Florida governor lifts restrictions on youth activities

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces he is lifting all restrictions on youth activities statewide, including summer camp and athletics, during a May 22 press conference in Jacksonville broadcast on the Florida Channel.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says it’s time to let the state’s kids get back to some sense of normalcy.

“Effective immediately, Florida will be lifting all restrictions on youth activities, including summer camp and athletics,” DeSantis said during a May 22 press conference in Jacksonville.

And there won’t be any statewide rules, although he said the state Department of Health would be putting out some questions and answers and maybe some guidance on best practices.

“But at the end of the day, we trust parents to be able to make decisions in conjunction with physicians and community leaders and coaches to be able to do these activities in a way that are safe,” he said.

In the executive order sent out Friday evening, the governor provided clarification in writing, stating that "Organized youth activities may operate, including youth sports teams and leagues; youth clubs and programs; and child care." Summer camps and youth recreation camps also can operate.

Local jurisdictions can set up restrictions if they think they are needed, he said.

DeSantis reviewed how the novel coronavirus had affected the state and said there had been no fatalities in people younger than 25. He said the most fatalities had been in those older than 90.

He said when the state decided to close schools and implement distance learning, it was unknown what role kids would play in terms of community spread. The concern was that they would pass it on to their teachers and parents, using information on past influenza outbreaks.

He said so far that hadn’t happened. However, he noted that children aren’t immune from COVID-19.

“Some kids have been infected, and some kids have ended up critically ill, and some — not a lot in the U.S. — have died,” he said.

DeSantis said the data was “pretty clear” that kids don’t get infected at the same rate as some adults. He also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had released new information that says kids are at much less risk for hospitalizations than would be expected during a typical flu season. In addition, he pointed to some studies from Europe that showed children are not vectors of the disease and are not likely to play a part in community spread.

He stressed that the decision to allow kids to take part in summer camps and athletics was up to parents with no one being required to do so if they don’t feel comfortable.

He said Florida was making progress in the fight against COVID-19. He said the number of test results coming back positive was continuing to decline. He said most of new cases were coming from prisons, long-term care facilities or communities where people had close living arrangements.

He said the number of people in ICU was down 26% and the use of ventilators was down 34%. He said the state was continuing to provide personal protective equipment to hospitals and long-term care facilities, describing it as the “biggest logistics mission in the state.”

“I really trust parents. I trust the physicians who work with the kids. I trust our local leaders. I trust our coaches and the people involved in these camps to really do things in a way that keeps people safe,” he said.

DeSantis was joined by his family's personal pediatrician, Dr. Bonnie White, who agreed it was time that children began socializing again.

However, White had some advice on some preventive measures that should be used, such as taking temperatures, hand washing and maybe even wearing face masks. She said children who were sick should stay home.

She said parents should set an example and follow personal protection practices. She recommended that if schools reopen in the fall, those same measures be used.

“It’s time for our kids to get back to the new normal, and it’s time to allow kids to be kids,” she said.

She also urged parents to get their children’s immunizations and to visit their doctor for a well-child checkup. She said there was a “huge concern” that illnesses such as measles would come back if children did not receive their vaccinations.

DeSantis said he would allow locals to set guidance for summer activities, according to their unique needs.

“It’s a better approach to let locals decide,” he said, adding that if there are too many rules, there would be less compliance.

Public playgrounds remain closed under an order by Pinellas County government. Public swimming pools are open at 50% capacity and must adhere to social distancing guidelines and enhanced sanitation.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.

Revised to add information from the governor's written order.