Florida’s top doctor refuses mask and has to leave the meeting

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MIAMI (AP) – Florida’s top health official was asked to leave a meeting after refusing to wear a mask at the office of a state senator who told him she had a health problem serious, officials confirmed.

Florida Senate Leader Wilton Simpson, a Republican, sent a note to senators on Saturday regarding the incident at the office of Democratic State Senator Tina Polsky, asking visitors to the building to respect social interactions. Polsky, who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, had yet to release his breast cancer diagnosis.

Polsky told The Associated Press of the tense exchange with State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo that was first reported by the Florida Politics news site. She said Ladapo and two assistants were offered masks and asked to wear them when they arrived for Wednesday’s meeting, saying she was in serious condition.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cancer patients are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and may not develop the same immunity to vaccines.

Ladapo had requested to meet her in Tallahassee as he sought confirmation in the Senate after being appointed to the post by Governor Ron DeSantis last month.

“It was so shocking to me that he treated me that way,” Polsky said. “If he is a general surgeon for the next few years, I am truly concerned about a future public health emergency and cannot count on him for the necessary advice and appropriate scientific leadership.”

Ladapo offered to go out, but the senator said she didn’t want to sit on the metal picnic tables on a hot day when her office was nice and spacious. She said she asked if there was a reason he couldn’t wear a mask, but he didn’t respond.

The Florida Department of Health did not respond to email requests for comment.

Democrats opposed Ladapo’s appointment, criticizing him for comments and actions related to the pandemic.

A day after starting his job, Ladapo signed new rules allowing parents to decide whether their children should be quarantined or stay in school after being exposed to people who test positive for COVID-19.

At a press conference with DeSantis on Thursday to oppose vaccine mandates, Ladapo said people were uncomfortable with vaccines because the federal government was not open about it. vaccine efficacy and safety, claiming there was a “concerted effort” to hide stories from people with side effects.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meeting the high standards required for the vaccine to be considered safe. It has been administered to millions of people and has been shown to be effective against hospitalization and death. However, immunity to the infection may wane over time.

In the memo Simpson sent to Senators and their staff, he said that while there is no Senate mask mandate, Senators can request social distancing and masking in their offices.

“It shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis for people to respect each other’s comfort level with social interactions during a pandemic,” he said. “What happened in Senator Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate.”


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