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Florida’s pandemic is now nearing its peak according to two key measures, but that’s apparently a badge of honor to Rep. Matt Gaetz.
The state has been one of the major centers of the Delta variant, which is currently ripping through the entire state and resulting in more than 16,000 positive tests each day. More people—10,201—are now hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Florida than at any other point of the pandemic so far, months after vaccinations became readily available throughout the country. (Nearly half of Florida’s population is fully vaccinated.)
According to Gaetz, that’s just the cost of doing business in Florida.
“You've had all the experts say look out for the Delta variant or the Lambda variant. Well, next it'll be the Chi Omega variant or the Pi Kappa Psi variant,” Gaetz joked at a Saturday rally in Largo, Florida.
“I got the Florida variant. I got the freedom variant,” Gaetz added. “It affects the brain. It gets you to think for yourself where you don't just surrender to the truth that they're trying to create in corrupt big media.”
This is not the first time Gaetz has made a mockery of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 40,000 Floridians to date. In March 2020, when the full danger of the pandemic was just beginning to come into view, he wore a gas mask on the House floor, though he insisted he was being serious.
Days later, while onboard Air Force One with former President Donald Trump, Gaetz found out he’d been exposed to COVID-19. In November 2020, Gaetz said he tested positive for COVID antibodies but claimed he never had symptoms.
Despite the recent increase in cases, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has continued to resist new mask mandates and other restrictions, and last week mocked the CDC’s guidance that even vaccinated people should wear masks in areas of high or substantial transmission—a description that fits every county in the state, according to the CDC.
On Friday, DeSantis effectively did the opposite of the guidance, and issued an executive order banning local school boards from requiring masks in schools. The Broward County School Board, which governs the second-biggest district in the state, had passed a mask mandate earlier in the week.
“I have young kids. My wife and I are not going to do the masks with the kids. We never have,” DeSantis told a crowd of supporters last week. “I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun.”