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Florida grocer who runs store like it’s ‘pre-pandemic’ makes zero apologies to media

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A Florida grocery store owner discounted claims that mask-wearing slows the spread of COVID-19 as he cast doubts on the official number of coronavirus deaths in an interview with NBC News on Wednesday.

Anchor Lester Holt, in introducing the segment, noted that despite “more than 450,000 Americans lost to the virus, many refuse to protect themselves and others by wearing masks.”


 

The segment opens with a camera panning the check-out lanes as correspondent Sam Brock begins by saying the scene “looks like it was taken pre-pandemic” because no one in sight has a mask on at the Oakes Farms Seed to Table Market in Naples.

Brock went on to report “experts’ clear messaging that wearing masks can slow the spread of COVID-19,” before segueing to a clip of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s lead immunologist, who talked about how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends mask-wearing “based on data they accumulate because it’s a science-based organization.”

Continuing, the NBC News correspondent noted that the store has signage indicating that while indoor mask-wearing has been mandated, there are exemptions.

“Those in our lovely government have ordered all persons entering indoor facilities to wear a mask,” the “Attention Customers” sign begins.

“If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you are exempt from this order,” it notes further. “Due to HIPAA and the 4th Amendment we cannot legally ask you about your medical condition. 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 report cuts to a clip of store owner Alfie Oakes, who Brock described as being “known for his conservative, and often controversial, viewpoints,” pushing back on the mask mandate.

“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.

The report went on to note that Oakes organized a busload of people to travel to Washington, D.C., to see former President Donald Trump speak to a massive rally Jan. 6, the day of the Capitol riot, though it’s not clear what that has to do with the grocer’s opposition to masks.

The correspondent circled back to Oakes’ belief that many of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 are actually due to other causes before playing another short clip of his interview with the grocer.

“I’m not gonna do it, I’ve never worn a mask in my life and I never will,” Oakes said, as Brock claimed that more than 3,100 people died from the virus on Wednesday.

The NBC News reporter then highlighted negative reaction to video of non-mask-wearing employees and patrons of the Naples market online.

“I can’t stop watching this. My jaw is literally on my desk,” one user wrote.

“We should exempt them from the vaccine line then,” said another.

As the segment ended, Holt asked Brock what the masking rules were in Florida. The masked correspondent replied by noting that local governments are free to impose a mandate — and there is one in Naples — but he added that GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis “has stripped their ability to fine people for not following the rules.”

But others cheered Oakes and his decision to buck the mandate.

“Good for them! Never live in fear and paranoia,” one user responded.

Jon Dougherty

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