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President of Orange County teachers union says DeSantis and surgeon general are playing Russian roulette with the lives of students and staff

Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks last Tuesday after being introduced by Gov. Ron DeSantis as Florida's new surgeon general. Image: The Florida Channel
Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks last Tuesday after being introduced by Gov. Ron DeSantis as Florida's new surgeon general. Image: The Florida Channel

Florida's surgeon general -- newly appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis -- has issued a new rule preventing schools from requiring that students exposed to COVID-19 undergo quarantine, unless they have symptoms.

Dr. Joseph Ladapo leaves it up to the parents.

People do spread the virus without symptoms, and the CDC recommends quarantine for close contacts who are unvaccinated.

WMFE's Joe Byrnes spoke with Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, about this new loosening of COVID-19 precautions.

DOROMAL: We're stunned and very concerned. We consider this really a reckless action by the newly appointed surgeon general, and it certainly will harm students, school employees and the community at large.

So, Orange County Public Schools -- this year we've seen 6,567 positive COVID-19 cases. That's just in August and September. That's more cases than the 6,530 positive cases that we were reporting for the entire first eight months of the last school year. Already we know we have more protections in place, not less. And that's just not what we're seeing in our schools.

WMFE: I wanted to ask you about what you're hearing from the teachers themselves.

DOROMAL: So teachers are stumped. They are already dismayed because we don't have the enforceable protections with a signed memorandum of understanding we had last year, basic things. Not every child can be vaccinated. And to lower the standard this much and endanger people this much is stunning to them. So we're worried that we're going to see more teachers leave because they have compromised immune systems, or a medical condition or they have someone in their family to go home to with a medical condition. We're worried that more parents are going to pull their children out from school, but teachers think this is very dangerous.

WMFE: One of the thoughts I had about this is how stressful this must be for teachers. Are you hearing about that?

DOROMAL: We are hearing about that. And we just recently, two days ago, put out a new survey to teachers, to gauge ... what's happening related to COVID in the school where they are, how they feel. Do they feel safe? And we're seeing a lot of concern.

WMFE: What's the next step for the union, in dealing with this?

DOROMAL: So we are going to file a proposal. We are looking at legal action. We are at a loss because we're in a state where the governor and surgeon general are playing Russian roulette with the health and lives of students, employees and the community at large. And this newly appointed surgeon general has not even been confirmed by the state Senate. He's been licensed to practice in Florida for only two weeks. And it's clearly a political agenda and that the governor are hired him to push his own political agenda, but we clearly do not believe we should be playing politics with people's lives and people's health. And we are investigating all the action we can take.

WMFE: Wendy, thank you so much for talking with me.

DOROMAL: Of course, thank you for having me. I hope it helps, because we're really desperate,. We are ... parents are panicked, teachers are panicked, and it's like the last straw.

That was Wendy Doromal, president of the teachers union in Orange County, speaking with WMFE's Joe Byrnes.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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