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The Governor's travels cost the state $2.1 million last fiscal year, according to a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Image via AP.

Emails & Opinions

Joe Henderson: It’s past time for Gov. DeSantis to bring the thunder on masks

Not everyone would cover up, but if it’s mandatory you might get enough to make a difference. Or, you could continue to cross your fingers and hope people make good decisions. How’s that working out?

The issue of whether Gov. Ron DeSantis will require everyone in Florida to wear masks seems moot for now. He’s on the side of those who oppose mandatory face coverings, and he seems to be dug in.

Somehow, this morphed from a public health issue into a constitutional standoff about the government’s right to impose measures to secure the common good. I’m still trying to find that part of the U.S. Constitution that says the government shall not require citizens to mask up during a pandemic. No luck so far.

Meanwhile, the number of Floridians testing positive for COVID-19 continues to grow alarmingly. But, you know, what’s 200,000 infected Floridians when balanced against the Nanny State’s mask obsession, right Governor?

DeSantis is smart and grounded in his beliefs, but here’s what I don’t get about why he only recommends masks instead of requiring them.

On one hand, the Governor said he trusts people to make good choices about when to use face-coverings.

“We advised from the beginning of May, we advised if you can’t social distance wear the mask and if you are in face to face business,” he said recently.  “So that message has been very clear and consistent.  But ultimately we’ve got to trust people to make good decisions.”

But with virus cases surging in the 18-44 age group, DeSantis also noted, You can’t control … they’re younger people. They’re going to do what they’re going to do.”

So, we trust them.

But we don’t trust them.

What’s it going to be?

DeSantis is a conservative’s conservative. He believes in smaller government, fewer regulations, and freedom, baby!

At face value, that’s not a bad approach. Millions of people agree with DeSantis on those points – on the surface.

But now we’re in the fifth month of a pandemic and the virus is rampaging through Florida citizens like it’s the last lap at Daytona. The issue is whether one selfish person has the right to increase the chance of infecting another with a potentially deadly virus because they ain’t gonna wear no mask!

Meanwhile, Chicago’s Mayor ordered anyone arriving from Florida to self-quarantine for 14 days. DeSantis told reporters that it wasn’t necessary because Florida cases have stabilized. What he really should do is bring the thunder.

Last week Texas – TEXAS! – made masks mandatory throughout the Lone Star state. The experts, who know more about this issue than any of us (including DeSantis), overwhelmingly say that masks work.

Call me crazy, but I think some inconvenience to bring the numbers down is an easy trade. Or, would opponents prefer steadily increasing numbers to push into August? That could force another major business shutdown, which would be calamitous.

On Monday, the state announced 6,366 new virus cases. That’s after the jaw-dropping total of more than 10,000 in a day over the weekend.

Back to the Governor’s point about how hard it is to control young people. There will always be some yahoos who believe the rules don’t apply to them.

You won’t get them all to cover up, but if it’s mandatory you might get enough to make a difference.

Or, you could continue to cross your fingers and hope people make good decisions. How’s that working out?

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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