TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A U.S. Congresswoman who represents the Tampa Bay area is urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a statewide mask mandate as coronavirus cases rise in the state, putting pressure on hospitals.
“Florida is in a very serious situation right now with a record number of deaths this week and then infection level that we have not seen before,” Castor said. “And based on what I’m hearing from public health experts and a lot of folks in our local hospitals, it is an ‘all hands on deck’ moment.”
Castor says, according to public health experts, the easiest thing we can do to help stop the spread is to all wear masks. It’s something Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has repeatedly said that beating the virus will take continued social distancing and mask-wearing.
The lone Democrat in the Florida Cabinet and some Florida doctors have previously called on the governor to issue a statewide mask mandate. DeSantis has resisted those calls, saying instead that he trusts Floridians to make good decisions.
But Congresswoman Castor explained why she believes it would be helpful if Gov. DeSantis did order a mask mandate statewide.
“I would urge the governor to go ahead and issue that statewide mask directive,” she said. “There’s nothing like having leadership from the top so that people of all political persuasions hear the message. And that’s what we need right now.”
Castor told our Washington DC correspondent Kellie Meyer she also believes Florida may have been able to avoid the recent spike in cases if guidance from public health officials had been followed.
“The state got a little complacent in May and June when our mortality rate dipped a little bit,” she said. “We should have stayed the course, the messaging should have been ‘let’s get the pandemic under control before we fully open the economy again.'”
She says now it’s up to the everyone to take on personal responsibility.
“All of the leaders of the local hospitals are telling us now their beds are full, they have staffing shortages, we have a shortage in remdesivir…the ICU beds, they’re not completely full now but the hospitals are preparing for that,” Castor said. “The only way we’ll be able to help those frontline workers save lives is if we all come together.”
“One of the most important things we can do is get kids back in school,” she said. “But you have to do it safely. You can’t just wave a magic wand and say ‘here we are, all kids go back.’ That’s not the way to do it. Instead, we need to provide the supplies – the widespread and rapid testing, the flexibility to parents and teachers – to reopen schools. But there’s a lot that goes into that. You have to plan ahead and give parents options.”