Mar 6, 2022 - News

Politifact rates DeSantis' claim that masks are "COVID theater" false

CDC masking recommendations in Florida
Data: CDC; Map: Axios Visuals

Gov. Ron DeSantis, captured on a now-viral video scolding mask-wearing high schoolers at a press event at USF last week, has again stoked old debates about civility, liberty and public health in a state where these things seem always in flux.

What he said: "You don't have to wear those masks," DeSantis said mockingly. "I mean, please take them off. Honestly, this is not doing anything. We've got to stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous."

Yes, but: The Poynter Institute's Politifact rated the claim that wearing masks is "COVID theater" and "not doing anything" as false.

The fact-checkers asked: "Are there still legitimate reasons people might choose to wear face masks in public?"

The answer: Of course. The latest mask recommendations from the CDC urge people in areas of high community transmission to wear face masks when in public. There's evidence to show the good ones work.

  • And while it might not seem like it, Politifact points out that Hillsborough County has a high transmission rate and people should wear masks per CDC guidelines.

Masks are no longer mandatory in schools, but many children still choose to wear them.

  • Immunocompromised kids, who were disproportionately affected by Omicron, are still encouraged to wear masks in public.

The other side: "After two years of mixed messages and social engineering from health authorities and media, the governor wants to make sure everyone is aware of the facts and data," DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw told Politifact.

  • In defense of the governor telling the kids to remove their masks, she tweeted: "I'm sorry if it offends Covidians' religious beliefs, but we would respect your religion if you just stopped trying to force it on others."

The bottom line: The state reported 1,207 lives lost to COVID last week, 319 more than the week before.


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