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OPINION: Face masks should be required statewide

Face coverings are not the one and only solution to COVID-19, but they are what America needs right now to slow the spread of the virus. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Enforcing restrictions on Americans will always come with public disagreement in some form, and yet many believed that requiring face masks in public during a global pandemic would be a no-brainer. However, Gov. Ron DeSantis maintains his opinion that masks should be optional, according to CBS Miami.

Florida needs to make it mandatory to wear masks in public where social distancing is impossible and should distribute them to truly essential businesses like grocery stores, veterinarians, auto repair services and others so no one is required to purchase their own.

Producing over 21 million surgical masks will cost the state at least $8 million at 40 cents per mask, according to St. Damien Pediatric Hospital’s Head of Pharmacy Romel Cajuste in Haiti. It’s a low cost compared to Florida’s $6.3 billion reserves in the 2021 budget.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor enacted an executive order on June 19 that requires Tampa residents to wear face coverings indoors while outside their homes. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the City of Tampa has distributed over 400,000 masks. At an estimated 40 cents per surgical mask, Tampa spent $160,000.

The decision to make masks mandatory is a controversial one, but could save a lot of people. According to a 2020 study by UC Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, if 80 percent of Americans wore masks, COVID-19 cases would decrease to one-twelfth of what they would be in a maskless society.

New York, still battling what originally was the worst outbreak in the U.S., required face masks as early as April 17 and has distributed millions of them throughout neighborhoods, according to The New York Times.

This is not to say that face coverings are the sole answer to a pandemic, though. Some countries that have been incredibly successful in containing the virus, like New Zealand, have never required face masks. The country’s Ministry of Health specifically stated this on its website.

The solution is to act quickly and strictly, but the time for that has passed. Cases of COVID-19 are growing in the U.S. due to a slow response from lawmakers and they’re not showing signs of stopping. As Floridians saw on the Fourth of July weekend, local governments are still hesitant to close businesses for fear of an economic bust. 

Now, according to statistics from The Guardian, America has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths of any country, at over 3 million cases and 130,000 deaths. American lawmakers need to create solutions that put the safety of its citizens first, and the solutions need to include face masks for all.