Florida surgeon general shares why he refused lawmaker with cancer's request he wear a mask

Florida state Sen. Tina Polsky.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is defending his decision not to wear a mask while meeting with Florida state Sen. Tina Polsky (D), who is battling stage 1 breast cancer and asked him to don a face covering while in her office.

"Having a conversation with someone while wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist," Ladapo said in a statement Tuesday. "It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can't do that when half of my face is covered." Florida state Rep. Ben Diamond (D) immediately pushed back, tweeting, "Physicians effectively communicate while wearing a mask all the time. In fact, Floridians across the state have been able to do the same for over a year."

Last week, Polsky told Florida Politics that Ladapo asked to meet with her and other state senators in Tallahassee, and when he stopped by her office with two legislative aides, she requested they wear masks, as she has "a serious medical condition." Polsky said Ladapo offered to go outside, and she replied, "I don't want you to go outside. I want you to sit in my office and talk to you." Ladapo didn't respond when Polsky asked him why he couldn't wear a mask, she said, and was "very smug."

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Polsky told Florida Politics that if she came down with COVID-19, it would delay the start of her cancer treatments. "I really wanted to interview him," she added. "I had a lot of good questions. So that was unfortunate that I didn't do it. But I felt really uncomfortable."

Ladapo, a former associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA whose area of expertise is cardiovascular disease, was appointed surgeon general by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in September. Both men are against mask and vaccine mandates, with Ladapo bucking established science and publicly questioning how well COVID-19 vaccines works, The Washington Post reports.

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