Florida Grocery Store Cosplays 2019

Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
While the country desperately fights another wave of rising COVID-19 cases, Florida has once again proven to disregard science. A now-viral video shows dozens of employees and shoppers who appear to believe they are not living in a deadly pandemic. In what looks like a scene from Pleasantville, patrons laugh, chat, and bag groceries at a supermarket in Naples, FL. Several customers are older. But here's the Florida twist: the video, which shared by NBC correspondent Sam Brock, is from this week — and nearly no one in the clip is wearing a mask.
The store’s owner, Alfie Oakes, told NBC’s Today that he believes the mandate is “hogwash” and that masks do not work. “Why don't we shut the world down because of the heart attacks?” he said. “Why don't we lock down cities because of heart attacks?”
Collier County, where the grocery store is located, has a significant elderly population and a 7.2% positivity rate. Naples is currently averaging 9,778 new cases a day. And, Collier County has a mask mandate, much like several other counties in the state. But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has effectively prevented local leaders from taking action against businesses and patrons that don’t comply with the rule. The ownership of the store depicted in the video has evidently taken a clear stance on mask-wearing.
“Those in our lovely government have ordered all persons entering indoor facilities to wear a mask,” reads a sign outside the shop, according to NBC. “If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you are exempt from this order. Due to HIPAA and the 4th Amendment, we cannot legally ask you about your medical condition.”
But this — albeit horrifying footage — speaks to a trend we’ve seen across Florida, which only highlights how DeSantis’ neglect has impacted the state. As of February 4, Florida has reported over 1,744,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 27,000 deaths. Since the start of 2021, these numbers have continued to crawl up, hitting a peak of 19,530 cases a day in January. Still, DeSantis remains unwavering in his position on protection measures: he has refused to enforce a statewide mask mandate, even as many mayors and local leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, have called upon him to take action at the state level.
“Masks are vital in providing protection against this virus. It's been proven. Masks should be mandatory," Miami Shores Mayor Crystal Wagar said during a November press conference. "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.”
In September, DeSantis reopened all restaurants and businesses at full capacity — a decision that Dr. Anthony Fauci called “very concerning.” Although local leaders are allowed to instate their own guidelines and restrictions, DeSantis has barred them from enforcing rules like mask mandates. And when cases started to reach new all-time highs after the reopening, DeSantis only doubled down on this decision. “If they want to shut down businesses, I’m gonna stand in the way,” he told a reporter at a December news conference
This means that a mayor cannot shut down a business that refuses to enforce mask-wearing, and store owners like Oakes can leave passive-aggressive signs outside their shops. And, apparently, encourage careless behavior that has been scientifically proven to contribute to the spread of the virus.

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