CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is assuring parents that the state's COVID-19 mitigation efforts will not include any lockdowns, school closures or mask mandates moving forward.
The governor spoke from a restaurant in Cape Coral Friday, flanked by signs reading "Free To Choose." He said heading into the new school year, the state will not mandate masks for students or teachers.
"We have a lot of push from the CDC and others to make every single person, kids, staff, have to wear masks all day," DeSantis said. "That would be a huge mistake."
Last month, the governor said, he signed HB 241, the "Parents' Bill of Rights," preventing any government institution from infringing on parents' rights to direct the raising of their children. The decision whether to mask kids "falls squarely in the contours" of the new law, DeSantis said.
DeSantis said that soon, he will sign an executive order directing the state's Department of Education and Department of Health to set rules on masks.
The governor said his administration looked at data and determined that schools are a low-risk environment. He also said kids don't wear their masks when they hang out after school, and that kids tell him they don't want to wear masks.
"We have to look at the data," DeSantis said. "Even if the data said something else, you don't mandate" due to freedom.
The governor said efforts to shutter schools show a "callous disregard for the physical, emotional and academic well-being of our children." He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation for all students and teachers to wear masks at the start of the school year does not take into consideration vaccinations.
"You get vaccinated but still have to suffer under the mask," DeSantis said. "What message does that send?"
DeSantis said he wants to empower parents to make the best decision for their families.
"If a parent really feels this is something important for their kid, we're not stopping that," he said. "It would not be fair if we told parents who want their kids to wear a mask they're not gonna be allowed to do it, so it wouldn't be fair to make kids wear a mask if parents don't want it."
He said he and his wife Casey won't mask their own kids.
"My kids ain't gonna wear that thing properly," he said. "We know that."