Florida grocer says coronavirus deaths ‘hogwash’ after video shows people unmasked

An NBC News reporter went into Oakes Farms Seed to Table Market in Naples earlier this week to buy a sandwich. He came out with heartburn.
Screenshot from a tweet from an NBC News reporter showing employees and customers unmasked in a Florida grocery store.
Screenshot from a tweet from an NBC News reporter showing employees and customers unmasked in a Florida grocery store. [ Twitter ]
Published Feb. 5, 2021

“Oakes Farms — Where COVID goes to shop.”

This tweet was in response to Florida Sen. Gary Farmer’s admonishing of a Naples store owner who flouted a Collier County mask mandate. The grocery owner allowed a store full of employees and customers to work and shop without the protective gear. The snarky tweet summed up the outrage many have vented since a video was posted by an NBC News correspondent on Wednesday.

“Crap like this is going to slow & negate our march back to safety & normalcy,” Farmer, the District 34 senator, tweeted Thursday afternoon. “What the hell is so hard about wearing a mask? Why do they fight it so much — if we’re wrong, just inconvenience ... if they’re wrong people die. Where do flat-earthers like this get these beliefs!?”

Farmer’s “crap like this” refers to NBC News correspondent Sam Brock’s tweet that started the whole flap.

Brock went into Oakes Farms Seed to Table Market in Naples earlier this week to buy a sandwich. He came out with heartburn.

That’s no reflection on what he thought about the sandwich. But Brock thought enough about what he had seen inside the store to document it and turn it into a story that has social media buzzing.

By Thursday afternoon, Brock’s video tweet has been viewed more than 3.3 million times.

“As Florida fights community spread of COVID on a massive scale, this is a 15-second snapshot of a supermarket in Naples,” Brock wrote in his post. “Many employees and customers — even older ones — with no masks on inside. Store sign outside cites ‘medical exemptions, we can’t ask questions.’

NBC’s Today show on Thursday asked Alfie Oakes, the store’s owner who has more than 9,600 followers on his Facebook page, questions. The network got answers that won’t thrill public health professionals or families and friends of the 451,000 Americans who have died since the COVID-19 pandemic took off in March 2020, according to New York Times data.

Oakes told Brock: “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. Why don’t we shut the world down because of a heart attack? Why don’t we lock down cities because of heart attacks?”

Heart attacks, of course, are not contagious. Oakes Farms is in Collier County, which has 28,224 cases of the novel coronavirus and 414 deaths, as of Thursday, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Dashboard.

Florida is the third-highest state in the country in terms of cases after California and Texas, according to the New York Times database of U.S. cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people.

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The mask order gained more teeth on Tuesday with a new executive order from President Joe Biden that requires masks on all forms of public transportation like planes, buses and trains traveling into, within, or out of the United States.

Oakes’ store has a sign out front that says customers do not have to wear a mask if they have a “medical condition,” NBC News reported.

Collier County Commissioner Andy Solis told NBC News he was worried that COVID-19 cases could increase and overwhelm hospitals.

“It’s very disappointing and very concerning.”

• • •

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