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Kriseman, Four Mayors Press Gov. DeSantis For Mandatory Mask Policy

City of St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman joined the mayors of Miami Beach, Sunrise, Miami Shores Village and Hialeah in calling for a statewide mandatory mask policy.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and four other Florida mayors asked the governor Wednesday to tighten coronavirus restrictions statewide.

Kriseman joined the mayors of Miami Beach, Sunrise, Miami Shores Village and Hialeah in calling for Gov. Ron DeSantis to institute a statewide mandatory mask policy.

The mayors also asked for full capacity of state-funded testing sites again and the "teeth" back in enforcement of COVID-19 rules like physical distancing.

During a Zoom press conference, Kriseman said public health shouldn't be a partisan issue, noting that a number of Republican governors have issued mask orders."This is not Republican, Democrat, red or blue. Because look at Ohio, look at what (Republican) Gov. (Mike) DeWine is doing. There are 10 states that I can think of off the top of my head where Republican governors all have mandatory mask orders," Kriseman said.

"All we're asking for as mayors is for the support of an administration in Tallahassee that is looking out for the residents of the state of Florida as much as we are for the residents of our community."

Kriseman also accused DeSantis of not listening to epidemiologists and instead heeding the guidance of radiologist Dr. Scott Atlas, an advisor of President Donald Trump. The governor was also criticized for allowing his office to hire Kyle Lamb — a sports blogger and Uber driver from Ohio — to analyze COVID-19 data.

"You can’t make this stuff up," Kriseman said. "We've got to have a state that follows the same rules and puts in place the same rules as so many other states around the country."

"I’m a Republican. I’m the most conservative guy in the world but we have to take care of our health and our businesses and the best way to do that is by using that balance that right now, is like, hey, it's just going to go this way and hopefully it'll work out," said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.

He said everyone on both sides of the aisle wants to avoid shutdowns, since they were so hard hit during the first COVID-19 wave.

In recent days, a number of states, including those led by Republican governors like Iowa, Utah and Ohio, have put mask mandates in place.

"Masks are vital in providing protection against this virus. It's been proven. Masks should be mandatory," said Mayor Crystal Wagar of Miami Shores. "All we're simply doing is calling on the governor to use the power, use the power that all Florida residents gave him to help all Floridians and help us, local governments, slow down the spread of this virus."

Mayor Dan Gelber of Miami Beach added that even Sweden is enforcing restrictions now, and urged him to do the same.

They all asked DeSantis to respond to their pleas right away.

However, the requests are considered unlikely to succeed, as DeSantis pledged in September to not institute any more lockdowns in the future. His office reiterated that position over the weekend, even as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
Verónica Zaragovia
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