a normal summer,” Stanford said.

Florida is still in “full phase one” of the governor’s plan to reopen the state, which has seen restrictions rolled back as more Floridians push to return to work.

Hair salons, nail salons, hair salons and gyms weren’t originally scheduled to reopen as part of the “first phase” of the governor’s plan, but after a pushback, DeSantis changed his guidelines.

“I think a lot of parents are going to be interested in their kids being able to participate in activities, but at the same time it’s a parental decision, no parent is forced to have their child, if you don’t feel not comfortable doing it, so don’t do it, and that’s fine,” DeSantis said. “And I think parents are in the best position to make those decisions.”

On Friday, the Florida Department of Health reported 49,451 total cases of COVID-19 in the state since the disease was first detected in Florida on March 1. The FDOH also reports a total of 2,190 deaths from the respiratory disease.

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