NAPLES, Fla. — A viral video has turned the nation's eyes to Naples and reignited the debate over masks.
NBC's Sam Brock walked through a grocery store and quickly noticed that nearly every employee and customer in Oakes Farms Seed to Table were not wearing a mask.
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
Collier County and city regulations require masks in businesses, but a sign outside the store stated that customers don't have to wear masks if they have a medical condition preventing them from doing so and that store employees "cannot legally ask" them about it to verify.
Aflie Oakes, the owner of Oakes Farms Seed to Table, told Brock about his views on masking in an interview that aired Thursday on TODAY.
"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 doesn’t appear to have any medical background and didn't cite any sources in his interview with TODAY.
From March 2020 until January 2021, about 446,000 more Americans died than would have in a normal year, an analysis of mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed. This is even higher than the official totals of deaths that have been directly linked to the virus.
In the U.S., more than 450,000 people have died from COVID-19 and Florida's COVID-19 death toll surpassed 27,000 on Monday.
Public health experts have said for months that widespread masking will prevent the spread of the virus and save lives, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "experimental and epidemiological data support community masking."
Brock's video of Oakes' store, which he posted Wednesday on Twitter, has already been viewed over 2 million times and garnered largely outraged responses.
"They're all immune, until they're not. And then an overworked, overstressed healthcare professional has to clean up their mess," wrote one Twitter user.
"Medical accommodation means you can get your groceries shopped and delivered to you at the sidewalk," tweeted a third. "Or delivered at home. Or some other method. It's not a free pass to be an a------."
On TODAY, Brock said the market is "unquestionably an outlier" and that most stores and supermarkets in the area follow the rules requiring masks in businesses.