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News of Florida topping 1 million coronavirus cases followed shortly after Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his sharp disapproval of a statewide mask mandate and business closures.
The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday reported 8,632 cases from the day prior, tipping total infections past 1 million. Florida has become the third state to report over 1 million cases, following Texas and California.
At a briefing earlier this week, DeSantis denounced the idea of a statewide mask mandate when prompted by a reporter.
“I’m opposed to mandates period, I don’t think they work,” the governor said. “People in Florida wear ‘em when you go out, they don’t have to be strung up by a bayonet to do it. Fining people is, I think, totally overboard. But at some point you have to look at the observed experience about what’s happening, respectively, there’s narratives that lockdowns work, and they don’t….”
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DeSantis criticized mask mandates implemented in states like Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey, calling them ineffective in curbing virus spread.
The governor also resoundingly advocated for keeping schools open, likening those in favor of school closures to mitigate virus spread as “flat earthers,” in terms of lacking scientific evidence.
“I would say that closing schools due to coronavirus is probably the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” DeSantis said. “Closing schools offers virtually nothing in terms of virus mitigation but imposes huge costs on our kids, on our parents and on our society.”
The governor said that while districts continue to offer in-person learning, parents still have a choice whether to send their children to school or keep them at home for virtual learning.
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In the meantime, DeSantis said he recently met with members involved with Operation Warp Speed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics. He said his priorities lie in working to secure vaccines, touting Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine yet-to-be-approved one-dose jab.
Johnson & Johnson’s lead scientist previously said the company expects to have all data needed to file for authorization for its single-shot coronavirus vaccine candidate by February, according to a report.
DeSantis said if Floridians continue to follow personal mitigation steps like avoiding close contact, especially indoors with poor ventilation, and “get through the next few weeks,” the first vaccine doses from Pfizer or Moderna, both pending approval, could begin to offer the state’s most vulnerable residents some form of immunity, with longer-lasting immunity after the second dose.
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