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Requiring masks statewide would 'backfire,' Florida Gov. DeSantis says

Posted at 3:28 PM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 15:31:30-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. (WTXL) — Gov. Ron DeSantis is encouraging residents to follow the guidelines as he continues to reject calls to issue a statewide mandatory mask order.

He opened up Friday's press conference in Fort Myers saying, "really nothing has changed."

"Today, we're seeing obviously a lot of news about a huge number of 'cases.' Really nothing has changed in the past week in terms of we had a big test dump," DeSantis said.

DeSantis addressed the continued spike in cases, attributing the cases to community transmission, a higher positivity rate and mass testing.

He said that most of the cases involved people in their 30s and below and that most of the people are asymptomatic. Florida's positivity rate has shot up significantly from 3% to 4% at the beginning of June to 10% to 15% over the last week.

"Some of that was driven, particularly in the last two weeks, by a lot of community transmission, particularly from the younger demographic," said DeSantis.

While the virus has been unlikely to be lethal in younger populations, he said the increase still presents a risk to at-risk populations in Florida.

"The community transmission is being driven by that 18 to 35-year-old group," DeSantis said, adding that many younger patients are asymptomatic. "For those who many be in the low risk groups, understanding that it may be circulating among some of your friends. You have a responsibility to be careful."

He also pointed to May and claimed coronavirus had a "fall off out of the news," which may have led some people to stop being as cautious.

"We've heard a lot about it the last few months, or I guess most of the last few months," DeSantis said. "There were a couple weeks there when people weren't talking about it and you had some big gatherings."

The governor stressed the importance of proper handwashing and social distancing where possible. If it's not possible to socially distance, DeSantis strongly recommended that Floridians wear a mask.

"Part of it may be as it gets hotter, people are going to want to go indoors more and be in air conditioning. A/C is not your friend when it comes to the virus," DeSantis said. "The virus can do much better in an enclosed, air conditioned space. Outdoors are your friend, sunshine is your friend."

When asked about a mask mandate, the governor said that a statewide mask mandate would likely "backfire" because there would be problems policing and enforcing such an order.

"We've advised that it's something that could make an impact...[but] to put criminal penalties on that is something that would probably backfire," DeSantis explained.

DeSantis also addressed the Florida DBPR's suspension on on-site alcohol sales at bars across the state, asserting that he would not be rolling back any other guidelines at this time.

"When people followed the guidelines, we've not had any problems. We've not had any issues. The reason why DBPR took it is because you had people that weren't following it. You had widespread non-compliance and that led to issues," said DeSantis. "So folks, follow the guidelines, we're gonna be in good shape. When you depart from that, then it becomes problematic."

Despite the spike, DeSantis said that the state is better prepared to handle COVID-19 patients and will continue to take actions to protect the vulnerable population.

You can watch the full press conference below: