‘Those students should have been comfortable wearing a mask’
Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has rebuked Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for scolding a group of teenagers for wearing masks.
“Those students should have been comfortable wearing a mask,” Dr Walensky told MSNBC. “It is absolutely their choice.”
The high school students were standing behind a podium at the University of South Florida where Mr DeSantis was set to speak.
“You do not have to wear those masks, I mean please take them off,” Mr DeSantis told the students.
“Honestly, it’s not doing anything, we’ve gotta stop with this Covid theatre. So, if you want to wear it, fine. But this is ridiculous,” he said on Wednesday, prompting some students to remove their masks while others kept theirs on.
The Hillsborough County School District told CNN that the students were from Middleton High School. The spread of Covid-19 in that community is high, with the CDC recommending that masks be worn when inside.
Mr DeSantis has strongly opposed public health measures to stem the spread of the virus, including the use of face coverings, vaccine mandates, and shutdowns. He has gained the attention of the media and the public for disregarding scientific advice and keeping Florida open, making him a possible future Republican presidential nominee.
The governor signed an executive order last summer banning schools from instituting mask mandates and last month, he said he supported parents being able to sue schools that put in place such mandates.
Despite widespread criticism of his comments, Mr DeSantis continued blasting public health measures during a press conference on Thursday.
“What we’ve seen, particularly over the last two years, has been a very politicized medical establishment and they kind of have certain views. A lot of times they’re informed by political ideology, unfortunately,” he claimed while speaking in Panama City.
More than 70,000 people in Florida have died from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
While the CDC recently updated their public health guidelines, the agency website states that wearing face coverings is a “critical public health tool”.
The updated masking guidance states that more than 70 per cent of Americans live in areas where community spread is at a low or medium level, meaning that there’s no recommendation for indoor masking unless you are at “increased risk” for Covid-19. In such cases, the CDC is recommending that individuals speak to their healthcare provider about mask usage.
Regardless of community spread levels, the agency is advising that people get vaccinated as well as boosted and that you get tested if you have symptoms.