Florida Governor Flouts National Health Guidelines as State Infections Rage in Red Zone

In Florida, the SARS-Cov-2 infection rate has soared 382 percent since Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the state into Phase 3 reopening status September 25th. Previously, Florida infections had soared 1,000 percent from mid-April to a peak on July 17. A great mask-up led by local county- and city-wide mask ordinances, which included fines, had decreased Florida’s infection rate, referred to as “flattening the curve”.

Nearly three-fourths of the entire state of Florida had been diligently masking up based on widespread adoption of masking.  Now, as widely reported statewide in the Florida press, the White House coronavirus task force has been calling out Gov. Ron DeSantis to re-double efforts and re-align with national guidelines.

The White House taskforce December 6 confirmed Science News Service’s earlier reporting that Florida had re-entered the “red Zone” for its high COVID-19 spread.  The need for oft-repeated behavioral changes was emphasized—masking, social distancing, limited gatherings, and in particular, an emphasis on increased testing of non-symptomatic people from whom the disease is spread unknowingly.

As part of the Phase 3 action, the governor banned fines and penalties for folks who opt out of masking up. DeSantis has not issued a statewide mask mandate and has banned local governments from fining people who ignore local rules.  The state’s phase 3 reopening also lifted restrictions on businesses and the governor banned imposing any new ones.

In July, Florida became a global epicenter of the pandemic ranking number one for most infections with 15,300 in a single day nationwide. After the flattening this summer, Florida has creeped back up to 11,409 infections in a single day on December 11.

SNS has reached out to Gov. DeSantis’ press office, which refused to comment on whether the state government was embracing controversial herd exposure and/or herd immunity practices.

By Rosalie Marion Bliss

MA Journalism and Public Affairs


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Rosalie Marion Bliss, MA, is a former writer for USDA’s chief scientific research agency. Bliss writes about research-based news and editorials focused on public face mask quality and standards during the pandemic.