Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy on Sunday said he disagrees with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on local school officials imposing mask mandates amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in the state, arguing that local officials should control health safety measures in their communities during public health crises.
“The local official should have control here. I don’t want top down from Washington, DC. I don’t want top down from a governor’s office,” Cassidy, who is also a physician, told Fintech Zoom’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” when asked if he disagreed with the order from DeSantis, a fellow Republican.
“When it comes to local conditions, if my hospital is full and my vaccination rate is low and infection rate is going crazy, we should allow local officials to make those decisions best for their community,” he added.
Both DeSantis and Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott have been criticized by Democrats and public health experts for issuing statewide bans on mask mandates in schools as their states grapple with Covid-19 case surges, but the critique from Cassidy represents a rare intraparty disagreement over the orders.
On Friday, Florida reported more Covid-19 cases over the past week than any other seven-day period during the pandemic, and the state has accounted for about one in five of the nation’s new Covid cases over the past couple of weeks.
When asked specifically if the two governors are prioritizing politics over public health, the senator, who had previously contracted the virus, said he didn’t want to “guess other people’s motives,” but argued that “public health suffers” when politics get involved.
“Whenever politicians mess with public health, usually it doesn’t work out well for public health, and ultimately it doesn’t work out for the politician, because public health suffers and the American people want public health,” Cassidy said.
The bans from DeSantis and Abbott were also criticized last week by President Joe Biden, who blasted them as “bad health policy.” DeSantis later defended his order and shot back at Biden, saying: “I’m the governor who answers to the people of Florida, not to bureaucrats in Washington.”
Fintech Zoom’s Aaron Pellish and Maeve Reston contributed to this report.