ORLANDO, Fla. — As a Covid-crippled Conservative Political Action Conference got underway Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told thousands in Florida that mask mandates to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are “just dumb.”
Many in the Orlando hotel ballroom booed and yelled “Freedom!” an hour earlier when conference organizers announced the event’s policy: daily temperature checks, social distancing and masks everywhere.
“When you’re in the ballroom, when you’re seated, you should still be wearing a mask,” said the event’s deputy director Carly Patrick. “So if everybody can go ahead, work on that. I know, I know, it’s not the most fun.” She said the Hyatt Regency hotel, not the American Conservative Union, which hosts the event, had set the rules.
Most attendees complied as they walked around, but many tucked their masks under their chins as soon as they sat to eat, to rest or to listen to Cruz counseling skepticism about standards of behavior in restaurants where indoor dining is allowed.
“You walk in, you’ve gotta put your mask on,” said Cruz. “You sit down, you take your mask off. See, apparently the virus is connected to elevation. No! No! Remember, this is all about science.”
Cruz also joked that “I think it’s that there are hormones that are released in your thighs when you’re sitting” that protect people from coronavirus transmission.
In a jab at the California government’s selective enforcement of Covid prevention strategies, he said: “You can French kiss the guy next to you, yelling ‘Abolish the police!’ and no one will get infected. But if you go to church and say ‘Amazing grace!’ everyone’s going to die.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks or other face coverings “may reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread when they are consistently used by customers and employees” in restaurants. “The risk of COVID-19 spread increases in a restaurant or bar setting as interactions within 6 feet of others increase,” the agency says.
The complimentary swag bag distributed at the three-day annual conference this year includes three different hand sanitizers, branded by sponsors that include C-SPAN and Fox Nation. College interns circulated holding signs that warn, “MASK REQUIRED.”
Heather Clement, an attendee from Key West, Fla., wasn’t impressed. She told Zenger News that she drove tourists around the island on a trolley until she was fired “because I stood up against code enforcement” and refused to wear a mask while she worked.
“I mean, we’re talking ‘hot’ in the rest of the world in the summertime? In Key West, we’re talking really hot. You know, I mean, it’s brutal,” she said.
Clement said she has a journalism degree from Oakland University in Michigan. She happily posed for photos with her mask clutched in her left hand, out of sight.
She also said there’s a chance former President Donald J. Trump is still America’s commander-in-chief, running the U.S. government from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., while President Joseph R. Biden Jr. keeps up appearances in the White House.
“Yeah, it’s insane,” she told Zenger. “No, I don’t consider him president. He is a criminal. It is treason. It was an illegal election. I have way too much information in my head.”
She said the recent winter storm that continues to paralyze Texas was the result of “weather warfare” waged against Republicans by unknown forces who resent how Cruz attempted to block Congress’s Jan. 6 count of Electoral College votes — the constitutionally mandated process that certified Biden’s victory.
“It was a planned attack on Texas for their insubordination against the presidency,” Clement said. “I believe in weather warfare … Dude, you don’t want to talk to me. I want to take you down those rabbit holes.”
Another attendee at the Orlando conference, Daryl Brooks, said he resented how his home state of New Jersey disadvantaged small businesses in deciding which retailers could remain open, even with mask requirements, beginning in the summer of 2020.
“Walmart stayed open,” Brooks said. “You know, Amazon, all these different business they don’t, but the mom-and-pop businesses died, you know. And there was a reason behind that. And that’s sad.”
“You know, they said, you know, six feet distance. There was no six [feet] distance in a Wawa or Walmart, or Target or … liquor store. Yeah. So, but the churches are closed.”
Brooks was a Philadelphia poll worker on Election Day in 2020. He leveled accusations of fraud during an infamous press conference four days later, standing alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani outside the Four Seasons Total Landscaping business in northeast Philadelphia.
Critics pointed out after the press conference that Brooks was incarcerated during the 1990s for exposing himself to two girls, age 7 and 11. But he continues to deny the charge, saying he was falsely accused by drug dealers in his Trenton, N.J. neighborhood.
Asked if he would consent to a photograph, Brooks carefully adjusted his conference credential, so it didn’t block the nearly 4-month-old orange pass that identified him as a Republican poll watcher. He removed a CPAC-branded mask from around his neck.
During his speech, Cruz acknowledged that Covid has left a trail of death. The U.S. recorded its 500,000th Covid-related death this week, according to the CDC. But the Texas senator maintained mask mandates were mainly for show.
“This is a dangerous virus. But these collectivists, statists, okay, now they’re saying everybody can get immunized, we can have herd immunity everywhere, and we’re going to wear masks for the next 300 years,” said Cruz. “And by the way, not just one mask. Two, three, four! You can’t have too many masks! How much virtue do you want to signal? This is just dumb.”
(Edited by Alex Patrick and Kristen Butler)
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