Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber ripped Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis as the “pied piper” of COVID-19 who is “leading everybody off a cliff.”
Gelber blasted the governor’s opposition to COVID-19 health measures, including masks, even as the state has become an epicenter of soaring delta variant COVID-19 cases.
“The governor has made it as difficult as possible to make people safe,” Gelber said on CNN Saturday. “He’s like the pied piper leading everybody off a cliff right now by letting them know that they don’t have to like the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], they don’t have to wear masks, that they can do whatever they want when we’re in the midst of an enormous pandemic.”
He spoke as Florida recorded its highest-ever number of COVID cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic — 21,683, according to federal health data, The Associated Press reported.
On Sunday, it tallied its highest number of COVID hospitalizations in more than a year — 10,207 people with confirmed cases, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Florida is now leading the nation in per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19.
Gelber said city officials are “trying to do everything we can to get around the governor’s very wrong-headed desires.” Even “local Republican mayors are on the same side that I’m on,” he added. “They want to save the lives of residents.” But the “dogma” driven DeSantis has “hamstrung” local leaders and even forbidden local mask mandates, Gelber noted.
“We’re not allowed to have mask mandates now,” said Gelber. “We were one of the first cities to require it and we charged a fine just to get people to do it. The governor stopped allowing us to do it, and then immediately we saw a surge across our county and state when he did that,” he noted.
DeSantis on Friday signed an executive order banning schools from mandating masks for all students returning this month, despite the soaring cases that appear to be impacting younger people and children. The order was touted as “ensuring parents’ freedom to choose.” He claimed in a statement that “many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies.”
DeSantis said at a press conference after signing the order that he’s not masking his own young children. “I want to see my kids smiling. I want them having fun,” he said.
Florida is experiencing an uptick in pediatric cases of COVID-19. Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami on Friday had 17 children admitted with COVID-19, including six in the Intensive Care Unit and one on a ventilator.
The CDC is recommending that students and staff at K-12 schools wear masks in the classroom regardless of their vaccination status.
Check out Gelber’s full interview in the clip up top.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.