KISSIMMEE, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis remained steadfast in his opposition to lockdowns, mask mandates and school closures on Monday, as the state approaches 1 million total COVID-19 cases.
As of Sunday, the Florida Department of Health has recorded more than 999,300 total cases. The state is on track to become the third in the country to top 1 million cases, trailing Texas and California.
In his first news conference in nearly a month. Gov. DeSantis announced that schools will remain open in the spring, though virtual learning options will still be provided.
He called closing schools during the pandemic “the biggest public health blunder in modern American history,” NewsNation affiliate WFLA reported.
“I’m opposed to mandates, period. I don’t think they work,” DeSantis said when pressed by reporters on whether he favored increased restrictions. “People in Florida wear [masks] when they go out, they don’t need to be strung up by a bayonet to do it. Fining people is, I think, totally overboard.”
For weeks, DeSantis hadn’t addressed the rise in coronavirus infections to the press. Prior to Monday, the governor had been uploading pre-recorded videos, mostly recently on an update on Florida’s vaccine plan.
When pressed about his whereabouts over the past month, DeSantis told reporters he’s been working on vaccine development and distribution plans. He traveled to Washington, D.C., before Thanksgiving to meet with members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed, the governor said.
“We’re not gonna have unlimited [vaccines] in the first month,” DeSantis said. “I think we pretty much will have one for every American in the first few months.”
The governor said Florida’s first share of whichever vaccine gets approved would be comprised of at least 1 million doses, and potentially up to 2 million.
DeSantis also suggested toward inviting international travelers back to the state.
“I think the president wants to do this. Let’s get travel from Brazil back. Let’s get travel from the European countries back,” he said, adding that travel restrictions cause “a lot of people a lot of harm.”