Florida Anti-Mask Activists Give Free Meals to People Without Masks as Virus Cases Surge

Anti-mask advocates in Florida protested mandatory use of face coverings during an event inside a restaurant and bar near Orlando on Saturday.

Those responsible for the gathering offered free meals to 100 patrons who opted to dine at the establishment without wearing a face mask, Reuters reported. A video of the weekend's rally showed the central Florida restaurant and bar, 33 & Melt, served dozens of customers that day. No one in the video appears to be wearing a mask.

Near the beginning of the video, law enforcement officers identified as agents from Florida's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, a branch of the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation, enter 33 & Melt and confront the establishment's owner. The details of their discussion could not be heard.

Anti-mask activists Tara Hill, Chris Nelson and others later followed agents outside to ask if they intended to revoke the establishment's alcohol license. When the agents did not reply, activists told them, "It's wrong, what you're doing." The group then began to chant, "This is America! This is America!"

Nelson is one of ReOpen Florida's lead organizers, according to Facebook. ReOpen Florida has protested restrictions implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic since at least mid-April, and local news outlets have linked Hill to the group as well.

Newsweek reached out to ReOpen Florida, 33 & Melt and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation for comment but did not receive replies in time for publication.

Saturday's demonstration was organized about three weeks after officials in Orange County, where Orlando is located, issued an order requiring all residents to wear face masks in public areas. Florida health authorities continue to report an ongoing spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19. The resurgence has hit the state's major cities most severely, prompting a handful of local leaders to implement restrictions meant to curb the virus's further spread.

Disney World Reopening
Visitors wear face masks while waiting to enter Orlando, Florida's Disney World on June 11, the first day it was permitted to reopen for guests. Residents across the Florida county where the amusement park is located were directed to wear masks in public spaces beginning June 20. Gregg Newton/AFP via Getty Images

The number of virus cases confirmed in Florida—as in some other large states where reopening began in May—have increased significantly since the beginning of June. After more than one month of record-breaking daily statistics, the Florida Department of Health reported its highest single-day jump in new virus cases to date on Sunday, with more than 15,200.

Sunday's increase marked a new high for the U.S. as well. New York state previously held the record for the highest number of infections diagnosed during a 24-hour period. Once the epicenter of the nation's epidemic, the state confirmed more than 12,000 virus cases on April 4 during the height of its outbreak.