Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tells students to take off 'ridiculous' face masks at Tampa press conference

During a press conference announcing funding for a cybersecurity education program in Tampa on Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis scolded students standing on stage for wearing face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"You do not have to wear those masks. I mean, please take them off," he told the students to nervous laughter. "Honestly, it’s not doing anything and we’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”

Many of the students continued to wear their masks. The governor has been a vocal opponent of mask mandates for much of the last year, pushing laws that made mandatory masking illegal in the state of Florida and targeting schools districts that imposed mandates during coronavirus spikes.

Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried shamed DeSantis on Twitter after a clip of the interaction was shared.
The governor has flip-flopped on a bill that would punish a group of Florida school districts who continued to use mask mandates to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 after his executive orders and laws passed in a special session of the legislature made them effectively illegal. While he first opposed the proposal from Central Florida Rep. Randy Fine that would strip $200 million from the budgets of the offending school districts, DeSantis has since come around to the punitive measure.

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