Florida physicians argue for face masks, against herd immunity

(Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A group of political activists, state lawmakers and medical experts are once again doubling down on their demand for a statewide mask mandate.

The calls come after White House Task Force member Dr. Scott Atlas said stopping the spread of the coronavirus to low-risk individuals is not the goal of the government’s pandemic response.

“The goal of policy is absolutely not to stop all spread of COVID-19 to asymptomatic or very low-risk individuals,” Atlas said during the governor’s roundtable Monday.

The comment has been interpreted by some, including state Sen. Gary Farmer, as suggesting a herd immunity strategy.

In a virtual news conference Wednesday, Farmer suggested herd immunity wouldn’t work because there is evidence people can be infected more than once.

“This is not like many other viruses, where if you get it once, you develop that immunity,” Farmer said.

Dr. Howard Kessler, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, also warned an estimated seven out of 10 Americans would have to be infected before herd immunity would be reached.

“That would mean that over 3 million people in the United State would be projected to possibly die of COVID-19,” Kessler said.

Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida argues the best way to slow the spread continues to be face mask mandates.

And alongside the physicians, Barbara DeVane, president of the National Organization for Women of Florida, is again calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to make masks mandatory statewide.

“And we don’t understand why you (DeSantis) won’t listen to the scientific and medical research,” DeVane said.

The governor has consistently rejected the idea of a universal mask mandate. With Florida’s daily cases seemingly on the decline, with a notable exception on Tuesday, it is unlikely he’ll change strategy any time soon.

The state severed ties with Quest Diagnostics after the company failed to submit timely results of 75,000 COVID-19 test results, some dating as far back as April.

The Florida Department of Health on Tuesday reported 7,569 additional cases. But the state noted that without the Quest data, the state would have added 3,773 new cases.