Press Releases

Shalala and Wasserman Schultz Lead Florida Members of Congress in Urging Gov. DeSantis to Issue Statewide Mask Mandate

Washington, June 24, 2020 | Carlos Condarco (2022253931)

Washington, DC - Congresswomen Donna Shalala (FL-27) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) led fellow members of Florida’s Congressional delegation in requesting Gov. Ron DeSantis issue an immediate statewide order that all individuals must wear masks in public. Florida has experienced a rapid surge of coronavirus infections in recent days, with both the number of cases and the rate of positive tests reaching record highs in the past week.

“As positive cases surge and hospitalizations increase, it is imperative that you take data-driven action to help protect Floridians, our families, and our communities from the dangers of COVID-19,” the Members wrote to DeSantis in a letter that was sent to him late yesterday.

“As restrictions have eased, Florida has witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of COVID-19 infections,” said Rep. Shalala. “Wearing a face mask is scientifically proven to help reduce the risk of spreading this disease. Gov. DeSantis has repeatedly mentioned that people must take a measure of personal responsibility during this pandemic. I hope that he will feel that same sense of responsibility to keep Florida safe by requiring masks to be worn in public statewide.”

“First, Governor DeSantis was too slow to acknowledge community spread had hit Florida and dragged his feet on urging residents to stay at home. Then DeSantis rushed the state into a re-opening, with no regard for a resurgence like we’re seeing now,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “We’re sounding the alarm for the governor to end this parade of mistakes and issue a mandatory order to all residents that they need to wear masks in public. The governor must end his ‘nothing to see here’ approach and put public health over political pandering to his base.” 

Other Members who signed the letter are: Reps. Alcee Hastings, FL-20, Kathy Castor (FL-14), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Val Demings (FL-10), Al Lawson (FL-05), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Darren Soto (FL-09), and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26).

Florida was among several states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, and recently surpassed 100,000 positive cases this week. Yet the Governor has previously delayed or resisted precautionary measures throughout this crisis. While some cities and counties have issued mask mandates locally, they remain optional on a state level.

“Wearing masks can help people feel more secure in their everyday activities, and play a role in safely re-opening the economy,” the Members wrote DeSantis. “While some communities throughout the state have adopted regulations requiring masks, the virus does not know or adhere to delineations of city or county. Floridians need strong, universal guidance from you during this time of uncertainty. We need to hear from you, clearly and unequivocally, that wearing a mask in public is a requirement. In saying so, you will be making a statement, driven by scientific data, that each individual has an urgent and integral role to play in slowing the spread of this virus.”

Read the entire letter below:

Dear Governor DeSantis,

We write to urge you to implement an immediate statewide mask order requiring that all individuals wear a mask while in public in order to fight the spread of COVID-19. As positive cases surge and hospitalizations increase, it is imperative that you take data-driven action to help protect Floridians, our families, and our communities from the dangers of COVID-19. The recommendation by Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees that "all individuals in Florida should wear face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible” is evidence that wearing a mask in public is sound and necessary practice from a scientific perspective. You must take the next step and make it a requirement.

On Sunday, Florida added an additional 3,494 positive cases, the latest in what the South Florida Sun Sentinel aptly called an “explosive trend of people testing positive for the disease.”[1] The state has reported more than 1,000 new cases each day since June 3rd, with the exception of only one day (June 8th),[2] and we have now marked the grim and unfortunate milestone of 100,000 cases in Florida.

The question of when and whether to wear a mask has taken on overt tones of political significance and must be irrelevant in the face of growing scientific evidence.  Wearing masks assists in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and avoiding the individual, communal and national tragedies that result from its spread. Published in The Lancet on June 1st, an analysis of 172 separate studies that examined various interventions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, SARS and MERS from an infected person to people close to them found that “mask wearing significantly reduces the risk of viral transmission.”[3] In addition, a German study looked at a town that adopted the use of face masks early in the pandemic, and found a decline in total infections, suggesting that using face coverings can reduce transmission by approximately 40 percent.[4] Finally, a modeling study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, concluded that if the majority of a population wore face masks in public, even simply homemade face masks, transmission of the virus could be reduced dramatically and could help prevent additional waves of the pandemic.[5]

You have repeatedly mentioned that people need to have a measure of personal responsibility. It is essential to remember that we wear masks to protect those around us from the germs we may be carrying- especially those who may be more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Masks provide a critical barrier, reducing the number of infectious viruses in exhaled breath, especially of asymptomatic people and those with mild symptoms[6]. It is particularly important to wear masks in locations with conditions that can accumulate high concentrations of viruses, such as health care settings, airplanes, restaurants, and other crowded places with reduced ventilation.[7] The personal responsibility to which you refer regularly includes our responsibility to prevent others from becoming sick from germs that we expel. Requiring that Floridians wear masks in public is an essential part of this accountability because people are more likely to become infected when others choose not to be responsible and wear masks.

Wearing masks can help people feel more secure in their everyday activities, and play a role in safely re-opening the economy. While some communities throughout the state have adopted regulations requiring masks, the virus does not know or adhere to delineations of city or county. Floridians need strong, universal guidance from you during this time of uncertainty. We need to hear from you, clearly and unequivocally, that wearing a mask in public is a requirement. In saying so, you will be making a statement, driven by scientific data, that each individual has an urgent and integral role to play in slowing the spread of this virus.

Sincerely,

###