SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — As schools in Florida prepare to open in the coming weeks, Gov. Ron DeSantis said they should take a “surgical approach” to respond to any possible COVID-19 cases.
DeSantis made the comments while answering questions from reporters at a roundtable in Sarasota on Friday. The governor, appearing with First Lady Casey DeSantis, was highlighting the secondary issues kids are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic – including mental health struggles and drastic decreases in reported physical and sexual abuses.
“There’s been a 40% decrease between March this year vs. March 2019,” Casey DeSantis said about the reduction in child abuse calls to state hotlines. “A 44% decrease in child abuse investigations and a 32% decrease in sexual abuse call allegations.”
Gov. DeSantis said he also said he thinks “we’re gonna be dealing with ramifications involving mental health for a long time” after the pandemic is over.
The roundtable included other children’s advocates and health professionals. They spoke about the difficulty in discovering child abuse and sexual abuse cases without the involvement of teachers in kids’ lives for the past four to five months.
“That’s just one aspect,” DeSantis said. “There’s also social development, academic development – all these other things.”
“I also think it would be really bad policy to deny those many other parents the opportunity to resume in-person instruction for their kids,” DeSantis added.
The governor said the risk to kids is higher from influenza than COVID-19, which is backed by guidance from the CDC.
Florida’s First Lady talked about her dedication to this issue through the Hope for Healing initiative, and how much it affects her to think of what kids are going through right now without interaction with people who can help.
“As a mother of a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old baby, when you see victims of abuse as young as 2…babies…you can’t,” she said, getting emotional. “It’s too much. So we’re here to fight. We’re here to fight for them.”