Fla. surgeon general didn’t wear mask because he can’t ‘communicate clearly’

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

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 said 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.”

ExploreComplete coverage: Coronavirus

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 in Florida. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other health officials say masks 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.

»Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter

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.

ExploreFlorida’s top doctor refuses mask, is told to leave meeting

“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.