Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is apparently willing to scold anyone who doesn’t follow his COVID policies, like not wearing masks and scolding high school students who wore them.
Florida’s Republican governor walked up to a group of mask-wearing students standing behind a podium at the University of South Florida, where he was to give a news conference on Wednesday.
“They don’t have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off,” DeSantis said, at first with a polite laugh. But he wasn’t kidding. “Honestly, that’s not doing anything. We have to stop with this Covid theater. So if you want to wear it, fine. But this is ridiculous,” he continued. He then sighed dramatically and began his press conference.
Some of the students, who came from a local Hillsborough County high school, removed their masks at the governor’s urging, while others chose to keep them on their faces.
DeSantis has criticized protective face coverings and other Covid-19 restrictions, including mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports.
During the height of the rise of the Delta variant Covid-19 in the state, Republican Gov. prohibited Florida schools from implementing mandatory mask wearing for students and staff, sparking a protracted battle with some of the state’s largest school districts and the Biden administration over the issue.
Democrats challenging DeSantis in the state’s gubernatorial race in November were quick to seize on the Republican governor’s comments, calling him “ruthless” and a bully.
“The youth of our state deserve to be treated with respect, not dragged down by a heartless, selfish governor with a political agenda,” Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who is leaving Congress to run for governor, wrote in a tweet. .
Another Democratic candidate, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, posted on Twitter: “You can judge someone’s character by how they treat waiters. And high school students. What a shame [DeSantis]Fried tweeted.
The DeSantis administration did not release any mask-wearing guidance to USF or students before the event, Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, said in a statement.
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