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Ron Kitchen mug with beard 2020

Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr.

Citrus County Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said it’s not the government’s job to protect citizens from COVID-19.

Nor does he think protections are necessary.

During Tuesday’s commission meeting, in which the board voted 3-2 to open all county parks starting Friday, Kitchen said he knows of no science to support social distancing or closing of businesses to stop the virus’s spread.

“I have a problem with us regulating 99% of the population for something that’s affecting 1%,” he said.

Citrus County has 97 positive cases and 11 deaths from the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Kitchen also questioned the 6-foot social distancing as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’ve always had a problem with the 6-foot distancing thing,” he said. “Why not 7 feet? Why not 9 feet? Why not 4 feet? Everyone parrots it so it must be true.”

According to the CDC website:

“COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs.”

Asked by a reporter following the meeting if he is practicing social distancing, Kitchen refused to say.

“That’s my business,” he said, then reiterated his position that he does not speak with reporters.

Kitchen, who led the board’s effort to reopen all parks with no restrictions, said if Gov. Ron DeSantis gave counties the ability to open businesses, he would do so.

“My vote would be to open everything up tomorrow,” Kitchen said. “There hasn’t been any data why it’s OK to buy clothes at Walmart, but not clothes at Bealls.”

Kitchen also said that smoking and vehicle accidents claim tens of thousands of lives each year, yet the government isn’t closing highways or criminalizing smoking.

“Fifty thousand people die in car wrecks,” he said. “That’s a serious thing, too. We don’t shut down the United States economy because 50,000 people died in car wrecks.”

He also claimed that he read in the Business Observer publication that 12,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since February. The actual number, according to Johns Hopkins University, is 57,000, including 1,171 in Florida.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.