Gov. Ron DeSantis waited until late in the evening Monday to send out his daily schedule, and it was clear why when the document revealed a 12:30 p.m. roundtable event with COVID-19 skeptics.
DeSantis, who bemoaned YouTube removing similar material before, decided this time to sidestep the traditional media altogether, which finally gets to review on Tuesday the actions in the Capitol Monday afternoon.
Typically, events such as a roundtable on masks in schools would have had a media advisory and a stream on the Florida Channel. However, the advisory and the stream did not happen.
DeSantis framed the panel as one discussing “unmasking our children in schools,” amid “talk among the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics to force masking on children.” (A panelist would later suggest that the AAP was simply “virtue signaling.”)
The “mask optional” position prevails in Florida, but “rumblings” concern DeSantis, who has been concerned about moves to “muzzle” children in the fight against the virus.
“This should absolutely not be proposed,” DeSantis said, noting a Special Session might be necessary to “protect these kids who just want to be able to breathe freely.”
DeSantis discussed the Jacksonville Classical Academy, a charter school he visited which went mask-free last year and “let kids be kids” without too much “extreme social distancing.”
“The results were, I don’t know that they had any more, but they probably had less COVID cases than other schools who did the opposite,” the Governor contended. The school had “essentially a normal year,” verified a representative from the school during the round table.
DeSantis drove the questions about the “forced masking of school children,” including striking a skeptical tone about “how the media’s treating this” regarding the “delta variant” before a narrative-feeding question to Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University.
Masks have “marginal benefit” and “may actually cause some harm to children,” Bhattacharya added.
DeSantis noted vaccines offer a “significant decline in mortality,” posing a provocative question: “What’s the point of tracking these cases the way we’re tracking the cases if in fact we believe the vaccines protect you from severe outcome but may not necessarily protect you from testing positive?”
The Governor continued to return to the theme that this virus may be inevitable for some.
“You’re seeing people who are fully vaccinated, who are testing positive,” DeSantis said later, noting that clinical trials for vaccines looked for positive tests combined with symptoms.
Panelists continued to slam the psychological impacts of masks.
“My position is simple. Masking children is child abuse,” asserted Dr. Mark McDonald, a psychiatrist from California. McDonald took the position that the virus did not present a mortality risk to children and that masking kids “does not protect children or adults.” Meanwhile, he argued mental illness and suicidal ideations are accelerated by masks, a “symbol of fear and anxiety.”
DeSantis said kids were just “kind of normal” before the pandemic, and now in many areas kids are being “taught to view each other and themselves as primarily vectors of a disease rather than just human beings.”
The colloquy continued.
“This has become a medical apartheid state,” McDonald said, likening masks to South Africa’s infamously racist colonialist government of the 20th century.
The discussion moved from historical analogy to hygiene soon enough, with DeSantis eventually riffing on cloth masks.
“You’ll have some of the kids who will wear cloth masks out and just take it out of the pocket. There are definitely some hazards in that when you’re talking about teenage kids,” the Governor quipped.
DeSantis went on to note the “unspeakable burdens” of virus precautions, expressing worry about “long-term implications” for the youngsters.
“We have a whole school year in the books at this point,” DeSantis said. “To just ignore that and continue, I think, is very problematic.”
— Gary Fineout (@fineout) July 27, 2021