Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock; Joe Raedle/Getty Dan Gelber (left), Ron DeSantis
As Florida becomes a hotspot for cases of the highly contagious Delta variant, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber says the state's governor, Ron DeSantis, is making it "as difficult as possible to make people safe."
"We're not allowed to have mask mandates right now," Gelber, 60, told CNN's Ryan Nobles in an interview over the weekend. "We were one of the first cities to require it and we charged a fine just to get people to do it and the governor stopped allowing us to do it and then immediately we saw a surge across our county and state when he did that."
Nearly every county in Florida is currently considered by the CDC to have a "high" level of community transmission of COVID-19.
The 42-year-old DeSantis — who is widely rumored to be considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 — has opposed mandating public health measures in the state, even as Florida fights a resurgence of coronavirus.
In spite of the state currently leading the nation with 20% of all new COVID-19 infections , DeSantis has said he will not declare a state of emergency over the virus and has attempted to block local leaders' authority to issue mask mandates in municipalities throughout the state.
Gelber told CNN he and other Florida mayors are trying to "get around the governor's very wrong-headed desires."
"The governor has made it as difficult as possible to make people safe," Gelber continued, adding that even some Republican mayors are in agreement about reissuing mask mandates.
"He should be screaming for people to get vaccinated, he should be urging them to wear masks," Gelber added. "He creates a false choice that if you wear a mask it's going to shutter the economy. Of course that's not true. It feels like he's doing everything he can to make it harder."
Elsewhere in the interview, Gelber said DeSantis is, "like the pied piper leading everybody off a cliff right now by letting them know that they don't have to like the CDC, they don't have to wear masks, that they can do whatever they want when we're in the midst of an enormous pandemic."
Last Friday, DeSantis issued an order barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks, despite CDC recommendations that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade wear face coverings when they return to the classroom in the fall.
DeSantis has also fought cruise ship companies that seek to require their passengers to be vaccinated against the virus.
A fundraising group affiliated with DeSantis has even released a line of merchandise that takes aim at masks and White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci, such as a $12 "Don't Fauci My Florida" koozie.
While DeSantis has touted the importance of keeping Florida "open," and not subject to public health mandates regarding COVID, Gelber argued that the current case numbers are not good for tourism.
"The truth is, I'm the mayor of a hospitality town, I think most people coming here would rather be in a place that they feel safer than a place that they feel like they may be getting, you know, the virus," he said. "So for me, I think it's a smart thing to do."