Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried accused Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday of playing “COVID-roulette” with the lives of Florida students.
Speaking on CNN, Fried charged the Republican Governor with an “indifference” toward human life, particularly those of children.
DeSantis, she alleged, is prioritizing politics over public health.
“He’s creating chaos in our state,” Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said.
Fried’s national television appearance marked her latest attack against DeSantis.
She blasted him for barring school districts from requiring students to wear face masks in an executive order.
Citing a Quinnipiac poll, she noted 60% of Floridians support school mask mandates.
“I am absolutely in support of all of our local school districts having the power to do what they believe is right for their own communities and against the bullying of DeSantis,” Fried told CNN.
More than half of Florida’s public-school students attend districts that require masks.
DeSantis on Monday punished two school districts — Alachua and Broward counties — for defying the order.
Until the counties are compliant under the state order, the Department of Education will continue to withhold the salaries of each respective school board member.
An ongoing court proceeding, however, may soon undermine DeSantis’ effort.
Though Fried voiced support for local mask mandates, she spoke against a statewide mask mandate.
Fried defended her stance when pressed further about the issue, noting each of Florida’s 67 districts are unique.
Fried said she is “very confident” that school districts will “do what’s right for their communities.”
“People should be governed closest to themselves and that’s our local government,” Fried said. “So, I do think that a local school district is where (the) decision needs to be made.”
Fried’s TV appearance proceeded an afternoon event Wednesday to honor the lives lost from COVID-19.
The moment of silence paid respects to the roughly 45,000 who have died in Florida with the virus.
According to the Florida Department of Health, 251,661 kids under the age of 12 have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.
Last week alone, 26,275 tested positive — marking a 19.4% new case positivity rate.
For DeSantis’ part, he maintains children are free to wear a mask under the order.
The decision, however, best rests with parents, he says.