Florida Surgeon General Refused To Wear Mask During Visit, Senator Says

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The Florida state senator claims the state's surgeon general refused to wear a mask during an office visit, even when he was asked several times.

Tina Polsky, who represents Palm Beach and Broward counties, told CNN Monday (October 26) that Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo declined to put on a face covering while visiting her legislative office. Even when she told him that she had a serious medical condition, he still allegedly refused.

"There were five people. I'm masked, my aide is masked and the three of them were not and it's a small space so the whole thing became very uncomfortable," Polsky recalled. "He said he doesn't do interviews with a mask on, and I said I can hear you perfectly, I've had many meetings here."

Ladapo, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in September, dropped by her office for a Senate confirmation interview. The new surgeon general has faced scrutiny for being skeptical about COVID-19 prevention and safety measures.

Polsky, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, says Ladapo suggested meeting outside and talking about the mask-wearing requirements.

"I don’t want to go outside," Polsky she reportedly told Ladapo. “I want you to sit in my office and talk to you.” The surgeon general and his two aides were asked to leave the office, which they agreed to, according to Florida Politics.

Ladapo posted a statement about the controversy to his Twitter Tuesday (October 26):

"Having a conversation with someone with wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist. It is important for me to communicate effectively with people. I can't do that when half of my face is covered... I respect all individuals, and I would never knowingly disrespect anyone..." he wrote. "As Surgeon General of Florida, Floridians can count on me to lead with integrity and communicate truthfully about data and scientific evidence."

Black leaders in Florida have also called out Ladapo for his behavior at the meeting. Some have even criticized his appointment in general, claiming he has a history of being "anti-science."

“The decision by the new Florida Surgeon General to not wear a mask when requested by senator Tina Polsky was repugnant, reprehensible, and regretful," Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr. said in a statement. He is the chair and organizer of the Statewide Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force, which is dedicated to combatting vaccine hesitancy in communities of color.

"The Surgeon General may have impeccable credentials, but this action is a lack of common sense, common courtesy and confusion," Holmes continued. "We must encourage the State Senate to not rush to approve a Surgeon General who has a history of being anti-science and anti-vaccine."

Ladapo's confirmation is scheduled to occur during the Florida Senate's next legislative session, which starts on January 11, 2022.

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