Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried has made multple calls for Gov. Ron DeSantis to implement a statewide mask mandate.
The state’s coronavirus case totals have increased by the thousands every day over the past two weeks, approaching 180,000 statewide cases on Friday afternoon.
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DeSantis has argued that the mask requirement should be left up to local governments. He's also said multiple times he has no plans to roll back the state's economy, suggesting the growing number of coronavirus cases is connected to young people socializing, not the reopening of businesses.
With 31,299 new cases this week alone, Florida is a new #COVID19 hotspot.
Today, I'm calling on @GovRonDeSantis to issue a statewide order requiring masks in public.
This is common sense, violates no liberties, and 18 other states have done so. We must act together. #WearAMask
— Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) June 25, 2020
We spoke with Fried on Sundial about her reasoning for the mandate and how it would be enforced. She also discussed how Florida’s agriculture economy has been impacted by the pandemic.
WLRN: Commissioner, why are you calling for a statewide mask mandate?
FRIED: You see our numbers are skyrocketing. As of today (Thursday), we had another 10,000 new cases reported. That's over 54,000 new cases just in this past week. Our hospitalization numbers are the highest since May 1st. And what's also interesting is that we are seeing this with two hundred thousand tests in the last four days compared to two hundred eighty thousand on the four previous days.
And so what we're seeing is that not just our numbers are skyrocketing, but the positivity rating is also increasing. Just yesterday (Wednesday) alone it was at 16 percent. So that's why we've called on the governor to issue the statewide mass order, because we all have to do this together.
We all know that the masks in and of themselves don’t stop the spread of the virus, but they certainly slow it down. And if we are not showing that this is a priority from our elected leaders and from our governor and from the White House, how are we expecting anybody else to take this seriously?
The governor has said before, as you know, that he wants to leave it to local governments. He's also said that it would backfire if we try to make it statewide. But why should the entire state mandate the masks when really you see the highest concentrations here in South Florida, Tampa and the Jacksonville area? Why the whole state? Why not just those areas?
You know, because it's the whole state. You're seeing upticks even here in Leon County and in the Panhandle. And as people travel our state and for those who live here, you know that even if you live in one part of our state, you're constantly traveling through the state, whether it's driving from one part to the other, you have family members throughout the state. We've got Fourth of July coming up and people going to the beaches that are open. And if we're all going to stop this and we're all going to try to stop the spread that we all need to be doing this together.
And the reality is, if you have a statewide state mask order shows the state the severity of the situation, make sure that people understand that we're taking this seriously. And when the governor is making these accusations and accusing certain sectors of our of our state, you're only trying to [play the] blame game. You play [the] blame game, without actually trying to deal with the situation and trying to get in front of it.
And the fact of the matter is, I was very hopeful, with this reopening plan, it was based on data-point science, methodical information, and we just didn't follow it. We opened up our state before ever meeting those metrics that he and himself and the White House laid out. And [the] same thing happened when we went to phase two. And then there was no enforcement whatsoever. You have one area that says, gyms can be open where the order said specifically that it was not supposed to be. But, when you call into the governor's office and say, my business establishment should be open and members of his executive team are claiming, sure. Go right ahead.
I want to point out that, everybody else on the cabinet is a Republican. You're the only Democrat. And I'm curious, what is your working relationship like with the governor and with the cabinet?
When it comes to the governor, up until this point, there was between myself as well as my team, there had been an ongoing back-and-forth good relationship. And trying to have a lot of similar priorities when it comes to the environment, when it comes to our relationship with some of our foreign partners. We all had our first trade mission, all of us together to the state of Israel to develop those relationships.
And then when it comes to CFO — Chief Financial Officer — Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Ashley Moody, she and I went to undergrad and law school together, so we've known each other for a significant period of time. And CFO Patronis and I have also known each other for quite some time. So we stay in pretty constant communication.
But unfortunately, the governor has canceled most of our cabinet meetings during COVID. I had asked for him to brief us and to update us. In fact, we're supposed to have a cabinet meeting in June. They postponed it to July and then received notification this week that he was canceling it altogether or not rescheduling it. And that was also for our clemency meeting. So unfortunately, during COVID, our relationship has obviously gone very south to the point that he won't take my phone calls. And there has been a lack of communication between his office and mine.
Note: During the interview with Commissioner Fried, host Luis Hernandez incorrectly attributed a question to listener Denise Sears from Boca Raton related to gun control. The question heard in the interview was from Sundial Senior Producer Chris Remington.
As a live program, we do our best to include questions and comments from listeners in real time and errors can occur. We regret the error.