Many Floridians perhaps thought that their governor was playing a cruel joke on them when Republican Ron DeSantis appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo as the state’s surgeon general last month.
After suffering one of the worst COVID outbreaks in the nation, Florida has seen its lax approach to preventative measures against the virus such as mask and vaccine mandates paying deadly dividends with the third-highest death toll in the country.
Yet here was Governor De Santis anointing a vaccination and mask skeptic as the highest public health official in the state.
As NBC News reported, Dr. Lapado immediately began spreading misinformation about public health issues related to COVID even before he was confirmed by the Florida legislature and fully assumed the surgeon general’s role.
“Florida’s new surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo during a press conference Thursday questioned the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, denounced all mandates in workplaces and argued people would face more health repercussions by losing their jobs because they refused to comply with requirements…. Ladapo invoked anecdotal examples and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories to argue against the vaccines, according to footage from WFLA, the NBC News station in Tampa,” an MSNBC article relates.
“‘I mean, you hear these stories, people telling you what’s been happening in their lives — nurses, pregnant women who are being forced to sort of put something in their bodies that we don’t know all there is to know about yet,’ the state surgeon general said. ‘No matter what people on TV tell you, it’s not true. We’re going to learn more about the safety of these vaccines.'”
If those quotes don’t clue you into the idea that there is something seriously off about Dr. Lapado, then perhaps his behavior in a meeting with an immunocompromised Florida state senator will convince you.
Florida legislator Tina Polsky was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in August and is in the process of beginning radiation therapy to treat it, leaving her immune system in a fragile condition.
So it is not surprising that she was concerned about practicing exemplary levels of prophylactic caution when the maskless surgeon general and two equally uncovered legislative aides showed up at her office for a meeting that Dr. Lapado had requested, one of several with state senators ahead of the confirmation vote scheduled for the upcoming legislative session.
Senator Polsky told Dr. Lapado that she had “a serious medical condition” and asked him to put on a mask.
Instead, the surgeon general refused and suggested that they hold the meeting outdoors.
“I don’t want to go outside,” Polsky says she told Ladapo. “I want you to sit in my office and talk to you.”
After a fruitless negotiation, Polsky finally simply asked him why he was refusing to wear a mask.
“He just smiles and doesn’t answer. He’s very smug,” Polsky revealed. “And I told him several times, `I have this very serious medical condition.’ And he said, ‘That’s OK,’ like it basically has nothing to do with what we are talking about.”
The exasperated state senator finally asked Dr. Lapado to leave her office, which he agreed to do, but not before taunting Polsky by stating:
“Sometimes I try to reason with unreasonable people for fun.”
Senator Polsky was disappointed that she couldn’t hold the meeting with the insipient Florida health official.
“I really wanted to interview him. I had a lot of good questions,” Polsky said. “So that was unfortunate that I didn’t do it. But I felt really uncomfortable.”
When news of Dr. Lapado’s behavior became public, physicians and other concerned citizens in the state took to social media to express their outrage over his callous treatment of the cancer patient.
This is horrifying and disgraceful. To deny a request to wear a mask for someone with cancer is shameful. I feel for @TinaPolsky. As a doctor in FL I strongly believe that Joseph Ladapo has no business being our Surgeon General or a licensed physician @ABIMFoundation @UFMedicine https://t.co/VYNxVTJ6ov
— David Goldberg, MD, MSCE (@DrLiver) October 23, 2021
@UFHealth doesn’t seem to care that this Doctor and Rivkees are the public face for every physician on staff. Their silence and lack of following the science reflects poorly on every single physician on staff.
— MarliRay (@red2blue2020) October 23, 2021
He's not going to treat the govs wife. He was hired for one reason: to own the libs.
— Eric Vey (@EricVey) October 23, 2021
MD should be stripped from his title!
— (((Arleen))) COMPROMISE DAMMIT! (@babytwin59) October 23, 2021
Dr. Lapado obviously seems to feel that his scoring of right-wing political points outweighs any obligation to honor the Hippocratic oath he took as a physician to do no harm.
He is so undeniably unqualified for any sort of public health role that the even Republican-dominated Florida legislature should be able to see and understand that they should reject his appointment to the surgeon general’s post.
That they will likely rubberstamp his confirmation is a sad indictment of the GOP stewardship of Florida’s governance. Anyone who agrees to his confirmation at this point needs to be voted out of office.
Original reporting by Christine Jordan Sexton at Florida Politics.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.