Congressman Matt Gaetz mockingly said he had ‘the freedom variant’ of COVID-19 – addressing a rally in his home state of Florida on the day the state announced its highest infection rate of the pandemic.
Gaetz, 39, mocked concerns about the delta variant, which is now accounting for the majority of new cases nationwide.
‘You’ve had all the experts say look out for the delta variant, or the lambda variant,’ he told a rally in Largo – part of his ‘Florida Man Freedom Tour’.
‘Well next it’ll be the Chi Omega variant or the Pi Kappa Psi variant.
‘I got the Florida variant. I got the freedom variant.
‘It affects the brain. It gets you to think for yourself where you don’t just surrender to the truth that they’re trying to create in corrupt big media.’
Matt Gaetz held a rally in Largo, in Pinellas County, Florida, on Saturday. He mocked concerns over the rise in the delta variant
Gaetz told the crowd that ‘the Florida variant’ affects the brain. He added: ‘It gets you to think for yourself where you don’t just surrender to the truth that they’re trying to create in corrupt big media’
In Pinellas County, in which Largo sits, 59 per cent of residents aged over 12 have been vaccinated – less than the state average of 61 per cent.
Cases are up 205 per cent in the last 14 days, according to The New York Times COVID tracker.
Gaetz, seen on Saturday at an earlier event in Melbourne Beach, Florida, has been touring with his ‘Florida Man Freedom Tour’
Hospitalizations are up 80 per cent in the last two weeks. Deaths have remained the same, owing to the time between falling ill and dying.
Florida on Saturday reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 – the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic – and its theme park resorts again started asking visitors to wear masks indoors.
The figure breaks the record set on January 7, when 19,334 cases reported – before the availability of vaccinations became widespread.
The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the US as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread.
Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, has resisted mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements, and along with the state Legislature, has limited local officials’ ability to impose restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Motorists in Orlando, Florida, line up for testing on Thursday. Friday saw 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 – the highest total of the whole pandemic, breaking a record set in January
People attend a mobile COVID-19 vaccination event at the downtown Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida and Valencia College, on July 24
A group waits to get a COVID-19 test on Saturday in North Miami. The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S.
DeSantis on Friday barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month.
The latest numbers were recorded on Friday and released on Saturday on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
The figures show how quickly the number of cases is rising in the Sunshine State: only a day earlier, Florida reported 17,093 new daily cases.
The state reported 409 deaths this week, bringing the total to more than 39,000 since its first in March 2020.
The state’s peak happened in mid-August 2020, when 1,266 people died over a seven-day period.
Deaths usually follow increases in hospitalizations by a few weeks.