Florida remains one of the states hardest hit by the virus that's killed more than 600 thousand Americans and upended daily life in the United States for more than a year.
This is in no small part due to the policies of the state's Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis was a little-known congressman before receiving former President Donald Trump's endorsement for Governor ahead of the 2018 midterms—an endorsement that catapulted him into stardom within the GOP. DeSantis is largely believed to be the frontrunner of the 2024 presidential election if Trump himself declines to run.
DeSantis completely reopened Florida just after the pandemic's first wave. In the face of the deadlier Delta variant, DeSantis has forbid private businesses from requiring their customers to be vaccinated, and he's currently losing court cases over his efforts to ban mask mandates in schools—an effort that numerous school districts in the state have defied.
In a recent press conference, DeSantis claimed not to know why masks—which have proven to reduce transmission of the virus—have become politicized.
DeSantis told reporters:
"I don't know why the masks have politics around it. Let the parents make the decision that's best for the kids. If you want the masks, do it. If you don't, don't. That's fine."
As the Governor almost certainly knows by now, masks are most effective at keeping others from spreading the virus, not at blocking them from contracting it. Therefore, the decision of someone not to wear a mask—especially a child under 12 who isn't eligible for vaccination—carries significant risks of ramification for others.
What's more, if DeSantis wants to know why masks have become a political issue in the past year and a half, he need look no further than the man who gave him a career-defining endorsement for Governor.
Former President Trump repeatedly undermined the pleas of his own officials for the public to wear masks, publicly announcing he wouldn't wear one himself. Trump shared sentiments on Twitter falsely claiming that mask mandates were tantamount to "slavery".
Trump constantly ridiculed then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden for publicly wearing a mask, saying of Biden at the pair's first presidential debate:
"I don't wear a mask like him. Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from him and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen."
Given Trump's stratospheric popularity within the Republican party, right-wing media eagerly embraced anti-mask positions, and elected officials like DeSantis leapt at the chance to congeal those positions into policies.
Earlier this year, when DeSantis was spotted at the Super Bowl without a mask, he replied:
"[H]ow the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on? Come on. I had to watch the Bucs win."
He's since begun fundraising off merchandise emblazoned with the sentiment.
So when DeSantis claimed not to know how masks became politicized, people were quick to remind him.
They pointed out the Governor's own politicization of masks.
Some accused him of playing dumb.
DeSantis continues to stand firmly against mask mandates.