Despite the spiking COVID-19 death toll in his state, which has been hardest hit by the Delta variant, DeSantis issued an executive order this summer blocking local schools from implementing mask mandates to combat the virus spread.
A Florida judge on Wednesday, however, ruled against DeSantis and allowed schools to mandate masks without a parent opt-out while the governor appeals to a higher court. The same judge initially ruled last month that DeSantis did not have the authority to ban the mandates.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the pro-Trump governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate suggested he was perplexed by how masks had become such a political hot button.
“Since I’ve been governor, I think any issue that has politics—and I don’t know why the masks have politics around it,” declared DeSantis, who has repeatedly mocked mask guidances. “Let the parent make the decision that’s best for their kids. If you want the masks, do it, if you don’t, don’t—that’s fine."
Just two months ago, and with his state topping the nation in coronavirus deaths, DeSantis began selling items like trucker hats and drink koozies with printed phrases like “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?” or “Don’t Fauci My Florida.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has become a top villain in conservative circles for promoting social distancing, masks, and vaccinations as measures to combat the pandemic.
“We have unions involved, and the same unions that wanted schools closed all of last year,” DeSantis grumbled. “Remember, we were in court last year at this time because they sued me to close the schools. We were getting kids back in school, we understood how important that was for parents and kids to be learning and all this stuff.”
Aside from his political attempts to thwart mask regulations, DeSantis has made a name for himself by opposing other mitigation efforts including private businesses requiring “vaccine passports.”