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Gov. Ron DeSantis

Photo by Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday urged people to hug the elderly despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis said that as long as people are wearing personal protective equipment, he sees no reason not to hug people when visiting.

"Look, I'm comfortable with the PPE," the Republican governor said. "Hell, hug 'em! I mean, come on." He added that maintaining social distancing of six feet during visits — as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — seems unnecessary because it's "a reminder that it's still not normal."

DeSantis made his comments at the ElderSource senior center in Jacksonville, Florida, at a roundtable discussing how to protect the elderly.

Medical experts advise against hugging those who are particularly vulnerable — like the elderly — during the pandemic. Dr. William Li, an expert on diseases who is studying COVID-19, told AARP in June that particularly people over the age of 65 should refrain from hugging until there is a vaccine.

Florida has experienced a surge of COVID-19 infections in the past few weeks after DeSantis advocated reopening the state ahead of recommendations by experts.

From an Aug. 4 roundtable:

RON DeSANTIS: But I just think we just need to be creative. I mean, the testing is obviously important, but I do think that with PPE and some of these other things, I think if families have antibodies — if they have antibodies, man, we should, we obviously need to be recognizing that and how powerful that can be. So there's a lot of opportunities.
But I don't think — like, as you guys go and deliberate, I would just say do not only fixate on testing. You've got to think of other ways. Look, I'm comfortable with the PPE. Hell, hug 'em! I mean, come on. Like, it's not gonna — if you have PPE on, and you hug and you don't sneeze or do something on them, you're going to be fine. OK? That would be very [inaudible].
Now obviously if you're there for 30 minutes doing that, and then you do, well then that's going to be a different situation. But to just have — to just go give a hug — I mean, I think that you could do that, and I think that that would be very meaningful. I mean, as much as you want to see them in person, I kind of feel like, you know, to stay six feet away is kind of still, you know, providing a reminder that it's still not normal and that you're still not there for that. So I do think that the touch is important.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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