Gov. Ron DeSantis snaps at high school students for wearing masks and accuses them of engaging in 'COVID theater'
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis scolded a group of high schoolers for wearing masks at an event.
- "It's not doing anything, and we gotta stop with this COVID theater," DeSantis told the students.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis snapped at a group of high school students for wearing masks at a Tuesday event in Tampa, calling their mask-wearing "ridiculous" and accusing them of engaging in "COVID theater."
The Hillsborough County students flanked DeSantis at a press conference hosted at the University of South Florida where DeSantis announced a new $20 million grant program for cybersecurity training and education.
"You do not have to wear those masks," DeSantis told the students as he approached the lectern.
"I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it's not doing anything, and we gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous," DeSantis added before letting an exasperated sigh.
—WFLA NEWS (@WFLA) March 2, 2022
Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Addison Davis defended the students, who attend Middleton High School in Tampa, in a statement to WFLA.
"As always, our students should feel valued and celebrated," he said. "It is a student and parents' choice to protect their health in a way they feel most appropriate. We are proud of the manner in which our students represented themselves."
DeSantis' spokeswoman Christina Pushaw backed up the governor's rationale, telling WFLA that "it's been clear for a long time" that masks "make no difference" in reducing COVID-19 transmission and "the data has informed the state's official guidance."
"After two years of mixed messages of mixed messages from health authorities and the media, the governor wants to make sure everyone is aware of the facts and data now, so they can feel free and comfortable without a mask," she said.
DeSantis, an avowed opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, has honed his political brand on his pandemic management, branding his policies as "the Free State of Florida." Florida has repeatedly clashed with the White House over local school mask mandates and other COVID-19 efforts.
During the same news conference, he took another shot at Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical advisor, over his actions during the pandemic. DeSantis has fundraised off of attacking Fauci and his campaign sells anti-Fauci merchandise.
"I agree if you think about what they've done, Fauci is in the witness protection program now," said DeSantis, when asked if there were any parts of Biden's State of the Union address that he agreed on. "If you listen to them, they have never supported all these policies that were so destrucive."
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