NAPLES, Florida (PNN) - February 4, 2021 - Footage captured at a bustling South Florida grocery store yesterday showed a swath of maskless shoppers and staff inside in violation of an unconstitutional local mask mandate.
The video was taken inside Oakes Farms Seed to Table Market in Collier County, Naples, about 42 miles so/uth of Fort Myers, on Wednesday by NBC’s Sam Brock.
The footage shows a large number of employees and shoppers - some elderly - gathered closely together, with the vast majority not wearing face masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Even though the county has a mask mandate in place, the store has a sign out front that states customers do not need to wear a face covering if they have a medical condition.
‘Those in our lovely government have ordered all persons entering indoor facilities to wear a mask. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from wearing a mask, you are exempt from this order. Due to HIPAA and the Fourth Amendment we cannot legally ask you about your medical condition,’ the sign reads. ‘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 store’s owner, Alfie Oakes, called the ongoing pandemic “hogwash”.
Oakes said his reasoning behind his store’s mask policy is that he doesn’t believe they do anything to stop the spread of COVID-19, and added that he doesn’t buy that hundreds of thousands of Amerikans have died from the virus.
“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?” he asked.
Oakes previously filed a federal lawsuit in November challenging the constitutionality of Collier County’s mask policy, claiming it violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The business owner alleged the mandate was being “selectively enforced”, claimed he was being targeted due to his political views, and called the virus a “hoax”.
In light of Wednesday’s video in Naples, County Commissioner Andy Solis said his biggest fear is that COVID-19 cases will increase and the hospitals will become overwhelmed if the local mask mandate isn’t followed.
“It’s very disappointing and very concerning,” he said.
The video has since been viewed on Twitter more than 3.4 million times.
Viewers appeared divided on the issue, with some defending the customers and employees depicted while others have expressed outrage.
“They’re all immune until they’re not; and then an overworked, overstressed healthcare professional has to clean up their mess,” wrote one user.
Another user hit back. “I'm okay with wearing a mask to protect myself but if both the employees and the customers are okay with not wearing a mask why should anyone be mad at them for it? If you’re scared of the virus stay home; you shouldn't be out in the first place.”