Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo was told to leave a meeting with a state senator suffering from breast cancer because he refused to don a mask, officials have confirmed.
Fox News reported Monday that Republican state Senate Leader Wilton Simpson sent a memo to other senators over the weekend describing the incident with state Sen. Tina Polsky, in which he asked visitors to the building to be mindful of interactions with her. At the time, Polsky, who represents portions of Palm Beach and Broward counties, had not publicly announced her diagnosis.
She went on to tell The Associated Press about a terse back-and-forth she had with Lapado that was first reported by the news outlet Florida Politics. She explained that the state’s top doctor and two aides were offered masks and requested to wear them when they showed up last Wednesday for a meeting.
Polsky said that she informed them that she had a serious medical condition but did not inform them she has breast cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that cancer patients run a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than others while not developing the same level of immunity after being vaccinated.
Fox News said that Lapado had requested to meet with the state senator in her office in Tallahassee as he attempts to round up support for Senate confirmation after Gov. Ron DeSantis nominated him to the post in September.
“It was so shocking to me that he treated me in this manner,” Polsky said. “If he is a surgeon general for the next several years, I am really concerned about a future public health emergency and not being able to rely on him for necessary guidance and proper scientific leadership.”
The nominee reportedly offered to meet with Polsky outdoors but she said she did not want to sit on metal picnic tables on a warm day when her office was much nicer and there was plenty of room. She also said she asked Lapado if there was a reason as to why he wouldn’t or could not wear a mask but he did not respond.
Democrats are opposed to Lapado’s nomination and have criticized him over remarks he has made regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just one day after DeSantis appointed him he issued new rules that give parents the authority to decide if they want to send their children to school or have them quarantine at home after they are exposed to someone who tests positive for the virus, a decision which Democrats widely opposed.
Nevertheless, DeSantis praised the UCLA School of Medicine Researcher when he nominated him last month.
“He comes to Florida with really a superb background, bringing superb intellect but also I think will bring great leadership,” the GOP governor said.
“We’re done with fear, it’s been something that’s been unfortunately a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s over here – expiration date, it’s done,” Lapado said during remarks after being introduced by DeSantis.
“The state should be promoting good health, and vaccination isn’t the only path to that. It’s been treated almost like a religion, and that’s just senseless, right? There are lots of good pathways to health, and vaccination’s not the only one. So we support measures for good health,” he noted further.
“Vaccines are up to the person,” he said at another point. “There’s nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure.”
“We need to respect human rights. People do have autonomy over their lives. It’s not OK, it’s not virtuous and it’s not right to just take away those rights from individuals,” he said.
For his part, Senate leader Simpson said though the state Senate does not have a mask mandate, individual senators can request them in their offices along with social distancing.
“It shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis for people to respect each other’s level of comfort with social interactions during a pandemic,” he wrote in his memo. “What occurred in Senator Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate.”
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