A group of South Florida mayors, led by Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber and joined by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, held a virtual press conference on Wednesday featuring four separate requests insisting that Governor Ron DeSantis backtrack on his refusal to issue a statewide mask mandate.
“It’s unmistakably clear that Florida’s approach to managing this pandemic is failing pretty horribly,” Gelber said to kick off the event, before resorting to peer pressure to shame DeSantis into capitulation. “Across the country, governors of every political stripe are doing it. They realize that it is clearly, at this point, one of the few things you can do that allows you to open up the economy in a way that protects the public and reduces the spread.”
Neither Gelber nor the other mayors featured in the event acknowledged Florida’s already high compliance rate of voluntary mask usage. That, combined with similar case data in comparison to other states, forms the underpinning for DeSantis’s hands-off approach to the pandemic.
The event was just one in a series of many throughout the past nine months in which Democrats have attempted to portray DeSantis’s coronavirus policies in a negative light, regardless of what the data shows. In July, U.S. Representative Lois Frankel was just one of many Democrat leaders featured in a similar conference call format who lambasted DeSantis for his stance. She said at the time:
“The failure of leadership at the national and state level has put us in the position we are in now. If we had starved the virus at the beginning and completely shutdown … and got everyone to wear masks, we would be in a much different position today and we would have saved lives.”
The claim that states with mask mandates are better off than those without isn’t immediately obvious. New York and California, two states that have had statewide mask mandates in place for months, appear to be faring no better than Florida. All have similar case growth over the last month:
Nevermind that since mid-April New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has kept New York in a near-total lockdown, which includes a statewide mandatory mask mandate. Or that California Governor Gavin Newsome doesn’t even follow his own mask mandate, issued in June.
What’s important to remember is what the three charts above do not show: Florida’s similarity in total coronavirus cases is not proof that masks are irrelevant, but rather mask mandates.
Because a summer survey of Florida residents by digital research firm 1Q found that most Floridians wear a mask anyway. According to the survey, 80% say it’s either “very” or “somewhat” important to don a mask while visiting a restaurant.
The empowerment of Florida citizens appears to have had some positive economic impact compared with New York, with 2 million fewer citizens, the Empire State is facing a projected budget shortfall of $56 billion through 2022, including a $14.5 billion deficit this year, and $16 billion projected for 2021. In Florida, the shortfall through 2021 is expected to be just $5.2 billion.