‘Political theater:’ Florida Gov. DeSantis doubles down after chiding mask-wearing children

‘COVID theater is all politics,’ he says

TAMPA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis rebuked reports Thursday that he admonished a group of mask-wearing students who stood behind him at a news conference in Tampa the day prior.

The governor defended his position in writing and on television, making comments on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in which he repeated much of the same language his office sent out in a fundraising email that afternoon, claiming that “masks are political theater.”

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“The corrupt and biased legacy media is coming after me — again,” DeSantis said in a statement, ahead of his appearance on Fox News. “Predictably, the leftist propagandists in our media had a meltdown and called me a ‘bully’ for allowing children to breathe fresh air.”

In the email, DeSantis said the coverage had been “just further proof that COVID theater is all politics and is not based on any real medical science,” asking recipients of the message to donate money to his gubernatorial reelection campaign “BEFORE THE TRUTH IS SILENCED.”

“None of the adults were wearing masks, and it seemed to me that someone told those kids they had to do it,” DeSantis told Carlson. “Bullying is forcing kids to wear masks for eight hours a day, which they did for two years and are only stopping now because the polling’s changed.”

DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo announced new COVID-19 guidelines last month, dubbed “Buck the CDC,” in which they discouraged mask-wearing and advocated for more practitioners to prescribe off-label medications for people already sick with the virus, favoring what Ladapo called “clinical wisdom” in place of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s really been a tragedy that my colleagues, my physician colleagues, have decided that it’s more important to stick with whatever the CDC or Dr. Fauci is saying than relying on their clinical wisdom, experience and scientific expertise, which is what doctors usually do,” Ladapo said.

The CDC issued new COVID-19 guidance the next day, Feb. 25, which outlined a lesser need to wear masks in regions where the risks of spreading, contracting and suffering severe illness from the virus are falling. Ranking individual counties by low, medium or high risk, the agency now only recommends wearing masks indoors in high risk areas.

As of Thursday, the following risk levels were listed for these Central Florida counties:

  • Orange: Medium
  • Seminole: Medium
  • Brevard: Low
  • Flagler: Medium
  • Volusia: Medium
  • Osceola: Low
  • Lake: Medium
  • Sumter: Medium
  • Marion: Medium
  • Polk: High

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.