DeSantis Closes the Curtain on COVID Theater

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently told a group of college students participating in an event at the University of South Florida, “You do not have to wear those masks. Please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So, if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”

Another ginned-up cycle of media hyperventilation ensued, as it does. And many of the same pundits who supported state mandates compelling prepubescent kids to strap useless masks over their faces were suddenly aghast at the sight of such egregious harassment.

“If Florida is so ‘free,'” asked Joy Reid, “why does DeSantis think he has the right to bully and give orders to other peoples’ kids?”

“Incredible predictable how conservative ideology goes from ‘hey it should be my choice; dont tell me what to do!’ to ‘we are *abolutely* gonna tell you what to do once we have the power to do it,'” tweeted Chris Hayes to his 2.4 million followers.

Setting aside the fact that neither Hayes nor Reid seem to understand what the words “if you wanna wear it, fine” mean, there is an extraordinary concession in all these hysterics. Progressives believe that it’s bullying to ask kids not to wear masks, but it’s not bullying for the state to coerce them to do it. Either they can’t comprehend the distinction between compelling someone and offering them an option — which would explain a lot about their political philosophy — or they dishonestly conflate the two.

Watch the video, and you’ll see that some of the students kept their masks on and others were smiling as they took them off. Of course, if a governor’s office had forced students to mask up, as college administrators have been doing for two years now, that wouldn’t have bothered progressives at all. Fact is, I can’t think of a single conservative legislator who’s proposed forcing anyone not to wear a mask or not to get vaccinated. Coercive policies related to COVID are almost exclusively the domain of Democrats.

And the same pundits and politicians who have spent two years attempting to ostracize and slander anyone who opposed their mandates are now deeply upset by some gentle prodding. Hayes repeatedly accused mask critics of belonging to a “death cult” when it was politically convenient. MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski referred to COVID as “the DeSantis variant,” in part because the Florida governor opposed mask mandates. Only last month, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was arguing that airplane passengers who refuse to wear masks should be treated as terrorists. I could give scores of examples just like those.

One of the most eye-roll-inducing lines from President Joe Biden — who once threatened DeSantis with government action because his “patience is wearing thin” — the other night during the State of the Union address was his contention that we should “stop looking at COVID-19 as a partisan dividing line and see it for what it is: a God-awful disease.”

Then, of course, there’s the small issue of DeSantis being objectively and morally correct about mask wearing. In January, when Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order that freed parents to choose whether their kids wore masks, the entire left-wing punditsphere accused him of infanticide. The White House’s favorite columnist, Jennifer Rubin, remarked that Youngkin had “brought DeSantis anti-mask nuttery to VA.” Within a couple of months, the CDC changed its super-scientific mask guidelines just in time for Biden to announce them in the State of the Union speech. By this time, nearly every state had followed Youngkin’s lead. No explanation yet from Rubin, or any other Democrat, on why Biden has engaged in this nuttery as well.

We still don’t know the full extent of the damage COVID theater has had on children. The state restrictions, interventions and mandates implemented in the second half of 2020 — when we already knew better — were never grounded in rigorous science. It was more like a rite of leftist COVID theology. DeSantis merely told some kids to stop living in fear. That’s a healthy, patriotic and scientifically sound thing to do.

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David Harsanyi

David Harsanyi is a senior writer at National Review and author of "Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent."

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One Comment

  1. They wore the masks to make a political statement and DeSantis knew it. I believe ALL democrats should wear a mask at all times for two reasons. First, a mask is like an armband identifying EXACTLY what you are and secondly, it beautifies America!

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