Florida Mayors Pressure Gov. DeSantis to Impose ‘Mandatory Mask Mandate’

MIAMI, FL - JULY 13: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference on the surge of coronavirus Covid-19 cases in Florida held at the Jackson Memorial Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic on July 13, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX
mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX/via AP

A group of Florida mayors is urging Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to impose a “mandatory mask mandate” as concerns over rising cases of the Chinese coronavirus rise.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, a Democrat, is among mayors urging DeSantis to take action as other blue state governors impose drastic restrictions, including limits on gatherings in private homes.

Kriseman agrees with allowing counties and cities to fine-tune restrictions, but believes a sweeping mask mandate is necessary “so there’s consistency.”

“Having a mandatory mask mandate throughout the state so there’s consistency, allowing us as individual counties and cities to determine what other restrictions make sense,” he said during a Zoom call on Wednesday.

“Whether it’s a 25 percent occupancy limitation, a 50 percent, whatever the number is that works for our communities and allowing us to enforce that,” he continued.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber (D) appeared to agree.

“Since the governor opened up the economy totally in late September and simultaneously prevented local governments from enforcing individual mask mandates, we have seen an enormous surge,” Gelber said.

“The governor didn’t just open things up, he flung the door open and said there’s no rules anymore,” he said, pointing to the governors who have imposed such mandates in their respective states.

“They’re realizing it’s one of the few things you can do that allows you to open up the economy in ways that protect the public,” he stated.

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez (R) believes DeSantis will respond, but warned that it will be “very unprofessional and disrespectful” if he does not.

DeSantis, who came under intense scrutiny from Democrat leaders for not taking measures as severe as his gubernatorial counterparts, lifted key coronavirus restrictions across the Sunshine State, announcing the push into Phase Three in late September. The order allowed restaurants and bars to operate at full capacity at the state level and allowed businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity at least, regardless of local restrictions. Phase Three placed the burden on local governments, requiring them to “justify” any action to restrict businesses beyond that.

“And then if the local restricts within 50 and 100 [percent], they gotta provide the justification and they’ve got to identify what the costs are involved with doing that are,” DeSantis said at the time.

The governor’s action also effectively stripped localities of their power to enforce mask mandates. Notably, Florida did not experience a spike in cases following DeSantis’s action against the enforcement of local mask mandates, as Breitbart News reported October 9:

Data gleaned from the Florida Department of Health also shows that the positivity rate remains relatively steady, standing at 4.57 percent as of Wednesday and even reaching a low of 3.73 percent earlier in the week.

New cases also appear to remain steady following DeSantis’s move, ranging from 810 new daily cases (reported September 27) to over 3,300 reported on Thursday. Notably, the case number has fluctuated over the past month, reaching 3,651 on September 10, roughly two weeks prior to DeSantis lifting restrictions.

A brief look at fatalities by the date of death shows a downward trend as well.

DeSantis has long stood against issuing a statewide mask mandate, addressing critics who demanded him to take such action in June.

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

As governors across the country begin to reimpose restrictions, DeSantis appears to be standing firm. His office confirmed this week that the governor “will not lockdown and hurt families who can’t afford to shelter in place for 6 weeks.”

“Today we are back down to 4,500 [cases] and a 7.3% positivity rate,” a spokesperson for the governor said in a statement to CBS12 on Monday:

We believe yesterday’s high number was due to a large submission file and skewed the numbers for that day. The Governor will not lockdown and hurt families who can’t afford to shelter in place for 6 weeks. Especially not for a virus that has a 99.8% survival rate. One area of concern is Assisted Living Facilities. Since those over 70 face the greatest threat from [COVID] the Governor is monitoring those numbers daily and is prepared to move therapeutic and prophylactic assets to those facilities as needed.

DeSantis vowed in late August that Florida “will never do any of these lockdowns again”:

Florida reported 7,925 new cases of the Wuhan virus on Wednesday. Statewide hospital bed capacity stood at 22.48 percent statewide as of Thursday afternoon, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Statewide adult ICU bed capacity also stood at just over 20 percent.

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