Florida supermarket owner ignores mask mandate, calls pandemic death toll 'hogwash'

A Florida supermarket owner says employees and customers can choose not to wear masks inside his store. (Courtesy: WINK-TV)

A supermarket owner in southwest Florida is gaining national attention for his decision to ignore a local mask mandate, allowing employees and customers to be inside with no face coverings.

Seed to Table Market is a grocery store in Naples, where owner Alfie Oakes has decided to buck Collier County's mask ordinance, WINK-TV reports.

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A sign in front of the store states that customers do not have to wear a mask if they have a medical condition -- and adds that no one can ask what that medical condition is due to HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that protects patients' medical records.

"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 bottom of the sign reads.

Sign outside Seed to Table Market in Naples, Florida. (Courtesy: WINK-TV)

Viral video taken inside the store this week showed both maskless customers and employees, chatting and laughing, without any social distancing.

Oakes has been outspoken about the pandemic, calling it a hoax on social media. He also says he doesn't believe COVID-19 has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the US.

"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 told NBC News. "Why don’t we shut the world down because of a heart attack? Why don’t we lock down cities because of heart attacks?"

RELATED: US COVID-19 death toll surpasses 450,000

"If there really was a threat where people were becoming ill or dying, then we wouldn't do this, but that's just not the case," Oakes told WINK.

State Senator Gary Farmer blasted what he saw in the viral video.

"Crap like this is going to slow & negate our march back to safety & normalcy," Farmer tweeted Thursday. "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!?"

But one shopper says he chooses to go to Seed to Table because he doesn't have to wear a face-covering inside.

"Florida is a little bit better. People come down here, and they look at this is odd," John Kathy said. "But this is really not odd. This is what the normal should be."

However, Florida has the fourth-highest number of fatalities in the country, behind New York, California and Texas. The Florida Department of Health said the death toll in the state has reached 27,457 as of Friday.

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Oakes says he welcomes the national attention, telling WINK it hasn't hurt his business.

"Right now, we are living freely right here. We’re unmasked. We’re happy," Oakes said. "All the people love this store. We’re the busiest store in Collier County because of this."