MIAMI — Florida’s surgeon general has said that conversations while wearing masks aren’t productive after a state senator didn’t let him in her office without a mask, citing a serious health condition.
Dr. Joseph Ladapo says that he offered to meet outside or in a hallway for his scheduled meeting with Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky. He says in a statement that he doesn’t believe he can communicate clearly while wearing a mask.
The incident has drawn broad attention after Polsky revealed she had breast cancer. At the time of the meeting, she had told Lapado only that she had a serious health condition.
“It was so shocking to me that he treated me in this manner,” Polsky told the Associated Press. “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 Politics reports that, in a memo sent out to Senate staff, Senate President Wilton Simpson criticized Ladapo's actions, calling the incident "disappointing."
"What occurred in Senator Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate," Simpson wrote in the memo obtained by the outlet. "While there is no mask mandate in the Senate, senators and staff can request social distancing and masking within their own offices. If visitors to the Senate fail to respect these requests, they will be asked to leave."
Dr. Ladapo was appointed to the post of Florida surgeon general by Gov. Ron DeSantis in September.
A day into his job, Dr. 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.