TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services/AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is opposing mask mandates at public schools as his state leads the nation in new coronavirus cases.
DeSantis, whose re-election campaign is selling koozies quoting him saying, “How the hell am I going to drink a beer with a mask on?” held a closed-door meeting Monday with doctors to oppose mask mandates in public schools.
DeSantis said he fears that the federal government might try to force mask mandates in schools, saying children would suffer.
DeSantis didn’t invite media to the discussion, but his office provided a video and transcript of the meeting in the state Capitol. Florida accounted for a fifth of the nation’s new coronavirus infections last week, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The doctors blamed masking children for higher rates of mental illness and cast doubt on their efficacy.
DeSantis acknowledged during the meeting that YouTube removed video of a similar roundtable discussion he held earlier this year because panelists said there was no scientific justification to masking children in schools.
“This should absolutely not be imposed. It should not be mandated,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis has been firmly opposed to lockdown restrictions, mask mandates and vaccine passports, signing a bill into law that prevents businesses to ask for proof of vaccination and local governments from imposing COVID restrictions.
Participating doctors cast doubts on the effectiveness of masking in schools.
“The correlational evidence I think is mixed and there’s literally no randomized evidence whatsoever for these masks in schools,” said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.
Los Angeles child psychologist Dr. Mark McDonald blamed masks in part for a 300 and 400 percent increase in depression and anxiety in children.
“Mental illness is a catastrophe in this country, primarily due to lock downs in children, but the masks is not helping. The masks are nothing more than a symbol of fear and anxiety,” said Dr. McDonald.
Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the Tufts University School of Medicine Dr. H. Cody Meissner also called the American Academy of Pediatrics’ universal masking recommendation ‘virtue signaling’.
“People like to say they’re basing their decisions on science, but they’re not. They’re basing their recommendations on emotion,” said Der. Meissner.
Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Fried called the roundtable ‘one sided’.
“And look, if he’s not going to come in and he’s not going to have a mask mandate for our state, at least give people the tools to make proper decisions,” said Fried.
Fried also criticized the lack of transparency around the discussion and called on the Governor to return to daily reporting of COVID data.
The governors’ office has since issued a statement following the closed-door meeting.
“The governor has indicated that the state legislature would have a special session to ensure that masks would be optional next school year. He supports every parent’s right to decide what’s best for their own kids,” a governor’s spokesperson told 8 On Your Side.
You can watch the full roundtable here.