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Florida surgeon general says he didn't wear mask while meeting with state senator because he can't 'communicate clearly' with one on

Gray Rohrer, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo on Tuesday wrote on Twitter about his refusal to wear a mask while meeting with state Sen. Tina Polsky, who has breast cancer, saying he can’t “communicate clearly and effectively” with his face covered.

“Having a conversation with someone while wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist,” Ladapo stated in his first public remarks about the incident. “It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can’t do that when half of my face is covered.”

The statement didn’t include an apology, but explained his stance on masks, which he doesn’t believe are effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19, the virus that has killed more than 58,800 people in Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other health officials say masks do help stop the spread of the virus.

Ladapo said he suggested he and Polsky meet outdoors where the virus doesn’t spread as easily or sit in the hallway but she declined.

“I am genuinely saddened by Senator Polsky’s recent diagnosis of breast cancer, and I pray for her and her family and wish them God’s blessings and strength,” Ladapo said.


The incident has raised howls of criticism from Polsky’s fellow Democrats, who have called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to withdraw his nomination or for the state Senate to reject it. Ladapo, though, can stay in his position for up to two years even if the Senate doesn’t confirm him.

“I don’t want to see him sitting there as surgeon general this whole time without a proper nomination process, or his nomination should just be pulled,” Polsky told MSNBC on Monday. “This man is not fit to serve as our surgeon general. He certainly didn’t care about my health so I don’t know how he’s going to care about the public health of 21 million Floridians.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.


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