An NBC reporter, Sam Brock, said he visited the store on Wednesday to buy a sandwich and “came out with a story” after he videoed both employees and the public shun a Collier County mandate on wearing masks inside businesses.
According to the reporter, almost nobody appeared with a mask at the Oakes Farms Market store, nor was there any social distancing. Cases of Covid-19, meanwhile, are averaging at around 10,000 a day in the state.
Over three million people have since watched the video on social media, where 20,000 Twitter users responded to Mr Brock’s revelations with anger and shock.
Some alleged that the store’s owner was known as being “anti-mask”, while others noted that Naples was also Republican-leaning – many in the party have been reluctant to mandate Covid-19 measures.
A sign outside the supermarket told shoppers they wouldn’t be challenged by employees at Oakes Farm for being maskless, with a picture showing “socialists” on one side, and people wearing the stars and stripes on the other.
“Due to HIPPA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and the 4th Amendment we cannot legally ask you about your condition,” the sign said.
“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.”
Alfie Oakes, the store owner, told NBC’s Today Show on Thursday that masks don’t work and that he believes “the virus has not killed 400,000 people in this country. That’s total hogwash”.
At least 450,000 people have now died with Covid-19 since the pandemic started, with 413 deaths in Collier County alone, according to the state’s health department .
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends masks and social distancing to stop Covid spreading, while a mandate on masks wearing inside Collier County businesses lasts until April, according to reports.