DeSantis: Florida to remain open without mask mandate despite case increase

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis remained steadfast in his opposition to lockdowns, mandates, and school closures Monday in his first public news conference in nearly a month.

DeSantis announced schools will remain open in the spring, but will still provide the option of virtual learning. The governor went as far as to call the closure of schools during the pandemic “the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” and those who advocate for them today’s “flat Earthers.”

“The harm from [closing schools] is going to reverberate in those communities for years and years to come,” he added.

In recent weeks, DeSantis has not addressed the troubling rise of coronavirus infections in front of the press. Instead, he’s uploaded pre-recorded videos– the most recent one an update on the state’s vaccine plan.

When asked where he’s been in the month Florida has seen its second-highest monthly increase in infections, DeSantis told reporters he’s been working on vaccine development and distribution plans.

The governor said he went to Washington D.C. a week before Thanksgiving to meet with members of Operation Warp Speed and the CDC.

“We’re not gonna have unlimited [vaccines] in the first month,” DeSantis said. “I think we pretty much will have one for every American in the first few months.”

DeSantis said Florida’s first share of whichever vaccine gets approved would be at least a million, maybe as much as two million.

The governor also echoed his previous sentiments that government mandates don’t work, and that shutting the state down would do more harm than good.javascript:false

DeSantis says he’s going to continue working on the vaccine and rely on Floridians to handle their own personal mitigation.

When pressed by reporters on whether he favored mask mandates and increased restrictions, DeSantis gave emphatic response.

“How has that worked out in the states that have done [lockdowns and mask mandates]? Has that stopped an outbreak in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan? What about New Jersey? What about all these states where you have an explosion in cases? At some point, does the observed experience matter?”

“I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work.  People in Florida wear [masks] when they go out, they don’t need to be strung up by a bayonet to do it. Fining people is, I think, totally overboard.” 

DeSantis added he believes the pandemic’s burden on Florida’s working class has been overlooked.

“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, is for the “Zoom” class. The upper-income people who work from home.”

“There’s narratives that lockdowns work. And, they don’t.” 

As DeSantis continued taking questions from reporters — his first time doing so in weeks — he doubled down against a lockdown by instead inviting international travelers back to his state.

“I think the President wants to do this. Let’s get travel from Brazil back. Let’s get travel from the European countries back.”

“The travel restrictions at the front-end of the pandemic, I think, made sense. I advocated in January for the China restrictions.”

But at this point, it’s an endemic virus. To have these types of travel restrictions is getting you any benefit and I think it’s causing a lot of people a lot of harm.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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