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Florida man arrested for threatening a mass shooting over lack of people wearing masks

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The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is beginning to take its toll on the psyche of some Americans, as evidenced by a bizarre incident involving a Sebring, Florida man this week.

Upset by his determination that “not enough people” were wearing masks to guard against the possible spread of the disease, Robert Kovner allegedly threatened a mass shooting at a local Publix supermarket, according to police.

Kovner, 62, was arrested and charged with making the threat on Facebook, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

“Earlier today, we were made aware of a Facebook post that threatened a mass shooting at Publix. The writer was upset that not enough people, in his opinion, are wearing masks when they are out and about,” the department said.

Threatening a mass shooting is a second-degree felony in the state, the department added.

“We realize these are stressful times, but there is no excuse for making threats like this. It’s not a joke. It’s not just a bad day. It’s a crime. We will ALWAYS take them seriously and you will go to jail,” the sheriff’s office said.

As of this writing, according to World Meters, Florida has had 24,119 total cases of coronavirus; 686 people have died from the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

The agency further notes on its website:

CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The agency does not recommend buying an N95 respirator or a surgical mask because those are in critical shortage at present and must be preserved for medical personnel and other first responders, the CDC said.

Some places around the country are beginning to mandate the use of a mask while in public. Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring masks for anyone who travels outside of their home.

“All people in public must have a mask and nose covering and they must wear it in a situation where you cannot or are not maintaining social distancing,” he said Wednesday, adding that the order will take effect Friday.

“Put the mask on when you are not in socially distant places,” he said. “You must wear a mask, or cloth or an attractive bandanna.”

Asked if there would be a fine or other penalties for not doing so, Cuomo said that isn’t necessary — yet.

“We’re not there yet. I hope New Yorkers do it because it makes sense,” he said.

It’s possible people like Kovner believe such orders have been issued nationwide, when in fact, they haven’t. But that said, threatening a mass shooting for any reason is stupid.

Jon Dougherty

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