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Exclusive: We asked Florida’s Surgeon General about the exponential rise in pediatric cases of Covid

Exclusive: We asked Florida’s Surgeon General about the exponential rise in pediatric cases of Covid

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When confronted before an official press conference, Florida’s Surgeon General avoided all questions about a surge in pediatric hospitalizations due to omicron variant covid, the lack of state testing facilities, or about the glaring silence coming from America’s third-largest state’s Department of Health during a public health emergency. (video embedded below)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held an official press conference at the Broward Health Medical Center addressing the state’s 948% spike in covid cases for the first time in weeks after his complete disappearance for a Christmas break stirred national headlines late last week.

Public records reveal it is an official policy of the governor’s office to refuse access to Occupy Democrats at these press conferences while inviting right-wing (and mainstream) outlets.

And today’s press conference stunningly released news that the state’s new policy is to oppose mass covid testing.

Emails show Florida Governor DeSantis’ top staffers complain that Occupy Democrats is covering his press conferences, despite their overt attempts to prevent journalistic access.

However, before the press conference began, Occupy Democrats were able to pose a series of questions to DeSantis’ chosen Florida Surgeon General, the late-arriving Dr. Joseph Ladapo who showed up to the hospital unmasked.

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Miami-based DNC member Thomas Kennedy also approached the Surgeon General and asked why the state hadn’t reactivated its network of testing sites to alleviate hours-long waits, while Ladapo approached the hospital check-in desk accompanied by an aide running flack.

Only later would we learn that policy wasn’t an accident.

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“Why hasn’t the Florida Department of Health tweeted anything about the rise of the omicron variant?”

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Florida’s top doctor didn’t answer, instead, placing a name badge on his lapel.

The state DOH’s Twitter account hasn’t mentioned the Omicron variant to its 108,000 followers since its one and only post on December 7th, 2021, nor said anything since making a Merry Christmas post. However, the third-largest state’s public health agency is sharing recipes for zucchini chocolate chip cookies, salmon, and posting mood boards with sunsets.

“Are you worried about pediatric admissions because of omicron?”

Florida’s Surgeon General looked up upon hearing that question, then the doctor looked right into the camera raised his eyebrows, and smiled before turning to wave and shake hands with a man who later identified himself as local DJ and anti-masker Chris Nelson.

“Why is Florida’s surgeon general smiling and laughing when Covid cases are going through the roof and the state is refusing to open testing sites?” asked Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Florida State Sen. Annette Taddeo after reviewing the video.

“Are you going to wear a mask in the hospital?” asked Occupy Democrats. 

Hearing that question, the doctor momentarily stopped his fan service and put on his mask.

“Are you concerned about pediatric admissions from omicron? They are rising sharply, are you going to put out any public statements?” asked Occupy Democrats one more time, while the Florida Surgeon General raised his eyebrows to wink at the crowd and speedily made his way to an elevator to go to the press conference.

But before he could make it inside, Nelson asked him to take a selfie.

Dr. Ladapo obliged.

The medical doctor removed his mask, embracing the anti-mask activist for a photo before walking into the elevator while Kennedy asked relentlessly about state testing sites and Nelson serenaded Ladapo with compliments.

As the elevator doors closed, the doctor could be seen putting his mask back on for that moment.

Here’s the video, story continues below: 

Florida Governor DeSantis appointed the “anti-Fauci” Surgeon General Ladapo last September because of his position against mask and vaccine mandates.

Then, just over six weeks ago DeSantis traveled to Brandon, Florida to sign into law a bill pre-empting local governments’ ability to respond to covid19 surges.

“Where is Ron DeSantis now?” asked Orlando’s Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings last week, after the normally press hungry GOP governor went radio silent, holding his last public event on December 17th. The Florida Governor responded by posting old photos at delis and diners, while his press secretary scrambled to make a public statement that he was on a Christmas break during the omicron surge. Eventually, a Florida activist flew an airplane all over downtown Miami and South Beach with a banner that read, “Florida is on Fire and Ron is missing.”

On New Year’s Eve, Gov. DeSantis returned to the public eye to take in a college football playoff game and to decline all questions about omicron while attending a ‘religious freedom’ against public health measures event with the First Lady.

Today was the Florida Governor’s first press conference in 17 days as the state’s case rate spikes to blame the federal government for a lack of tests while railing against covid mitigation strategies like masks.

“This was yet another irresponsible, heartless, blame everyone else press conference by Governor DeSantis,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, in an official statement from her 2022 gubernatorial campaign’s spokesman. “He takes no accountability for shutting down all state government health communications, sitting on a stockpile of tests, and refusing to open more state testing sites during this unprecedented outbreak.”

Florida’s Surgeon General used his time at the event about omicron to decry mass testing itself as the problem, and to say that further covid tests should effectively be rationed, an approach public health experts called “corrosive.”

The Dean of the Brown University School of Health called Florida’s new policy “completely backwards.”

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Grant Stern
is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and an unpaid senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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