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Gov. DeSantis clarifies comparing reopening Florida schools to Navy SEALs operation that killed Osama bin Laden

The comparison came as the governor explained a conversation he had with Martin County's superintendent.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis has clarified his statement from a Wednesday press conference comparing the return to school and the challenges the effort can face to that of the 2011 Navy SEALs operation that killed Osama bin Laden. 

During a roundtable in Tallahassee, the governor was asked about his statement during a question and answer period. 

"It was more about inspiration and about figuring a way to get it done than anything about comparing the danger to that," DeSantis explained. " I mean, obviously that's a much different situation."

The governor also stressed his statement was not about a level of danger. 

His statement in question came during a press conference the day before where the governor talked about both the return to the learning and COVID-19 across the state. 

Opening the nearly six-minute speech DeSantis said: 

"Martin County Superintendent Laurie Gaylord told me today that she viewed reopening her schools as a mission akin to a Navy SEAL operation," DeSantis said of his conversation, before continuing the comparison. 

"Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so, too, would the Martin County school system find a way to provide parents with a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning-- all in, all the time."

DeSantis himself is a Navy veteran.

The governor also thanked educators and administrators for their hard work and for not allowing obstacles to stand in their way of making sure Florida children receive the education they deserve.

"Thank you for bringing the families what so many want, more than anything, after these long many months-- a renewed sense of normalcy," DeSantis said.

He also issued this message to students, or "Florida's future," as the governor referred to them: "We are here for you" and "we've got your back."

During his briefing, DeSantis mentioned additional stories from school districts across the state that highlight what educating during a pandemic looks like. 

In Suwanne County, the superintendent was amazed to see something he had "never before" seen in a 26-year career: Parents bringing presents and supplies for their child's teachers on the first day of school, according to DeSantis.

DeSantis also echoed a sentiment he's stuck with in the past; parents deserve to have a choice in how their student returns to school, whether that be in-person or through distance learning.  

Schools across Tampa Bay are still gearing up for the return to school. You can read a county-by-county breakdown of your school district's efforts here. 

Coronavirus reporting data also came up, with DeSantis offering "caution" to decision-makers who both understand the value and limitation of published reports. 

The governor shared that Florida has seen, in the past few weeks, a "sustained" decline in new cases, visits to the emergency department for COVID-like illness and the number of COVID-positive individuals who are currently hospitalized.

But, with that progress, DeSantis also noted that more work is to be done. 

"We are not yet where we need to be, but we are encouraged by the trends."

As of Thursday's report from the Florida Department of Health, the state added another 6,236 cases of COVID-19 on Aug. 12. 

That brings the total number of confirmed cases statewide to 557,137 since March.

The state also reported another 148 Floridians and one non-resident had died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total to 8,913 Floridians and 134 non-residents who have died since the pandemic began.


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