DeSantis: No Mask Mandates in Florida

His executive order blocks schools from having masking rules.

As he seeks to boost his chances to win the 2024 Republican nomination for the presidency (and demonstrating why there will be no vaccine passports rules in this country, let alone mandates), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order banning local authorities in Florida from issuing mask mandates. Reuters reports: Florida governor blocks school mask mandates, says parents can choose.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on Friday blocking mask mandates in the state’s schools, saying parents had the right to decide if their children would wear face coverings. 

The move by DeSantis, a Republican who has opposed strict COVID-19 rules on residents and businesses, overrules a requirement by two Florida counties, Broward and Gadsen, that students cover their faces when they return to class next month. 

“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns, there will be no school closures, there will be no restrictions and no mandates in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in announcing his executive order during a speech in southwest Cape Coral. 

I understand that wearing masks is no fun (especially in Florida in the summer). I understand the general principle of personal responsibility. I further understand the appeal of freedom as a generalized principle.

But, this is ridiculous behavior.

Starting school means filling up rooms with people. People who will not be distanced and who will be breathing the same air for extended periods. If the room is full of kids under 12, that means the only potentially vaccinated person in the room is the teacher (and that is not guaranteed).

According to data from CDC posted by the NYT, Florida has 58.6% of its population fully vaccinated, which is above the national average of 49.4% but that still means a lot of unvaccinated people are out there. Further, Gadsen County, one of the two Flordia counties that had already issued a mask mandate, has a fully vaccinated rate of only 41% and Broward is at 52%.

The problem here remains that this is not about personal choice and personal consequences. If it was the case that not wearing a mask only endangered the person not wearing the mask, then fine, let this be about personal choice.

But this is not the case.

We know that the asymptomatic can spread the disease. We know that masks decrease the chances of transmission to others and lessens the chances of clusters of infection.

It is simply not always true that rights are solely individual and that freedom should be understood solely as the sum of all the individual rights of the citizens. Your freedom to drive on the left side of the road, because it is your personal choice to drive the wrong way, can have some serious consequences for the rest of us. We make rules that curtail individual freedoms for the sake of collective safety all the time.

DeSantis’ raw ambition and cynicism here is stunning. He is willing to foster false narratives about personal responsibility in a way that is going to increase the chances his constituents get sick because he thinks it will boost his odds of nomination.

That is, not to be too technical about it, just gross.

Jesus of Nazareth stated in the gospel of John (5:13), “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

But, I guess, wearing a mask in the hopes of preventing your friends from catching a potentially fatal disease is just too much to ask.

And in case anyone is counting, we will surpass 630,000 deaths from this disease in the next couple of days. And every death at this point is almost certainly one that could have been prevented by widely available, free vaccines.

I can stomach governors not installing statewide mandates at the moment and letting localities decide, although I would prefer decisive statewide leadership on this issue. But actively blocking localities from making these choices is, in my view, indefensible.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2024, COVID-19, Health, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Mister Bluster says:

    A limited government is much more likely to be a competent government.
    Ron DeSantis

    This statement is attributed to Ron Desantis by brainyquote.com and enquoted.com
    Neither source provides any context. No date…nothing.

  2. Teve says:

    In my Trumper county in North Florida, 36% of 18+ adults are vaxxed, and that’s a higher rate than 5 out of 6 adjacent counties. The 6th is Alachua, where UF is, with much higher vaxx numbers, cause duh.

  3. Teve says:

    @Mister Bluster: florida had 17% of the national new covid cases yesterday. How’s that for competence.

    2
  4. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    But, this is ridiculous behavior.

    Ridiculous behavior. Ron DeSantis wants to run for Prez as FG 2.0. I’m not seeing the disconnect. And besides, didn’t Andy spend 4 or 5 posts yesterday explaining that masking wasn’t the solution in the first place? (There are articles of faith at stake here for some people. Every bit as serious and potentially deadly as anything people criticize religious people for holding.)

    3
  5. Pete S says:

    I continue to maintain that endangering your children through stupidity should qualify for a Darwin award just as much as doing it to yourself – the end result is the same, taking yourself out of the gene pool. I don’t know what award you would give to DeSantis for endangering everyone’s children for political reasons.

    1
  6. sam says:

    Messalina with brains.

  7. Han says:

    DeSantis is a Johnny-come-lately. Our Republican governor here in Iowa banned school mask mandates back in May, with a week and a half of school left to go in our district. Just enough time to cause problems between masked and unmasked kids.

    2
  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    Is this executive order actually binding? Executive control of schools is invested the elected school boards, not the governor.

    2
  9. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    In particular, thanks to previous Republican culture war, Florida state law currently allows school boards to require uniforms for public school. If a school decides to make a mask part of the uniform, I’m not sure DeSantis has any power to overrule that.

    6
  10. gVOR08 says:

    DeSantis’ raw ambition and cynicism here is stunning. He is willing to foster false narratives about personal responsibility in a way that is going to increase the chances his constituents get sick because he thinks it will boost his odds of nomination.

    Same story short, he’s a Republican. After 70 years of ‘the government is the problem’, ‘greed is good’, ‘freedumb’, ‘deep state’, ‘elitists’ from GOPs and FOX news you can get this sort of thing.

    The local paper printed my letter saying DeSantis wants to be prez and in furtherance of that goal he has decided what Lord Farquaad told his knights in Shrek, “Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.” And the paper’s headline for it jumped on my mention that DeSantis is vaccinated. Waste of my time to write the letter though. And DeSantis’ tactic is working. People love that DeUseless opened up the bars and beaches and isn’t going to let anyone tell them to wear a face diaper. Gawd I hope that stupidity isn’t contagious.

    Someone elsewhere pointed out that he’s got to get through the GOP primaries to become prez, and GOP primary voters are likely to be anti-mandate and unvaccinated. He has to get reelected guv and then nominated for prez by GOP primary voters before he even thinks about anything else.

    And I have to append the now famous Rich Lowry column.

    2
  11. Scott F. says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Is this executive order actually binding? Executive control of schools is invested the elected school boards, not the governor.

    I suspect more than a few school boards will defy DeSantis’ executive order as they catch grief from their teachers and parents. And DeSantis may try to make of show of enforcing his order on a district or two, mostly to shore up his tough guy cred.

    But, DeSantis won’t be too aggressive against localities that decide to defy him. This executive order is mostly performative and DeSantis already has his press coverage and he’s already got liberals and RINO calling him ridiculous. The Trump wannabe already has what he needs to run his grift.

  12. flat earth luddite says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    He extolls limited government, yet wants to micromanage things he has no knowledge about, or experience in. My condolences to my fellow commentariat who reside in the Sunshine State.

    5
  13. @Stormy Dragon: @Scott F.: I suspect at least part of the issue will be which School Board/Superintendent wants to risks going to court over this. I suspect they would win, but the potential hassle with deter some.

    At a minimum, DeSantis is making their lives unnecessarily harder than they need to be.

    The gov’s moves also will embolden anti-mask families, etc.

    As someone in the middle of helping to make local policy on these matters, it helps when there is support from above, and the more the better. The less support, the harder it is. And active opposition makes it almost impossible.

    1
  14. Sleeping Dog says:

    David Frum has a column up at the Atlantic, advocating that it is time for the market to punish the states that refuse to take doing what is possible to stop Covid. One of his examples is to take a cruise from a port that isn’t in Fla. Another maybe to take your Disney vacation in Cali rather than Fla. It would be great to see public health officials in states that are acting responsibly, suggesting that snowbirds go somewhere else rather than Fla, Tex et. al.

    4
  15. MarkedMan , says:

    People on this site know that for years I’ve been essentially saying, “Electing Republicans does active harm to our society.” This was always meant literally, never hyperbole. Desantis is the perfect (and tragic) illustration of this reality.

    2
  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I wonder if he can withhold state funds.

  17. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Teve: Yeah, no surprise that Leon (seat of FSU and FAMU) and Alachua (seat of UF) counties vote a lot more blue than any nearby counties.

  18. EddieInCA says:

    https://www.rawstory.com/ron-desantis-florida/

    Florida set a record of new Covid cases yesterday. And will probably do so again today and foe the foreseeable future.

    3
  19. steve says:

    Like most supposed conservative principles the idea of local government is best is total nonsense. They dont believe that at all. They believe in turning their beliefs into law be it local, statewide or national.

    Steve

    4
  20. Teve says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: on a red county/blue county map of Florida you can see where all the major universities are. 😀

  21. Kathy says:

    Abut what one can expect from the party of personal depravity.

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    The GOP has become a party of pure nihilism. They have no ideas; all they have is opposition to Democrats. And since this pandemic started, they have tried to make *everything* into a cultural wedge issue because they simply won’t agree with the Democrats on anything. We’ve seen it on COVID. We’re also now seeing on 1/6 — they simply can’t agree to hearings because that’s what DEMOCRATS want. I’d hoped maybe a few recent turns on the issue of vaccines indicated that they’d realized how bad they’ve gotten. But no.

    11
  23. Mimai says:

    @sam:

    Haha! Great reference. Though I feel that’s a bit unfair to Messalina. Also, unlike Messalina, DeSantis is decidedly lacking in, um, sexus appellationis. YMWNV!

    1
  24. flat earth luddite says:

    Late thought after my 4th cup of espresso… is it just me, or does it look like he’s surrendering to the COVID virus that just entered the room to confront him?

    1
  25. EddieInCA says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Hal – Welcome back. I sure wish you would post more. You’re a rational conservative, and our arguments go back to the early days of “Right Thinking From The Left Coast”, and our dear late friend Lee.

    This site can use more rational conservative voices. Dr. Joyner and a few others try, but we need more for a robust dialogue. So hop in more often if you can.

    I hope you’re well.

    12
  26. Teve says:

    @Hal_10000: the GOP isn’t in charge of its agenda. Rupert, Trump, Tucker, Hannity, Ingraham, Bongino etc are driving this bus. And they have zero interest in saving lives, improving infrastructure or jobs or education or healthcare. They just want to rile up the elderly rural whites, and stack cheddar. That’s the source of the nihilism. FoxNews is probably the worst thing to happen to America since Pearl Harbor, but it’s also specifically the worst thing to happen to Republicans.

    4
  27. Mikey says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Florida set a record of new Covid cases yesterday. And will probably do so again today and foe the foreseeable future.

    BREAKING: Florida has reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to new federal health data. The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus. https://t.co/j5RVccwMPA

    1
  28. Hal_10000 says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Thanks. I’ve been taking a break from comment boards lately but hope to be around a bit more.

    5
  29. grumpy realist says:

    @Hal_10000: Yes, please do! I need reassurance that rational conservatives exist! (especially since all the writers at TAC seem to have gone off the deep end.)

    8
  30. Matt Bernius says:

    @Hal_10000:
    Let me add in a +1 to having you around here commenting.

    Though if folks also need an extra Hal hit, I highly recommend his writings at: https://ordinary-times.com/

    4
  31. steve says:

    “(especially since all the writers at TAC seem to have gone off the deep end.)”

    Aint that the truth. Dreher is pretty much unreadable now. He really doesnt care how anyone governs or what principles they have as long as they will oppose the scourge of CRT and trash the trans people. He doesnt even bother anymore with the idea that as a Christian he ought to care about them as people even if he disagrees with their choices. All hate all the time.

    Steve

  32. Unsympathetic says:

    Big government regulations overruling local school boards are bad because Saint Reagan said so. Unless I am the one applying them, in which case they demonstrate my manly alpha-ness.

    Conservatives never have been known for their intellectual consistency — except on one point. Everything’s acceptable while they’re in power.

    I, for one, am getting tired of all the winning DeSantis is doing in the war on Covid.

  33. Teve says:

    @steve: i just went to TAC to see what Rod was up to.

    The only power strong enough to stop these woke-capitalist soft totalitarians is the state. Mark my words, if the Right can shake free of its preoccupation with Donald Trump, it’s going to nominate a presidential candidate, and Congressional candidates, that will punch these dirtbags as hard as they’re punching the rest of us. I don’t want a “demagogue.” I want a president and a Congress that will do everything in its power to stop these soft totalitarians by braining them across the head with the political equivalent of a cast-iron skillet. I don’t want a president who talks big; I want one who acts against these corporate thugs without pity or apology.

    You’ll notice Rod’s not capable of specifying what a president could do to ‘brain’ Paypal, Facebook, Google, etc.

  34. Rick DeMent says:

    In Michigan, Republicans were fine with Rick Snyder unilaterally installing “emergency business managers” in cities that were not preforming well (All of them black majority cities). I never heard a peep out of any Republican talking about “freedom” or “rights” when that fiasco was going down (BTW not one of those EBM was able to improve anything despite broad powers granted to them). Basically this with was a wholesale nullification of the voters choice in those cities and a wholesale power grab of local control.

    Now we have to listen to the same people go positively apoplectic at the idea of having to wear a freaking mask to keep people from dying when they said nothing about the the aforementioned power grab. It positively Kafkaesque.

  35. Is everyone stupid?!? says:

    I just love how actual facts have no bearing on obviously liberal comments on this pathetic story, which can be assumed is due to the lack of factual knowledge disseminated in this story, but it’s no surprise. We all know now that being vaccinated does nothing to keep you from catching or spreading COVID considering the inept democrat flyers from Texas who chartered a private jet on the tax payers dime only to spread Covid to at least five of the fully vaccinated law breakers! We all know the “science” is very clear about the majority of paper masks used in that it does not in any way prevent the spread of this virus, period! Your own favorite Dr Fauci has admitted that and advised his “friends” against wearing them! Funny how every one of you will argue against the factual truth! This is the anti-reality you pathetic fools live in, and it’s sad!

  36. Well, all I can say is that if you are concerned about facts, you need to look into the rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the vaccinated v. the unvaccinated.

    It is quite clear that the vaccinated are substantially better off.

    No one ever said the unvaccinated could never get it. But, as promised, the vaccinated are far less likely to catch the virus and, if they do, they are far less likely to be hospitalized or to die.

    These are actual facts.