Florida on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to surpass 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. This came just one day after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference where he denounced mask mandates and insisted that schools stay open for in-person instruction.
The Sunshine State hit the dark milestone after 8,800 new cases were reported Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Florida Department of Health. Florida has recorded more than 18,600 total deaths, the fourth-highest toll in the nation.
Texas and California were the first two states to reach 1 million cases. Both states now have more than 1.2 million confirmed cases.
DeSantis, a Republican, has been opposed to mask mandates and business shutdowns throughout the pandemic, even as the state’s COVID-19 numbers soared. Florida was one of the first states to start reopening most businesses in the first wave of the pandemic, and DeSantis refused to roll back when cases rose.
Last week, DeSantis extended an order that prevents local governments from fining people who refuse to wear masks, and restricts their ability to limit capacity in bars and restaurants.
The governor on Monday held his first press conference in nearly a month. He said school closures because of coronavirus were “the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” and that he still would not support mask mandates.
“I’m opposed to mandates, period,” said DeSantis. “I don’t think they work.” He said any further fines or shutdowns are “totally off the table.”
The CDC and leading public health experts have said masks may be the most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 — even more so than an eventual vaccine.
Some Republican governors who initially opposed mask mandates, including Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Utah’s Gary Herbert, issued statewide orders in November as the U.S. saw its worst month yet for COVID-19 cases and deaths.
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