OPINION: ‘Pro-freedom’ anti-mask bill limits local government power

The bill filed by Florida Sen. Keith Perry last week could lead to an increase in cases and further restrict the ability of local governments to impose mask mandates and protect their employees. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR/Allison Shelley

SB 452 filed in the Florida Senate by Sen. Keith Perry on Oct. 13 seeks to prevent schools and counties from issuing mask mandates. The “freedoms first” rhetoric promoted by congress members like Perry unnecessarily politicizes a pandemic which continues to affect hundreds of thousands in Florida. 

By implementing anti-mask mandate legislation, Perry and other Florida legislators will encourage COVID-19 transmissions this year and slow down the prevention of disease in the event of future outbreaks. 

Legislators must identify the bill as harmful and reject it for the damage it could bring to Florida.

SB 452 intends to prevent mask mandates in Florida. Counties and municipalities cannot require any medical procedure or treatment, and schools cannot require a face covering, according to the bill. 

State senators are well aware of the importance of mask-wearing to prevent disease transmission. In fact, SB 452 defines a face covering as “any item attached to a person’s face or head which is intended to slow or prevent the transmission of any illness or disease.” By defining a face covering as a preventer of disease transmission, Perry acknowledges its importance.

The bill was proposed despite 123 deaths from Oct. 8-14 and only 72% of the population vaccinated in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health

Florida currently has the fourth highest case rate per 100,000 people in the country and has recorded 18,000 cases in the last seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The damage resulting from COVID-19 is far from over in Florida.

Perry’s proposal of the new bill follows the “pro-freedom” rhetoric that has opposed mask wearing during the pandemic. In an Oct. 13 tweet, Perry wrote about his reasoning behind filing the bill.

“We must keep fighting against the cities and counties that have held a complete disregard for the rights of private citizens and protections enacted by the governor,” said Perry in his tweet.

The tweet follows Executive Order 21-175 issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis on July 30 which forced schools to respect students’ decisions to not wear a mask to school. Counties that refused to follow the executive order are at risk of losing funding from the state government.

Perry’s proposal would cement DeSantis’ mask mandate ban in state law, making it more difficult to undo the ban in the future.

Preventing the mandate of face coverings is negligent by legislators. For the benefit of Florida residents, bills proposed by freedom-spouting legislators who ignore the damage caused by COVID-19 must be rejected.