Florida’s new surgeon general refused to mask up during a meeting with a state senator who has cancer

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  • Florida surgeon general Joseph Ladapo refused to wear a mask in state Sen. Tina Polsky’s office.
  • She told FloridaPolitics.com that she had asked him to wear a mask because she has cancer.
  • But Ladapo, who has previously downplayed COVID-19 vaccines, refused repeatedly.

Florida’s new surgeon general reportedly denied a request to put on a mask around a state legislator with cancer.

Tina Polsky, a Florida senator, is about to start radiation therapy after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in August. When she asked Joseph Ladapo to put on a mask while he stood in her Tallahassee office earlier this week, he refused, according to FloridaPolitics.com.

“I told him I had a serious medical condition,” Polsky said, according to the outlet.

Ladapo offered instead to speak with Polsky outside after she made the request. But Polsky said no.

“I don’t want to go outside,” Polsky said she told him. “I want you to sit in my office and talk to you.”

Then Polsky asked him why he didn’t want to wear a mask.

“He just smiles and doesn’t answer. He’s very smug,” Polsky told the outlet. “And I told him several times, ‘I have this very serious medical condition.’ And he said, ‘That’s OK.'”

The risk of contracting severe COVID-19 symptoms increases in people with certain medical conditions, including cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She then asked Ladapo to leave her office.

“Sometimes I try to reason with unreasonable people for fun,” Ladapo said as he exited, according to Polsky.

In a statement to FloridaPolitics.com, a Department of Health spokesperson denied that Ladapo made the comment.

“Dr. Ladapo is committed to meeting with members of the Legislature regardless of their party affiliation to discuss policy, even when they do not agree on the subject at hand,” spokesperson Weesam Khoury said. “Meetings between highly regarded and intelligent, elected and appointed officials happen all the time, and it is disappointing you don’t hear about them more – but it is probably because the only time they get reported is when a genuine meeting turns into a media headline expected from a gossip column.”

Dr. Ladapo, who has previously downplayed COVID-19 vaccines, was appointed to the surgeon general role by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He holds an MD from Harvard Medical School and a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, according to his bio.

“Vaccines are up to the person. There is nothing special about them compared to any other preventative measure,” Ladapo told reporters in September.

Health officials have for months urged people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Masks and vaccines are two of the foremost measures health officials say people should take to decrease the spread of the coronavirus and the potential for infection.

Ladapo also promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, as a cure for the coronavirus. Former President Donald Trump said he took hydroxychloroquine last year when he contracted the virus. The Food and Drug Administration authorized it for emergency use last year but then quickly reversed the decision when evidence piled up against its use as a COVID-19 cure.