DeSantis’ Mask Mandate Ban is Selfish and Short-sighted

Florida+Gov.+Ron+DeSantis+has+fought+tirelessly+to+keep+in+place+his+ban+on+mask+mandates+by+taking+legal+action.+%28Courtesy+of+PBS%29

AFP via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has fought tirelessly to keep in place his ban on mask mandates by taking legal action. (Courtesy of PBS)

Haley Daniels, Contributing Writer

Debates over mask mandates are at the forefront of many individuals’ and institutions’ agendas lately. Generally, conservative viewpoints suggest that masks are an infringement on our rights, while the liberal side believes that mask mandates are necessary to end the pandemic. 

On Friday, Sept. 10, Florida’s First Court reinstated mask mandates in schools, superseding local requirements for now. Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis made waves by recruiting legal forces to continue an executive order that leaves masks up to the discretion of childrens’ parents.

The original executive order, passed on July 30, is titledEnsuring Parents’ Freedom to Choose – Masks in Schools.” This order was made partially in response to President Biden’s encouragement that children in schools should be required to wear masks. 

Mask mandates are integral to putting an end to rising COVID cases throughout the United States, even alongside the introduction of several effective vaccines. Although the vaccine rate has recently increased, only 54.5% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data. For example, those who are fully vaccinated in New York have reached 61.8%, whereas Florida is only 55.2%. However, Florida has given out 25.8 million vaccinations versus New York’s 25.1 million. This data shows that there has been more of an active effort by New Yorkers to receive their second doses. 

Floridians’ lack of enthusiasm to follow up with their second vaccination might be an indication that people are afraid.

Vaccine distrust has existed almost as long as vaccines have. It is not a novel topic, but it has created a serious impediment to the success of eliminating COVID. Even after the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a large portion of the population is still concerned about its contents and effectiveness, and most importantly, the side effects. 

Since there is an air of distrust surrounding the vaccine, as seen in Florida, there has additionally been a severe backlash in response to the mask mandates in several states. Some Republicans feel like it is a breach of their freedom, and that the government should not be allowed to mandate masks. This stems from a distrust of the vaccine, and in the case of DeSantis, disrespect for President Biden. 

“Americans should be trusted to provide informed consent for vaccines. Americans should make their own personal decisions about masks. They’re sick of others imposing their will on them,” stated Rep. Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican. 

There should be a collective acceptance that wearing masks assists in ending the pandemic. The government’s main responsibility is to protect the population, so it has a duty to enforce mask requirements. By doing so, this so-called imposition can promote a culture of safety for everyone. 

Moreover, it is not asking much to wear masks. They are only a small piece of cloth or polypropylene, in the case of surgical masks. New designs have prioritized comfort and affordability, with some public places carrying extras if a patron does not have one. 

It is selfish and short-sighted for DeSantis to not require masks in school, where most kids are not yet vaccinated, especially because children ages 12 to 15 make up the group with the least vaccinations, with only 33% having received one shot. 

With variants and COVID still on the rise due to increased in-person activities, masks must continue to be worn to limit the spread of the virus. Most children in grade and middle school are not old enough to understand the full ramifications of the pandemic, so their parents must acknowledge the possible negative effects of choosing not to enforce mask-wearing. 

DeSantis’s vehement opposition to a mask mandate proves his selfish perspective. There will always be some amount of uproar in response to a mandate, but it should not get in the way of the greater good. 

I hope for Florida citizens’ sake that people will make the right decision and wear masks, and tell their kids to do so as well. 

Haley Daniels, FCRH ‘23, is a psychology and English major from Hershey, Penn.