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Monday, February 6, 2023

State agriculture commissioner at odds with DeSantis over mandatory masks

Nikki Fried 2

Florida’s only Democratic Cabinet member is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a statewide mask order.

Nikki Fried, who serves as the state’s agriculture commissioner, made the announcement as new cases of COVID-19 continued to skyrocket across the Sunshine State. In the past several days, DeSantis has balked at the idea of a mandatory mask order.

“With 31,299 new cases in the past week alone, Florida has emerged as a new hotspot for COVID-19,” Fried said Thursday, “While this pandemic threatens to spiral out of control, our leadership is rushing headlong into further reopening the state. We must take basic protective measures immediately.”
Fried said she’d like to see all Floridians and those visiting the state wearing masks in public.

“This is common sense, violates no one’s liberties, and follows the lead of 18 other states like North Carolina, Kentucky, and New York,” she said. “If we’re to beat this virus together, we must all act together, with all Floridians doing their part.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida has seen a renewed outbreak of COVID-19 cases, with a record 8,942 on Friday. That brought the total in the state to 122,960, with 3,366 deaths and 13,987 people hospitalized.

Fried cited reports that claim 42 percent of Florida’s cases have come in June alone. She said the state’s positivity rate is close to 16 percent – up from 2.3 percent on May 17. She also pointed out that the World Health Organization has indicated a state should have a positivity rate of under 5 percent for 14 days to continue reopening.

When DeSantis announced Phase Two of his reopening plan on June 3, Florida was reporting 58,764 cases. As of Friday, that number had grown by 64,196 cases.

Last week, DeSantis blamed that increase on the fact that more testing is being done and pockets of cases spreading throughout groups like migrant/farm workers who live and work in close quarters and staff and inmates at jails and prisons across the state.

He later backtracked on those statements and admitted that the sharp increase in Coronavirus cases can’t just be explained by increased testing. At first, he vowed to have compliance officers from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DPBR) make random checks at bars and nightclubs across the state to enforce the social distancing mandates. But that changed Friday morning when DPBR announced via Twitter that bars would no longer be able to serve alcohol to customers for on-site consumption because of the massive COVID-19 outbreak.