Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber blamed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after the state reported 21,683 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, its highest single-day total during the ongoing pandemic.
“We’re not allowed to have mask mandates now, we were one of the first cities to require it and we charged a fine just to get people to do it. The governor stopped allowing us to do it and then immediately we saw a surge across our county and state when he did that,” Gelber told CNN.
The Democratic mayor said city officials are “trying to do everything we can to get around the governor’s very wrong-headed desires.”
The state has emerged as the new epicenter of the virus, accounting for about 20 percent of all new cases in the nation. As the highly virulent Delta variant spreads throughout most parts of the US, DeSantis, a Republican, has vowed not to instate mask mandates or further lockdowns, often criticizing public health guidance for being too far reaching.
The record Friday case figure, released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Saturday, shows how fast cases can surge from just one day earlier, when Florida reported 17,903 new cases. With vaccine rates, Florida ranks midway among states with about 60 percent of its population over 12 vaccinated.
“The governor has made it as difficult as possible to make people safe,” Gelber said. “He’s like the pied piper leading everybody off a cliff right now by letting them know that they don’t have to like the CDC, they don’t have to wear masks, that they can do whatever they want when we’re in the midst of an enormous pandemic.”
DeSantis on Friday prevented school districts from requiring children returning to classes in August to wear masks. Faced with backlash from health experts, the governor defended the move as one that would enable students to better focus on learning and enhance the classroom experience. He also argued that there’s no evidence to suggest that masks stop outbreaks among school children, which is against CDC guidelines.
“I have young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the mask with the kids. We never have. We won’t. I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun,” he said during a press conference.
The governor, who’s seeking reelection in 2022, blames the surge of COVID-19 on a hot summer that has seen people stay indoors with air conditioning, rather than outside where the virus is less likely to spread.
Newsweek reached out to DeSantis’ office for comment.