Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to Critics Demanding Mask Mandate: ‘We’re Not Going to Do that Statewide’

Newly sworn-in Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an event at the Freedom Tower where he named Barbara Lagoa to the Florida Supreme Court on January 09, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Mr. DeSantis was sworn in yesterday as the 46th governor of the state of Florida.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images,)
Joe Raedle/Getty

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) made it clear on Monday that he will not yield to critics demanding a statewide mask mandate.

“We’re not going to do that statewide. We wanted to have a collaborating effort with the locals from the beginning,” DeSantis said on Monday.

“Different areas have handled this differently based on their facts and circumstances, and even today you see obviously discrepancies throughout the state,” he added.

DeSantis’s stance comes as critics urge him to take sweeping action to address the rising number of coronavirus cases in the Sunshine State, many of which are condensed in the southeast portion of the state — namely Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. Those three counties currently comprise 44 percent of the state’s total 162,884 cases, calculated since March 1.

The state reported 6,093 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from the 5,266 cases reported on Monday but down from the single-day high of 9,585 cases reported on Saturday. The state, with a population of over 21 million, has reported 3,604 coronavirus-related deaths since March 1.

The governor’s refusal to issue a sweeping, statewide mask mandate coincides with his initial approach to addressing the outbreak in his state months ago. While he eventually issued a stay-at-home order, he largely left far-reaching measures to individual localities. Many are doing so now, with several counties and cities — including Jacksonville, Florida, home of the upcoming GOP convention — issuing mask mandates.

Still, the debate over mask mandates continues to boil over in some of these localities across the state.

“We have real concerns of governments overreaching during these periods of time that can hurt us in the future,” said Leon County Republican Party Chairman Evan Power, who is legally challenging the Leon County government’s mask order.

“It should be handled by local businesses. The government’s job is to educate people on the right thing to do, not force mandates down,” he added.

As for Jacksonville, it remains unclear if the mandatory mask requirement will remain in effect until August, but convention spokesman Mike Reed said they are planning health precautions “including but not limited to temperature checks, available (personal protective equipment), aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing.”

Top Democrats, including Joe Biden (D), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) have called for a nationwide mask mandate.

“Sign an executive order directing everyone to wear a mask,” Cuomo urged Trump on Monday.

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