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Image: Florida State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo at a press conference in Kissimmee on Sept. 22, 2021.
Florida State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo at a press conference in Kissimmee on Sept. 22, 2021.Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images file

The new reason DeSantis' Florida has been labeled 'Crazyville'

Floridians need officials who believe in sensible protections during a pandemic. Instead they have Ron DeSantis and his handpicked surgeon general.


The Miami Herald's editorial board took stock yesterday of the latest developments surrounding Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican's response to the pandemic. The editors also didn't mince any words.

"Nothing can hide Florida's descent into Crazyville," the Herald's editorial board wrote.

A key element of the indictment was the latest antics from state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

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 serious medical condition, officials have confirmed.

The circumstances are difficult to even comprehend. Dr. Ladapo was scheduled to meet with Democratic state Sen. Tina Polsky, who had not yet made public her recent breast cancer diagnosis, but who told the Florida surgeon general she had a serious medical condition. With this in mind, Polsky offered mask protections to Ladapo and two aides when they arrived for last week's meeting.

According to multiple accounts, Ladapo refused. The state's top public health official also refused to explain why he wouldn't comply with the legislator's request.

Left with no choice, Polsky asked Ladapo to leave her office. He did, though according to the Democratic lawmaker, the state surgeon general said before departing, "Sometimes I try to reason with unreasonable people for fun."

Even if we weren't talking about an ostensible public health leader, I'm trying to wrap my head around Ladapo's approach to humanity and decency. An ailing person told a physician she had a serious medical condition and asked for a simple and brief accommodation. Why on earth would he refuse? Putting aside professional standards, what does this say about his character?

Yesterday, Ladapo's office also said the state surgeon general's vaccination status is a secret.

It comes just days after Lapado questioned the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, denounced vaccine requirements, referenced unsubstantiated conspiracy theories to argue against the vaccines, and encouraged Floridians to "stick with their intuition," as opposed to following the guidance of public health officials who actually know what they're talking about.

As unsettling as Ladapo's weird antics are, none of this comes as a surprise. As we discussed last month, before taking office, the doctor spent much of the pandemic questioning the value of vaccines and the efficacy of masks, while simultaneously touting ineffective treatments such as hydroxychloroquine.

The editorial board of The Orlando Sentinel recently described Ladapo as a "COVID crank" who's been "associated with a right-wing group of physicians whose members include a physician who believes infertility and miscarriages are the result of having sex with demons and witches during dreams."

And as The Tallahassee Democrat reported two weeks ago, Ladapo's "first act as surgeon general came a day after his appointment, when he issued an emergency rule that took away school authority to quarantine students exposed to those who tested positive" for Covid-19.

Of course, while the state surgeon general's bizarre behavior is difficult to defend, the blame does not fall solely on his shoulders. After all, it was DeSantis who chose him for this powerful and important role — not despite the doctor's strange ideas about public health, but because of the doctor's strange ideas.

Florida has seen more than 3.6 million Covid-19 cases. The virus has claimed the lives of nearly 59,000 Floridians. The Sunshine State would benefit from having officials who believe in vaccines, masks, and sensible protections during a pandemic.

Instead, Floridians have DeSantis and his handpicked surgeon general, whose judgment appears to be getting worse, not better.