POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd got into an intense back-and-forth with a reporter during a news conference on Friday and declined to answer a question about why his staff doesn’t wear masks.
The heated discussion happened when Sheriff Judd provided an update on a convicted felon who was arrested after deputies say he tried to carjack four cars and caused several crashes.
After the update, during the question-and-answer portion of the news conference, a reporter asked several questions that turned into a fiery back-and-forth about the suspect and what kind of use of force would have been acceptable if it reached that point.
Judd was then asked why he and the rest of the sheriff’s office staff don’t wear masks, especially in the wake of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump testing positive for coronavirus.
“I’m not gonna answer that question,” Judd said. “Do you have any other questions you want me to not answer?”
Before leaving the news conference, Judd added, “if President Trump comes here, he don’t have to wear a mask either.”
A statewide mask mandate has never been put in place in Florida, though several counties and cities put local mandates in place. Gov. Ron DeSantis instead said he would trust people to make good decisions.
There was also never a mask mandate throughout all of Polk County, but Lakeland and Winter Haven both put city-wide mask mandates in place.
A survey released by the University of South Florida in August found most Floridians believed a statewide mask mandate would be beneficial. But a study done in July also showed Florida residents were among the most defiant when it came to wearing masks.
Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Senate committee last month that masks could potentially protect people better than a COVID-19 vaccine.
“These facemasks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have,” Redfield said. “I might even go so far as to say that this facemask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”