Nov 30, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript November 30
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on November 30. He announced that schools will remain open amid the rise in COVID-19 cases. Read the transcript here.
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Governor DeSantis: (00:00)
I think tellingly, even as Europe recently experienced a very, very sharp outbreak in countries like France and Switzerland and Belgium, closing schools was simply off the table as a viable response. Some, like France, chose to shut down businesses. Others like Switzerland didn’t do that. No one was talking about closing schools. And I think that that is reflective of what the evidence has shown us.
Governor DeSantis: (00:33)
As we stand here today, people who advocate closing schools for virus mitigation are effectively today’s flat earthers. They have no scientific or evidence support for their position. Now, here, when the commissioner did his initial order over the summer, we were working with school districts. We thought really two things. One, we had to provide students and parents the option to return to in-person instruction. We did, I’d say as good a job as any state in the country with virtual learning in April and May, and we’ve put resources into it. It’s something that we focused on, but there was no way you could look at the results. All you had to do is talk to a teacher. They all said the same thing, that it was not the same and that kids were falling behind. We needed to give parents the ability to get their kids back in school. We also wanted to preserve their ability to remain virtual if that’s what they were comfortable with.
Governor DeSantis: (01:39)
The other thing we wanted to do is to recognize that the school districts were facing unique challenges in the environment that we were in. And we wanted to provide them with flexibility. We wanted to provide protection for their funding, and we wanted to make sure that we were giving them the tools they need to be able to succeed. And so, I think that we’ve had a lot of people perform very well. No one can look at … it’s not just Florida, people who worked very hard here, they worked hard other places. And you go back and look at that debate over the summer, some of the things that were said. I remember when Baker County was one of the first school districts to open. We had Good Morning America showing up in little old Baker County trying to say that, “These yokel Floridians are putting kids back into school, what’s going to happen?”
Governor DeSantis: (02:27)
And so we kind of got beyond the politics of it, but that’s really what it was. It was not an evidence-based debate. It was really about a political debate. We cut through that. We were able to get the kids back in school. The vast, vast majority of parents have opted to put their kids in person. And I think the superintendent will tell you that tends to increase as people see the success that’s happened and really how much happier our kids are that they have the ability to do some of these things.
Governor DeSantis: (02:58)
I have parents every time I’m out, someone will come up to me and say, “When my daughter got back in school, things got so much better.” And I think you see that all across the state. And I also think that obviously the schooling and the academics is paramount, but we also had a debate over the athletic season. There was a movement to try to shut down athletics for high school in the state of Florida, just like there was in other states and many other states still have no athletics like California and some of these other ones. You had Prudential people saying there was going to be all these problems.
Governor DeSantis: (03:34)
Again, that’s not what the evidence told us. So we thought it was really important to be able to provide those opportunities for our young people. I’ve been proud to be able to attend several football games this fall. So we attended a volleyball game up in Hernando County and we intend to do some more. My wife and I think it’s very important. Brought my daughter to her first high school football game on Friday. She wants to go back, she really had fun. Everyone treated her very well. But just things like that. If you were in some of these other states, you would be totally shut down from being able to participate in some of these things. And yet we see this has been good for the kids to be able to do it. We haven’t seen any major problems. And so I want to thank Commissioner Corcoran for his work.
Governor DeSantis: (04:19)
I want to thank superintendent Mike Greco, who is familiar in this neck of the woods, he’s doing a great job in Pinellas County. Superintendent Debra Pace has done a great job. We worked with them, I remember talking, Mike was out preparing, Debra was as well. They really worked hard as well as all of our superintendents and administrators. So I want to thank them for their work over these last many months. Also want to say a special thanks to all of our teachers. You listened to some of the debate and there are certain organized interests that had certain perspectives on this. But the vast majority of teachers in the state of Florida wanted to get back in the classroom and they understood how important it was. They understood what it meant for their student’s future. And this is what drove them to do it. They’re passionate about the kids’ futures and they’ve worked very hard.
Governor DeSantis: (05:11)
It was very difficult to do virtual and then have to come back in a little bit different environment here. So I just want to say, thanks. It’s been very, very important to the wellbeing and the development of so many kids throughout the State of Florida to have a teacher that they look up to in the classroom over these many trying months. And finally, thanks to all the parents out there. It’s not been easy when you’re having to juggle virtual learning to get thrust into that. If you look back in March, the second week of March, you had people like faculty telling people to go on a cruise. All of a sudden the world changed like the next week. So it was a pretty dramatic shift and it’s not easy. And I really felt that one, the schooling in person was good for its own sake for the kids.
Governor DeSantis: (05:59)
But I also understood, particularly for single parents, a lot of single working moms that have to put food on the table, that if you have to do that and be a teacher or be supervising the virtual was very, very difficult. And so we understood what was happening with a lot of the parents. We understood how trying it was. And so we understood, well, this would be good for the students first and foremost.
Governor DeSantis: (06:24)
It would relieve a burden on parents under very, very stressful times, but I just want to thank them for hanging in there. I know it was difficult over those months in the spring, and we think that things are going in a much better direction now. So I’m going to let commissioner Corcoran come up, go a little bit more in detail about the updated emergency order. But we really believe that that this is something that’s really, really important. And we just thought it was important, one, that the school districts kind of had their roadmap as they submit their plans. But also as you see news of this area shutting down a school or this, that parents in Florida would know, we’re going to have our schools open. We understand it’s very important.
Comissioner Cocoran: (07:11)
Thank you governor. I want to echo just a couple of the points that the governor did say. And I think it’s important because we’re a hundred days into what Florida actually led the entire nation in getting our kids back into school and making sure that instruction was available and giving parents that choice. And so it wasn’t that far along ago where, and I think superintendent Grego said it best in a letter and that is we should all be thankful for the sure, strong and fact-driven leadership from Governor DeSantis. You have other governors out there who spend pandemic time writing books, and we have one, thankfully, that is reading and studying the data and looking at what’s happening in other countries. And it’s so important as that as a backdrop, because education, you look around this elementary school and you see all the quotes. But education is distinctly that thing that makes us human beings.
Comissioner Cocoran: (08:12)
And it is that thing that gives us dignity. And that’s such a powerful concept and word. And if you’re going to take that and Rob that from our school children, that threshold has to be really, really high, and it has to be 100% certain. And we had none of that going back into the throes of the summer. And when the governor announced we’re going to have face-to-face instruction, we’re going to open schools. And there’s just this litany of outcry unscientific, non-fact driven and not even taking the time to read the research that was out there, the studies that the governor has quoted, whether it’s Iceland or other ones. And now we move forward a hundred days and now the studies are coming out. Everyone’s like, “Okay.” Even these national epidemiological experts, back 120 days ago. “It’s too soon to open schools.”
Comissioner Cocoran: (09:03)
“It’ll cause community spread.” And now they’re saying, “Open the schools, close everything else.” And how can you be respected in a sense when you’re making opinions that are 180 degrees different from what you said, just days earlier? And so to be able to push through that and push through the rhetoric of we were leading kids into some sort of death march, and when the reality is the opposite was true. And now you have a study, Jama just wrote about it, where if this is an elementary school. So if you take elementary students in the nation 24, give or take, million students now they’re saying, and this was schools only being closed for about 50 some days or 11 weeks. And they’re saying that’s five and a half days of life that could have been lost from those 50 days. Loss of like, 5 and a half million days of life, just for elementary school kids.
Comissioner Cocoran: (09:55)
And yet just Willy nilly. People are saying, “Just shutdown the schools.” And yet here in Florida, thanks to the governor. We had the governor, he had our office, he had his own staff digging through every single study, every single research, working in partnership and collaboration, every step of the way with our superintendents. And we had the opening in the fall supported by all 67 superintendents. Only one entity out there sued us and that entity today a hundred days later is begging us to continue to do what we did so well. I just say that as a backdrop, because it’s important that when you’re dealing with children’s lives and you’re dealing with human beings being who they are, and you’re dealing with dignity, you should not just emotionally Willy nilly, without scientific evidence, put them in harm’s way, which was what was happening, absent a governor who was willing to stand in the gap.
Comissioner Cocoran: (10:51)
And I think that needs to be said. I also want to, before I get a little bit into the order, the association of superintendents, Kurt Browning, and now Mike Grego, Debra Pace, obviously, there has been very few days I could think of where we have not, our offices staff’s been in constant communication. What you’re seeing in this order today, as much as I’d like to say it was something that we came up with, our staff came up with, it was working in collaboration with them, but these are their ideas, because they’re on the ground. And they’re seeing what’s happening with students. They’re seeing who’s in jeopardy, who’s in this different mode. And so all of these changes that we’ve had made were really recommendations with a heartfelt thank you to the Association of Superintendents, because these are their ideas on the ground.
Comissioner Cocoran: (11:40)
Seeing, talking to their teachers, talking to their parents. This is how we can improve the executive or emergency order. And so that those are the improvements. But basically it’s, again, as the governor said, we have the full parental choice. Continue maintain all of those things in the initial emergency order of schools have to be open, face-to-face instruction has to be offered. Continue with the progress monitoring so that we can make sure that we’re not losing these children. And if we are losing them, new additions, thanks to the superintendents is as the governor said, if you’re a parent and you’re in a mode and the districts are saying to you that your child’s not doing well in that mode, then we want you to move them out of that mode into another mode. And if the parent, maybe they have health concerns or reasons.
Comissioner Cocoran: (12:21)
But as you heard from the superintendents, the growth in our enrollment, in face-to-face instruction every day grows. And as a state, this is an astounding stat. We’re up, give or take 17,000 students year over year, more students in our schools than in the previous year, because we even have parents who have dual residences and now they’ve made for another home because our schools are open and they have that face-to-face opportunity. And so we’re seeing that growth. But when we see that that mode’s not working for that child and that parent, we want them to move into a different mode. Or if that parent, as the governor said, says, “No, I’m going to keep them in that mode.” Then we do something even more for all of those kids that we’re looking at and we’re seeing that at risk, the-
Comissioner Cocoran: (13:03)
… something even more. For all of those kids that we’re looking at, were seen at risk, the superintendents, we’re going to do massive interventions and in the order we talk about. Who is it that needs the interventions? Where, when, how are you going to do it? All of that. They’re going to submit plans to us. In fact, Superintendent Pace has already given some great ideas in her plan that she’s shared with the district that we love, a tweak here and there. But if you have these kids in virtual, trying to get them more and more into that face-and-face instruction because we know it works.
Comissioner Cocoran: (13:31)
Then we have the financial stability. If you are a growth county, 24 of our counties had growth in student population, and so we reward them with full funding. For the districts that were not having growth or below growth, what we did was we took everybody, put them into the pool, and spread that loss among everybody. I think the total is like $17 million among all the counties, which is staggering considering what it could have been.
Comissioner Cocoran: (13:56)
The Governor was very gracious working with the superintendents. We had excess funds from a turnaround that were unspent. That was poured into mitigate some of the losses to the folks below the line. So it’s a total of $17 million, but we still have, I want to say almost $500 million in unspent CARES funds for the districts that they’re going to be able to plug those holes. So it’s going to be a complete victory across the board for all 67 counties.
Comissioner Cocoran: (14:20)
When you think if we didn’t make these changes, if we just went back to the statute as it existed, there could be $3 billion worth of losses for the districts. If we said that all of those folks who were just virtual and not in these innovative distance plans, it was almost a billion dollars worth of losses. So to be able to have these innovations, have these improvements, and only have $17 million spread among the districts. But having that CARES money to backfill it is just a great opportunity for us to continue to work with our parents, work with our teachers, work with our administration, the whole school family to again be number one in the nation in the delivery of education for our school children.
Comissioner Cocoran: (15:04)
Because it is that what all the great philosophers would say, “You want to know what your future looks like as a state? You want to know what your future looks like as a country? Show me how you’re educating your youth, and I will tell you the future.” Well, in Florida thanks to the great leadership of Governor DeSantis, we are educating our youth better than any other state, and that’s a great day. So I want to thank all of you guys for your participation. Superintendent Pace…
Superintendent Pace: (15:30)
Thank you. Thank you, Governor DeSantis. Thank you, Commissioner Corcoran, for your amazing, strong leadership and your advocacy for students, and families, and teachers, and principals all across the state, particularly here in the school district of Osceola County. Not only have you studied the science, but you’ve listened to the concerns that we brought to you, the ideas that we shared about how we can make learning better for the kids here in the State of Florida.
Superintendent Pace: (15:54)
We do know that learning happens best in a classroom with a caring teacher, surrounded by their peers, but we also know that that’s not the right option for some of our families. Some students who’ve been successful in the digital learning world, so we’re very, very appreciative of being able to continue to offer that option. To be able to rest at night with a little bit more fiscal stability than we otherwise would have had. Again, we just greatly appreciate your leadership, your advocacy, your passion for making learning a priority here in the State of Florida. So thank you.
Speaker 1: (16:33)
Thank you so much for being here, Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran, and for this announcement, the very important announcement. As president of the Superintendents’ Association, I can say to you that I am thrilled that the Commissioner of Education and the Governor reaches out to each of us as an Association, to FADS, and asks our opinion. That’s not always been the case, so I just want to publicly say thank you.
Speaker 1: (16:58)
These are difficult times. These are unprecedented times. The fact that we have leaders who reach out to ask about, as the Commissioner has said, “What is it like on the front line? What and how can we help you?” Means all the difference in the world. It makes all the difference in the world and will get us through these times.
Speaker 1: (17:15)
I also want to thank specifically the Governor for championing public education. That is, as you’ll see in the emergency order, that the opportunities for families has been mentioned many a times to have choices. Families who are desperate in the needs of bringing and returning their students back to our schools, and also families with conditions that have had to stay out and work remotely. I want to say thank you because we’ve led as a state with safety. We’ve led with safety foremost to our students, and to our faculties, to our teachers, to our parents, and others. We’ve listened to them.
Speaker 1: (17:55)
I also want to say thank you for allowing… It’s been said several times, but you’ll see the importance of this as districts will, the fiscal stability of our districts. At a time in this country where very little is fiscally stable, our Governor and our state is providing stability to our school districts. We serve just under 3 million pre-K through 12 students. This is critical in this time. Thank you for also providing the schools and appropriately funding those districts that have had growth and also by prorating the districts that need to be prorated by. I can tell you as a district that would have been hit very heavily in a decrease of enrollment, the proration share of this is minuscule, very small to do that. With the CARES Act, as the Commissioner mentioned, is truly a win-win situation for us.
Speaker 1: (18:54)
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the order though, is the accountability section for the academic achievement of our students. That is we need to be brutally honest, caring, loving, nurturing, compassionate with our parents and our students. But we need to be honest with how their student, how their scholars are doing. If they’re not doing well, we need to establish an educational plan for each and every student. We need to have that as more of a contract as you’ll see in this order.
Speaker 1: (19:25)
I want to end as president of FADS and Association by thanking the Governor. Because I think through this pandemic, we’ve lost sight that we have had a historic increase in teacher salaries. This past year, this past session $500 million went to starting teacher’s salaries. At a time where teachers really truly needed in this profession, needs it to boost the importance of teacher education, and to boost the importance of young people to go into this profession.
Speaker 1: (19:59)
So it is also a time, where I think everyone in this state would have understood our Governor by backing up and maybe re-establishing different priorities, but he didn’t. For that, and for the profession, I certainly truly want to say thank you on behalf of all of our teachers, and our districts, and our superintendents. Thank you so much for your leadership.
Governor DeSantis: (20:23)
Well, it seems like a long time ago we were fighting for that teacher pay increase. I mean, a lot’s happened since then, but it was something that we thought was important. I know Richard was really involved in saying, “Okay, what do we need to do?” Well, obviously you want to reward great teachers, but you also want to get people to come into teaching that may have other options. Not that it’s all about money, but it certainly helps. So we’re what fifth in the country now for average minimum salary? Which I think’s important.
Governor DeSantis: (20:52)
So we were able to navigate a very difficult budget situation. I did a record vetoes of a billion dollars. But I went into it saying we were going to preserve the gains that we made because it really was a historic step forward, and we were able to do that. So we’re happy that we were able to do it. We obviously are going to want to preserve it in this legislative session. I mean, we’ll see these budget numbers come in and not… I think we’ve done better each and every month than was forecasted over the last four or five months. I think we’ll continue to see that, so we want to keep that momentum going.
Governor DeSantis: (21:27)
But again, thanks to everyone who’s working in our school systems, our school districts, the other schools that we have. Thanks to the teachers, and thanks to those parents who have had to endure a lot. So I really think that we’ve done it the right way. We’re going to continue doing it with some minor adjustments that will, I think, help ensure more accountability. I’m looking forward to the strong finish for this fall semester and then a very good spring semester. So it’s good that our parents and students have these opportunities here. With that, I’m happy to take some questions.
Cierra Putnam: (22:01)
Hi, Governor, Cierra Putman with WFTV in Orlando. Two questions for you. One, as cases have gone up, many people have wondered where have you been? Number two, are you working with local communities about how to curb the increase of cases? I know some local mayors have asked for a statewide mask mandate.
Governor DeSantis: (22:24)
So a couple of things, one, we’ve been doing a lot of work on preparing for the vaccine. The week before Thanksgiving, I went up to Washington, D.C. I think I’m the only governor that’s done this in the country, met with members of Operation Warp Speed. I met with the Secretary of HHS, CDC Director, other people at HHS to make sure that… Obviously, we want these effective vaccines approved. But they need to be distributed efficiently, and we need to be able to apply those.
Governor DeSantis: (22:56)
For me, we’re not going to have unlimited the first month. I think we pretty much will have one for every American within a few months though. If the J&J vaccine… See the Pfizer and the Moderna, you need a booster, so you need two shots. I just think Floridians should understand that. That as these initial vaccines roll out, if you’re kind of in those target groups that we’re going to try to get right off the bat, that you will need to get a booster. But I think as we get into the new year, if the J&J vaccine ends up being effective, which I think it will be, that’s one shot. So you’re going to be able to get that widely distributed.
Governor DeSantis: (23:29)
So we’ve been working very hard on that. The long-term care facilities, I think, are our big priority because that’s where 40% of the mortality nationwide has occurred for residents of long-term care facilities. Because they’re in congregate settings where the virus can spread more if it gets in. They’re obviously usually have two, three, four comorbidities and advanced age. So we’ve been working with CVS and Walgreens, who have contracts with the federal government, for them to go in and do this. Now, we obviously are going to decide where the vaccine’s initial allotment goes. But we really believe that that’s very, very important.
Governor DeSantis: (24:06)
So we’ve been working very, very hard on that, and I think it’s a game changer. We could potentially have out of 40 million doses by the end of the month, that’s 20 million people, Florida’s share would be at least a million, maybe as much as 2 million that we’ll be able to do. If you’re applying that on key areas, that’s going to make a big, big difference. So that has really been a big priority. We’re working very hard on that from the middle of November all the way until the present. We’re going to keep doing that. I may go back to D.C. here in the next couple days. We’ll see.
Governor DeSantis: (24:38)
Now, in terms of the cases, what was it seven-day average? We’re 44th in the country. So yes, we’ve seen cases increase, but look at all the other states that have seen it increase way, way more. So I hear people say, “Oh, well, Florida is open, and they’re having increased cases.” Well, okay, the states that are locked down are increasing at twice the rate we are. If you look at the per capita cases, in a lot of these states that have closed schools, businesses shuttered, some of them even post stay-at-home orders there, you see a huge increase in these cases.
Governor DeSantis: (25:13)
So we knew, and I mean, I think I said months ago, of course as the seasons change, we’re in respiratory season, you’re seeing it go. But I would say Florida is… Right now, in our hospitals, we have about 4,000 patients who are being treated for COVID who are COVID positive. At the summer, we were at almost 10,000 COVID-positive patients. If you look at the per capita hospitalizations, we’re not even close to the top of the stuff. So I just think people should put it in perspective.
Governor DeSantis: (25:46)
What I want to do is really work on this vaccine. I think personal mitigation that individuals have done have been effective. So people that are higher risk make choices about avoiding those situations that may be more conducive to viral spread, particularly if you’re in a close…
Governor DeSantis: (26:03)
Maybe more conducive to viral spread, particularly if you’re in a close contact, indoors with poor ventilation. I can tell you, these business closures have not worked to arrest the spread of the virus. If it was, you would not see what’s going on in many of these other states of the country. We really believe we’re going to continue to protect our most vulnerable.
Governor DeSantis: (26:22)
I just earmarked another half a million tests so that every visitor of a long-term care facility, all the contractors, staff, everyone has the ability. They can test to make sure. Because if we can get through the next few weeks without seeing more outbreaks in these facilities, we’re going to be basically where we need to be because that first dose, while it’s not protective forever, it does, we think, offer some protection. We think in a couple weeks, if we have shots going in, that’s going to offer protection for vulnerable people. They still need the booster to have the immunity be long-lasting.
Governor DeSantis: (26:57)
That’s something that’s very, very positive. We really want to focus on that. We also want to focus on continuing to work with our hospitals to make sure they have capacity. They have abundant capacity. If you look, influenza has dropped off the map. You’re not seeing influenza hospitalizations. We would start to see that now because we’re in the respiratory virus season. You’re just not seeing it. If you look at the ED visits overall, they’re down year over year from where they were for all causes.
Governor DeSantis: (27:26)
If you look at the hospital availability, I think this morning census… I looked. I think there was between 16 and 17,000 empty beds. Their census is lower than it was. There’s abundant capacity. That’s obviously been an important thing. Remember, the 15 days of slow the spread. No one thought you could eliminate the virus. No one thought there’d be zero cases. It was, don’t let hospitals be overcrowded, and then that obviously caused a lot of problems. We’re in really good shape there. We’ve helped get more therapeutics to the hospitals. I mean, earlier, it was the convalescent plasma and the Remdesivir, which I think is-
Speaker 2: (27:59)
Governor, I’m sorry.
Governor DeSantis: (27:59)
Speaker 2: (28:00)
Are you just going to continue with the way you’re going right now?
Governor DeSantis: (28:01)
Excuse me. I’m talking about what we’re doing. How much that affected, I’m not sure. We have two emergency-use authorizations for monoclonal antibodies that have happened over the last couple weeks. You have the Eli Lilly monoclonal, and then you have the Regeneron monoclonal. Florida hospitals are getting about 6,000 a week between the two of them. Those are really for people who are higher risk, 65 and up, or have two serious comorbidities. If they are infected and they present prior to really needing to be in intensive care, it’s a one hour IV treatment. We think it’s reducing hospital admissions. I think we’re going to need a couple more weeks to really understand that.
Governor DeSantis: (28:51)
That was one of the reasons I went to DC, to make sure that we got all the monoclonals to all our hospitals. They have the Eli Lilly. We think most of them have Regeneron now. Then we also have the drug that was used for rheumatoid arthritis that was given in EUA, to be used for hospitalized patients. That is being distributed by Eli Lilly as well. That’s going to continue to be something that we’re focused on.
Governor DeSantis: (29:16)
In terms of no lockdowns, no fines, no school closures… No one’s losing their job because of a government dictate. Nobody’s losing their livelihood or their business. That is totally off the table. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 3: (29:30)
Cierra Putnam: (29:35)
Virtual class is going to continue.
Governor DeSantis: (29:36)
Cierra Putnam: (29:36)
Governor DeSantis: (29:36)
Virtual class, yes.
Cierra Putnam: (29:37)
Virtual class is going to continue. The message today for you is that the school are ready to receive the student back to school. That’s the message that you’re going to say, that the school is ready to… the kids are back?
Governor DeSantis: (29:51)
Oh, yes, yes. Look, the message is, schools are open. If you see someplace in California, or Illinois, or New York closing schools, just parents need to have peace of mind. We’re going to be here for you in Florida. We are not going to abandon your child. We’re not going to abandon you. These school districts are not going to do that. We are still offering parents to make a choice. If they choose to do virtual, then they have the ability to opt for that. Look, there’s different reasons why you would do it.
Governor DeSantis: (30:21)
Personally, I think the studies have shown that a school-aged kid is more likely to get infected if they’re not in school than if they’re in school. I think that’s what the data shows, but we understand. It’s a tough time. Parents have different views on it, so we do. I think adding this wrinkle that says, if somebody is in virtual and they’re failing, and they’re falling behind, school’s got to reach out to that parent, lay it on the line for them, and just say, “Here’s what’s happening. This is not good. You need to send your kid back, or you have to affirmatively say you want to remain virtual.”
Governor DeSantis: (30:57)
Look, if a parent makes that decision, they make the decision. We just want to make sure that parents understand the progress is not going to be the same in 90% of the cases between virtual and between in-person instruction. We try to measure the academic progress, and I think everyone would admit it’s fallen behind. Also, just being a kid and being able to see your friends… That’s really been one of the biggest things about how happy a lot of the kids were to be back, to be able to have some semblance of normalcy where they’re not always isolated. I think that that’s really, really important. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 4: (31:36)
I have a question for Commissioner Corcoran actually. The funding per student… You said that fiscal stability is still there. If they choose the district version of virtual, does that funding stay? The FTEs stays the same as if they were in face-to-face? I think the answer is yes. I just wanted to make sure.
Comissioner Cocoran: (31:51)
Yes. We have virtual education. We have distance learning, which is the innovative options, and then you have the regular face-to-face instruction. It’s all the exact same as the first semester for the districts with the one little, is that we wanted to fund those 24 districts that had growth because clearly, they’re doing something right, whether it’s communication, whether it’s giving confidence about what they’re doing in terms of COVID. All of those things, but it led to growth. We want to fully fund those. That led to the $17 million for everyone below the line, all of them contributing in their pro-rata share. It’s a de minimis amount, as you heard from the superintendents, easily overcome by the ASTRO funds that we got as a result of the CARES package. I think apart from that little nuance, it’s the exact same as in the fall.
Speaker 4: (32:46)
Growth, meaning kids who came back face-to-face basically.
Comissioner Cocoran: (32:49)
Additional growth over your count. If you said we’re going to have 5,000 students and you have 7, we funded you for those extra 2,000 children.
Speaker 4: (32:57)
My second question, too, is when you say massive interventions for parents, when they hear that, what does that mean? Could parents or students find repercussions if they decide, “I know my student is struggling, but I do not want to send them back to that.”
Comissioner Cocoran: (33:11)
No. The governor’s been very clear, they have that choice. From day one, he has been completely adamant that we’re going to have full parental choice, and we’ve maintained full parental choice. From talking with the superintendents and then working with the parents, they’re frontline innovations, which we think are fantastic at the department. That is, if you have that parent, and their child is not doing well… We’re going to leave it to the districts. They’re going to submit by December 15th, their plans. We’ll look at them, but in those plans, we’re saying, who are we talking about? What kind of interventions are you going to do? When are you going to do those interventions? Are you going to continue those interventions into the summer? All of those things are going to be taken and looked at. You’re going to have all of these great superintendents pulling from each other’s great plans and saying, “I like what Deborah did there. I like what Mike did that.”
Comissioner Cocoran: (34:00)
We know by having that discipline to go through that exercise of getting those interventions, our goal is… I think Deborah said a year and a half of learning is the goal here. We’re not going to lose a child. We know from early prognostic patients from our last semester emergency order, looking at the trends and some of the progress monitoring, we’re seeing deeper losses in math than in ELA, but we’re going to get there. We’re going to catch them up. The way you do is you stay on top. In the CARES package, we sent down money to the districts to have a sort of the progress monitoring group who’s constantly tracking that data, saying, “Okay. Hey, this third grade class… We’ve got to pull up here. We got to do this.” we’re staying on top of it day by day, week by week, so that when we get to that end of the year, hopefully, we’ve caught them up. Hopefully, we don’t have losses. If we do, we’ll take it into the summer with those interventions.
Speaker 4: (34:59)
Are the interventions going to be the same statewide, or will the districts be able-
Comissioner Cocoran: (35:02)
No, the districts are going to submit plans. They’re going to submit plans to us. We’ll evaluate them. We’ll evaluate the reading content, the math content, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it. I mean, we’ve had these conversations with the superintendents going six weeks… I mean, ever since the first emergency order, we’ve been talking. “Okay, what are you seeing? What are the trends?” We have, as we know, the best superintendents in the country. Just as we did in the fall, I think we’re going to see fantastic strategies and interventions by the district. We’re going to make sure those best practices are spread around among everybody and get those kids to where they need to be.
Speaker 3: (35:37)
Health experts have said that-
Speaker 2: (35:37)
What happens if a child-
Speaker 3: (35:39)
Health experts have said that schools are a safe place if schools have really stringent health precautions in place. Is there anything in this order that says schools have to have things like mask policies, social distancing in classroom, that require that, for the districts to have that?
Comissioner Cocoran: (35:54)
No. I think that it’s broader than what you’ve stated. I think what they’ve said is even absent that, schools are a safer place. Same with sports. The concept of shutting down sports… I have six children. All of my kids are back in public school. I can tell you, when they’re not in public school, as much as I’d like to think I’m a decent parent, they’re down the street playing flag football with each other. They’re at the basketball court playing without an adult, without instruction, without discipline, without all those things that happen every day in a school, absent interventions with COVID.
Comissioner Cocoran: (36:29)
We’ve done a great job of getting money to the districts for COVID-related expenses, of working with the districts and allowing that flexibility for them to work with what works best for them. I think the medical studies are pretty clear, and we’ll be glad to share them with you. Mike is in Pinellas. He’s got John Hopkins Children’s Hospital. They’ve testified before their board that… Hey, you know what we’re seeing now 100 days in? We’re pretty sure schools are the safest place for kids to be. Regardless, they’re the safest place for kids to be.
Governor DeSantis: (36:58)
I think that’s true regardless of policy. We don’t mandate or not mandate. We have charter schools, private schools, particularly for the young kids. They don’t do the distancing because it just… There’s no difference in outcome on it. I think what Richard said is right. Schools are just, in fact, a safe place to be for these kids with this particular pathogen. An influenza… You would see a lot of it being passed around with kids. You don’t do it with corona, and that’s it. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 5: (37:31)
If I may, I have two questions. I think you said no lockdowns, no school closures. That’s off the table. Have you considered or reconsidered a statewide mask mandate? I know the CDC has recommended it as cases are rising again.
Governor DeSantis: (37:39)
How has that worked out in the states that have done it? Has that stopped an outbreak in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan? What about New Jersey? What about all these States where you have explosion in cases? I mean, at some point, does the observed experience matter? I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work. People in Florida wear them when you go out. I mean, they don’t have to be strung up by a bayonet to do it. Finding people is, I think, totally overboard. At some point, you have to look at the observed experience about what’s happening. I think, respectfully, there’s narratives that lockdowns work, and they don’t. If you look at the evidence, business closures, all this stuff, look at what just happened in Europe. France locked down. Switzerland didn’t. Same viral curve, literally, no difference.
Governor DeSantis: (38:27)
You focus on protecting vulnerable people. You provide the resources to our medical and hospitals as they need it, but you don’t shut down people because the effects of that are profound. I mean, we’re only scratching the surface. When you look at everything from mental health, drug abuse, all these other things, they’re just really, really harmful. I think it’s pretty clear. Because remember, over the summer, the narrative was, “Oh, the Sun Belt… They don’t know what they’re doing,” all this other stuff. The North had very little.
Governor DeSantis: (39:03)
Don’t know what they’re doing all this other stuff. The North had very little. Now that was not because of their policies, people tried to say that. It was because they have a different respiratory virus season. It receded. It receded in Europe. Remember in July, people were saying Europe did it right. And then they had a big resurgence and you’ve seen these resurgences in all these places that have had really restrictive policies. And so my view be like, okay, would you rather be 44th in cases and be open like Florida is, or would you rather be in the top 10 in cases and be locked down and have continual lockdowns far into the future?
Governor DeSantis: (39:35)
And that’s another thing. The lie of the lockdown was if you just locked down, then you can beat the virus. Well, why are people having to lockdown two or three times then? If lockdowns are so effective, why is that? And here’s what really irks me about it. The cost of the lockdowns are borne by working class people. The benefit, if you say it, are the Zoom class, the upper income people who can work from home. Not everyone can do that. People have to go out and that’s what ends up happening. And I think you can’t look at what’s happened over the last several months in Europe and in the United States, and say that that is a viable path forward. The damage is immense and I think you have to search long and hard to see really true benefits for any of this stuff.
Governor DeSantis: (40:29)
Targeted approach, I think is better. That, quite frankly, was what pandemic preparedness had always said. No one advocated society-wide lockdowns before March. Never. And so, I think going forward the way Florida has… Look, here’s what I’d say. People vote with their feet. People are coming here at a higher clip than they were a year ago, and I think part of the reason is we have schools open, we have people employed. We obviously got a lot more work to do on that, but we really want to have a healthy and stable society and that’s what we’ve worked hard to do. One more.
Speaker 3: (41:04)
Yeah. To your point on employment, our theme parks are about to lay off tens of thousands of people here-
Governor DeSantis: (41:08)
Mostly in California though.
Speaker 3: (41:10)
Yeah. And a lot here too as well.
Governor DeSantis: (41:12)
Well, right, but the bulk of it is because California will not let the theme parks operate.
Speaker 3: (41:17)
Yeah. Yes. But is there any talk of extending unemployment or advocating for more unemployment for the federal level or state level?
Governor DeSantis: (41:24)
Well, yeah. Look, I think the federal, I think they should’ve done a relief package months ago. The reason why a lot of people are unemployed is because of federal policies with the 15 days to slow the spread. The theme parks were never shut down by the state of Florida. They did it because of what these federal experts were saying to do. I think that unemployment’s really on the federal government because I think they’re the ones that caused it, and so they should do relief. Hopefully they’ll do it over the next month or two. I think it is needed. I think a lot of people have been treated poorly in this some of the way the economies work. But I will say one thing that will help, well, two things I would say.
Governor DeSantis: (42:04)
One, everyone now acknowledges that theme parks have not led to any type of major outbreaks. Now I said that from the beginning. Remember when Disney reopened? People were saying, they were carping, Oh my goodness. But we knew because of the way it’s done, they had precautions and all that, it’s outdoors, all of these other things. And I think Disney, SeaWorld, Universal, all those have done very well. And yet in California, they’re totally shut down. They have no path to reopen, who knows when it will. And here’s what I think should concern Americans. It started 15 days to slow the spread to save hospitals. Then it somehow graduated, “Well, we just can’t have any cases,” which quite frankly is not possible with policy. Then it was like, “Well, just shut down everything until there’s a vaccine.” Now that there’s a vaccine on the horizon, you say people even with the vaccine social distance until 2022. No way. That is just totally overboard, but it just shows you how the goalposts have moved and I think innocent people have been caught up in this.
Governor DeSantis: (43:04)
One of the things we can do to help central Florida is, and I think the President wants to do this, let’s get travel from Brazil back, let’s get travel from the European countries back there. The travel restrictions at the front end of a pandemic I think made sense. I advocated in January for the China restrictions. Now, in fact, people had already spread it from China by January. I think it was positive, but I don’t think it was as good. We did some stuff with New York because they were spreading it around the country, but at this point it’s an endemic virus. To have these types of travel restrictions is not getting you any benefit and I think it’s causing a lot of people a lot of harm. So yes, let’s hope to do some federal relief. I think that that’s good. We obviously have worked to put people back to work, let people earn a living, protect their livelihoods, which is important. But we’re not immune from everything that goes on in the rest of the world and the rest of the country, particularly when you have these destinations like that.
Speaker 6: (44:05)
I have one more quick clarification [crosstalk 00:44:09]. I don’t know who wants to answer this question on clarification. I know actually [inaudible 00:00:44:13], so I’ve already asked mine. He can go ahead and ask it.
Governor DeSantis: (44:13)
Okay. Yes, sir?
Speaker 7: (44:16)
Governor, the White House COVID report. As you know, it comes out every week. Specifically each state, your office gets it. It includes suggestions, warnings in some cases. Generally it comes out on the weekend. We’ve be trying to get it less than a week after it’s been put out. The delay is always at least a week, sometimes a week and half. We’ve asked your office, why the delay? Do you know? Can we get it sooner than that?
Governor DeSantis: (44:41)
No. And quite frankly, I think that if you look at some of the recommendations, they did not want schools open. They were not supportive of schools. You go back six months, some of those task force folks were saying, “Oh, we don’t know.” We did know. We knew six months ago based on the observed experience and the data and evidence out of Europe that schools were safe. And yet you had these things… Just look at New York. “If your positivity is above whatever arbitrary thing, you have to close the school.” Really? You’re going to shut kids out of an education for literally a metric that’s pulled out of somebody’s hat. There’s no basis for any of that. And so, some of that stuff I think was problematic from my perspective with the schools.
Governor DeSantis: (45:26)
And I think that had we had a unified message as a country six months ago, I don’t think there’d be a single school district that would be closed in this country right now. But I think when you indulge in, “Oh, this is potentially very dangerous,” when you know that the evidence suggests otherwise, I think that gave license to a lot of these places to close with really no end in sight. There may be some of these school districts certainly are going to be closed, again not Florida, certainly until January, but they’re probably just going to extend it through the whole school year. That’ll be a year and a quarter of no in-person instruction in some of these places. That’s going to have a huge, hugely negative impact on millions and millions of families and millions and millions of students. And look, I’m just glad that we have folks here who rolled up their sleeves, put the interest of the kids and the families first. And I think that this emergency order continues with the successful model, I think it builds upon it, and we look forward to having a great spring semester for everybody. Thanks.
Speaker 8: (46:30)
That’s all. Thank you.
Speaker 9: (46:31)
[inaudible 00:46:31] acknowledge Joe Biden as the President-Elect?
Speaker 8: (46:31)
That’s all. Thank you.
Speaker 10: (46:31)
Dr. [inaudible 00:46:36], can we ask you some questions?
Speaker 11: (46:31)
Yeah. [inaudible 00:46:44].