DeSantis, a fierce opponent of mandates against viral masks and vaccines, approached the students and asked them to take off their masks while they waited for the Republican governor at a news conference at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
“You don’t have to wear these masks. I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it doesn’t do anything. We have to stop this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but it’s funny.” he said, sighing audibly and shaking his head.
DeSantis is running for re-election and is considered a potential presidential candidate from the Republican Party in 2024. His opposition to masks and vaccines has attracted national attention, and his administration has banned masks in schools.
DeSantis’s office did not immediately return the letter asking for comment. His spokeswoman Christina Pushaw tweeted in defense of the governor’s comments, writing: “I mean, someone had to say this after 2 years of propaganda that intimidated and manipulated young people. Breathe freely, feel safe and be happy.” .
The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last month relaxed its camouflage recommendations, but still recommends indoor masks in high-risk areas. Hillsborough County, where the college is located, is considered a high-risk CDC.
The incident drew criticism from DeSantis on social media. Florida Democrat Frederick Wilson tweeted, “Shame on you, Governor DeSantis, for scolding students who choose to wear masks and for continuing the #COVID pandemic to be called ‘theater.'”
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