Florida’s top health official was asked to leave a meeting he had sought after refusing to wear a mask at the office of a state senator who told him she had a serious medical condition, officials have confirmed to the Associated Press.
State Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton), who was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in August but had not yet revealed her diagnosis publicly, asked state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, a Republican, and his two legislative aides to leave her office after Ladapo refused to comply with her request to put on a mask. “I told him I had a serious medical condition,” said Sen. Polsky, who will begin radiation therapy treatment for cancer next week. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says cancer patients are at a higher risk to get severely ill from COVID-19 and may not build the same immunity to vaccines.
Sen. Polsky said that Ladapo had requested to meet with her in Tallahassee this week as he was making the rounds visiting several Senators who will be asked in the upcoming Session to confirm him after being named to the post by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month. She told the AP that Ladapo offered to go outside when she asked him to put the mask on, but she declined because she didn’t want to sit at metal picnic tables on a warm day when her office was “nice and spacious”. She said she asked Ladapo whether there was a reason why he couldn’t wear a mask, but he wouldn’t answer.
“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.”
Florida State Senator Tina Polsky is a #Democrat. She was recently diagnosed w/breast cancer & is starting radiation treatment.
She asked #Republican @GovRonDeSantis' Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo to don a mask when he came to her office: He refused.https://t.co/BSsHs5iUaU
— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) October 24, 2021
According to the AP, Democrats have opposed the appointment of Ladapo, criticizing him for comments and actions related to the pandemic. A day into his job, Ladapo signed new rules allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school after being exposed to people who tested positive for COVID-19.
On Thursday at a press conference with DeSantis to oppose vaccine mandates, Ladapo said people were not comfortable with the vaccines because the federal government has not been open about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines, saying there was a “concerted effort” to hide stories of people with adverse reactions.
NEW: Wilton Simpson, President of the Florida Senate and a Republican, calls conduct of FL Surgeon General “unprofessional and will not be tolerated.”
— Jay O'Brien (@jayobtv) October 23, 2021
Florida Senate leader Wilton Simpson, a Republican, sent a memo to state senators on Saturday regarding the incident and asked visitors at the building to be respectful with social interactions. “It shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis for people to respect each other’s level of comfort with social interactions during a pandemic,” he said in the memo. “What occurred in Senator Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate.”
— State Senator Tina Polsky (@TinaPolsky) October 23, 2021
The CDC still recommends people with weakened immune systems, and those in high-transmission areas to wear masks. Studies have supported their use, with some finding that cloth masks are less effective.