DeSantis names doctor opposed to mask and vaccine mandates as Florida’s surgeon general

Dr Joseph Ladapo attacked concern over the pandemic as ‘Covid mania’ and said ‘there is nothing special’ about vaccines

A medical professor who is opposed to mask and vaccine mandates, attacked concern over the pandemic as “Covid mania” and likened the eating of fruit and vegetables to the benefits of vaccination has been named as Florida’s new surgeon general.

Dr Joseph Ladapo has been appointed to the role by Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor who has railed against restrictions placed upon day-to-day life to dampen the Covid-19 pandemic and has sought to block funding for schools in the state that have attempted to make students wear masks to stop the spread of the virus that has killed more than 675,000 people in the US since the pandemic began.

Ladapo is a Harvard-trained doctor who was until recently a researcher at UCLA. His new position for the state government will come alongside a new position he has accepted at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

At a press conference on Tuesday to mark his appointment, Lapado said he would “reject fear” in his dealing with the pandemic. “Florida will completely reject fear,” he said. “Fear is done.”

Like DeSantis, Ladapo is opposed to mask mandates and has said that getting vaccinated is a personal choice that individuals have to make. “There is nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure,” he said about vaccines, despite widespread evidence that unvaccinated people are overwhelmingly more likely to become seriously ill or die from Covid.

“It’s been treated almost like a religion and that’s just senseless. We support measures to good health. That’s vaccination, losing weight, exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, everything.”

In April, Ladapo authored an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that warned “Don’t put one illness above all other problems in society, a condition known as ‘Covid mania.’” He has said that removing children from school is harmful to public health and is a signatory of something called the Barrington declaration, which argues that “those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal”.

Ladapo has so far not outlined any measures to help prevent Covid deaths in Florida but said he is discussing recommendations with his new team. “Telling the truth is important, and I think that’s what Dr Ladapo understands,” DeSantis said. “You’ve got to tell people the truth, and you’ve got to let them make decisions.”

Last week, Florida surpassed 50,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic begun, with around one in every 400 Florida residents who were alive in March 2020 now dead from the virus. Only cancer and heart disease has killed more Floridians in this time, with a recent surge in infections meaning that around 9,000 people in the state have died over the past month.

• The headline on this article was amended on 22 September 2021 to clarify that Dr Joseph Ladapo opposes vaccine mandates. The text was amended on 23 September 2021; there have been around 9,000 Covid deaths reported over the past month in Florida, not around 1,000 as an earlier version said.


Oliver Milman

The GuardianTramp

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