With Florida’s COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients on the rise, many mayors have called on the governor to implement a statewide mask mandate. Instead, the governor has made it harder to enforce local mandates.
On Nov. 24, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis extended an executive order that prevents local city and county governments from fining those who refuse to wear face masks in public places. The cities and counties can still require the masks, but without the threat of fines, the local requirements are nearly impossible to enforce.
The governor’s action was disappointing to officials who are doing everything they can to encourage the public to use the CDC-recommended measures to slow the transmission of the virus, which include wearing facial coverings in public places where it is not possible to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cara tweeted: “Bipartisan governors nationwide are putting mask orders in place as one of the best tools we have to fight #COVID19. It’s deeply frustrating that @GovRonDeSantis continues to block local actions and make it harder for local leaders to keep our communities safe.”
Chris King, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018, tweeted a link to the WSVN 7 coverage of the story with the message “Alternate headline: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Continues Killing Spree.”
In a Nov. 12 appearance on “Good Morning America,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, compared the COVID-19 vaccines to “the cavalry.” He encouraged Americans to double down on the basic precautions of wearing masks in public, avoiding crowds and hand washing until that help arrives.
Fauci said first reponders, health care providers and those most at risk, such as nursing home residents, will get the vaccines first. He says he hopes by April, May and June, ordinary citizen should be able to get a vaccine. When you know the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop fighting, he explained.
In a Nov. 25 interview with CNN, Dr. William Scaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, said Americans could prevent thousands of deaths by taking simple precautions. “If we all got together, wore the masks, did the social distancing, we could bend this curve within two to three weeks,” he said. “We would eventually see transmissions go down even before we get to the vaccines.”
According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, if 95% of Americans wore face masks in pubic for the next two months, more than 40,000 lives could be saved.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”
Whether or not there is a mask mandate in place, wearing a mask is the smart thing to do. According to the CDC, about 40% of those who have COVID-19 have no symptoms. Unless you are tested every day, you don’t know if you are infected and you don’t know if you might be spreading the virus to others. CDC research has proven the virus is most commonly spread in the moisture that leaves your mouth and nose when you cough, sneeze or talk. A cloth mask catches most of that moisture, helping to protect others from you. Recent studies have found the mask also gives the wearer some protection. While cloth masks provide only limited protection for the wearer, they reduce the “load” of virus the person may get. The greater the virus load in the initial infection, the sicker you could get.
Wearing a mask is the compassionate thing to do. Even if you aren’t concerned about your own health, if you become infected you can pass the virus to others. Those others could become seriously ill or pass the virus to someone else who is more vulnerable to the virus. For example, if you infect a teenager stocking groceries in the supermarket, he might unknowingly take that virus home to an elderly grandparent.
Wearing a mask is the beneficial thing to do for the economy. “I believe that we can do it without a lockdown,” said Fauci. “You can still get businesses going, you can still have economic forward thinking.” He said intensifying public heath measures could avoid another lockdown.
Regardless of mandates, wear a mask. It’s the right thing to do.