Footage captured at a bustling South Florida grocery store yesterday showed a swath of maskless shoppers and staff inside in violation of a local mask mandate.
The video was taken inside Oakes Farms Seed to Table Market in Collier County, Naples, about 42 miles south of Fort Myers, on Wednesday by NBC’s Sam Brock.
The footage shows a large number of employees and shoppers – some elderly – gathered closely together, with the vast majority not wearing face masks or adhering social distancing guidelines.
Even though the county has a mask mandate in place, the store has a sign out front that states customers do not need to wear a face covering if they have a medical condition.
‘Those in our lovely government have ordered all persons entering indoor facilities to wear a mask. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you are exempt from this order. Due to HIPAA and the 4th Amendment we cannot legally ask you about your medical condition,’ the sign reads.
‘Therefore, if we see you without a mask, we will assume you have a medical condition and we will welcome you inside to support our business.’
The store’s owner, Alfie Oakes, has not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment. However, in an interview with the TODAY show, he called the ongoing pandemic ‘hogwash’.
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The video was captured inside Oakes Farms Seed to Table Market in Collier County, Naples, about 42 miles south of Fort Myers, on Wednesday
The footage shows a large crowd of employees and shoppers – some elderly – gathered closely together, with the vast majority not wearing face masks or following social distancing guidelines
Even though the county has a mask mandate in place, the store has a sign out front that states customers do not need to wear a face covering if they have a medical condition
As #Flordia fights community spread of COVID on a massive scale, this is a 15-second snapshot of a supermarket in Naples. Many employees and customers- even older ones- with no masks on inside. Store sign outside cites ¿medical exemptions,¿ we can¿t ask questions. @NBCNews pic.twitter.com/rNUSOPLjeB
— Sam Brock (@SamBrockNBC) February 3, 2021
Speaking to the network, Oakes said his reasoning behind his store’s mask policy is that he doesn’t believe they do anything to stop the spread of COVID-19, and added that he doesn’t buy that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from the virus.
‘I know that the masks don’t work, and I know that the virus has not killed 400,000 people in this country. That’s total hogwash,’ Oakes said.
‘Why don’t we shut the world down because of a heart attack? Why don’t we lock down cities because of heart attacks?’
Oakes previously filed a federal lawsuit in November challenging the constitutionality of Collier County’s mask policy, claiming it violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The business owner alleged the mandate was being ‘selectively enforced’, claimed he was being targeted due to his political views, and called the virus a ‘hoax’ according to the Naples Daily News.
In the US, as of Thursday, more than 450,000 people have died from COVID-19, and 27.7 million Americans have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began last March.
In Florida, one of the early hotspots for COVID-19, the state’s health department has recorded more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of the virus, as well as more than 27,000 coronavirus fatalities.
In Collier County alone, there have been more than 27,000 coronavirus infections and 413 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Viewers of the video appeared divided on the issue, with some defending the customers and employees depicted while others have expressed outrage
The store’s owner, Alfie Oakes (above) said he doesn’t believe masks do anything to stop the spread of COVID-19, and added that he doesn’t buy that hundreds of thousands of Americans have been killed by the virus
Oakes previously filed a federal lawsuit in November challenging the constitutionality of Collier County’s mask policy (his store is shown above)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly stated that masks and social distancing can help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the CDC, ‘experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of COVID-19’.
The public health institute also notes that masks help to ‘reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets,’ which is ‘especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others.’
These people are estimated to account for more than 50 percent of all transmissions, according to the CDC.
Last week, health officials further suggested that Americans should actually wear two masks, instead of one, as more-contagious variants of COVID-19 from South Africa and the UK spread across the US.
‘This is a physical covering to prevent droplets and virus to get in,’ the nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday.
‘So, if you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on — it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective. And that’s the reason why you see people either double-masking or doing a version of an N95.’
In Florida, one of the early hotspots for COVID-19, the state’s health department has recorded more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of the virus, as well as more than 27,000 coronavirus fatalities
Despite being one of the nation’s hotspots for the virus, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken a lapse approach to the crisis, issuing very few closures, and lifting restrictions on bars, restaurants and virtually every other business in September.
DeSantis has also refused to shut down schools statewide and said a mask mandate is ‘off the table.’ Two months ago, he even criticized states like California with harsher restrictions and said he trusted his residents to ‘use common sense’.
‘How has that worked out in the states that have done it?… What about all these states where you have an explosion in cases?’ DeSantis told reporters.
‘At some point, does the observed experience matter? I’m opposed to mandates. Period. I don’t think they work.’
Analysis conducted by DailyMail.com last week showed that Florida and California, another US hotspot, have near-identical rates of cases, deaths and hospitalizations – despite the Golden State imposing much stricter lockdown measures.
In light of Wednesday’s video in Naples, County Commissioner Andy Solis said his biggest fear is that COVID-19 cases will increase and the hospitals will become overwhelmed if the local mask mandate isn’t followed.
‘It’s very disappointing and very concerning,’ he said.
The footage was captured on Wednesday, and resembles a scene from before the pandemic began in March
The video has since been viewed on Twitter more than 3.4 million times.
Viewers appeared divided on the issue, with some defending the customers and employees depicted while others have expressed outrage.
‘They’re all immune, until they’re not. And then an overworked, overstressed healthcare professional has to clean up their mess,’ wrote one user.
Another user hit back: ‘I’m okay with wearing a mask to protect myself but if both the employees and the customers are okay with not wearing a mask why should anyone be mad at them for it. If you’re scared of the virus stay home you shouldn’t be out in the first place.’
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