Florida governor DeSantis defends not wearing a mask at Super Bowl

Tampa's mayor says maskless 'bad actors' will be identified and handled by police

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 09 February 2021 16:32 GMT
Maskless fans at the Super Bowl will be identified by the police, says Tampa Mayor Jane Castor
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was forced to take a defensive stance after a photo was circulated online showing him not wearing a mask at Sunday’s Super Bowl in Tampa.

Strict social distancing and a citywide mask mandate were being enforced at the Raymond James Stadium, but the photo shows Mr DeSantis seated in what appears to be an executive suite with another person who is less than six feet away.

A person in the next suite can be seen wearing a face mask.

Politico’s Marc Caputo said the governor had referenced the photo, and explained: “Someone said, “Hey, you were at the Super Bowl without a mask… But how 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.”

However, there was no suggestion that the governor had been maskless for the entire game.

Tampa mayor Jane Castor had ordered that masks were required at Super Bowl celebrations, but videos went viral on social media showing crowds of mostly maskless fans celebrating in the streets and at packed bars.

“It is a little frustrating because we have worked so hard,” said Ms Castor at a news conference on Monday with the Super Bowl Host Committee. “At this point in dealing with Covid-19, there is a level of frustration when you see that.”

Emphasising that the majority of people did comply, Ms Castor said that “those few bad actors will be identified, and the Tampa Police Department will handle it”.

Official advice from the health authorities was for people to stay home and watch the game with those in their household, rather than gathering with others or at bars or restaurants.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that gathering with friends was not a good idea.

“Enjoy the Super Bowl, but don't do it with a large crowd of people in your house in a place when it's cold and you don't have good ventilation,” Dr Fauci said. “It's a perfect setup to have a mini super spreader event in your own house. Don't do that for now. There will be other Super Bowls.”

Those attending the game were provided with masks, and seating at the stadium was limited to one-third of the 65,000 capacity. Of the 22,000 fans present, 7,500 were vaccinated healthcare workers. The remainder of the seats were filled with cardboard cutouts of fans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reiterated calls for people to stay home and asked those attending the game to “stomp, clap, or bring hand-held noisemakers” rather than cheering or chanting to further mitigate the spread of the virus.

Governor DeSantis has frustrated health officials throughout the coronavirus pandemic, often downplaying mask-wearing and scoffing at mandatory mask rules implemented by other states. 

“I’m opposed to mandates period. I don’t think they work,” the governor said in November. “People in Florida wear [masks] when they go out. They don’t have to be strung up by a bayonet to do it.”

Florida is one of the states worst hit by the pandemic with 1.78 million confirmed cases and 27,814 officially recorded deaths.

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