Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday asked a group of students attending a press conference to remove their face masks. The governor, who has strongly opposed face mask mandates in schools throughout the pandemic, said their mask-wearing is “COVID theater.”
“You do not have to wear those masks,” the governor said to students standing behind him at the University of South Florida, according to The Associated Press. “I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve got to stop with this COVID theater. So if you want to wear it fine, but this is ridiculous.”
The governor sighed and shook his head before beginning the press conference, where he announced a $ 20 million investment in cybersecurity workforce education. Some of the students took off their face masks for the event, while others continued to wear them.
DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw said “someone had to say it, after 2 years of propaganda that terrified and manipulated young people” in response to the governor’s comments.
“Breathe free, feel safe and be happy,” Pushaw wrote on Twitter.
According to the Florida Department of Health’s most recently published data, Florida reported 25,640 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of February 18 to February 24.