Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo was asked to leave State Sen. Tina Polsky's office in Tallahassee last week after he refused to wear a face mask, Florida Politics reports.
Polsky, a Democrat who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is about to start radiation treatment, told Ladapo she had a "serious medical condition," but he wouldn't honor her request, a move he has been criticized for.
"What occurred in Senator Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate," Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Republican, wrote in a memo issued Saturday. "While there is no mask mandate in the Senate, Senators and staff can request social distancing and masking within their own offices. If visitors to the Senate fail to respect these requests, they will be asked to leave."
Ladapo was appointed in late September by Gov. Ron DeSantis and was visiting Polsky's office in the state capital to try to gain support for his confirmation vote. Her medical condition was not publicly disclosed at the time of the visit.
DeSantis, also a Republican, opposes vaccine mandates by either local governments or private businesses.
Polsky said Ladapo offered to go outside to meet but she declined. She asked the surgeon general whether there was a reason he couldn’t wear a mask, but said he smiled and didn’t answer. She then asked him to leave.
Polsky told Florida Politics she was "overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my colleagues and friends about my diagnosis as well as the unfortunate encounter with the surgeon general. I am very grateful to the Senate President Simpson for his strong statement on behalf of myself and the Senate as a whole."
Ladapo has been critical of lockdowns and mask mandates as steps to combat the coronavirus pandemic. During a press conference with DeSantis Thursday, he said people were not comfortable with the vaccines because the federal government had not been open about the effectiveness and safety of the shots, saying there was a "concerted effort" to hide stories of people with adverse reactions.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cancer patients are at a higher risk to get severely ill from COVID-19 and may not build the same immunity to vaccines, according to the Associated Press.
"It was so shocking to me that he treated me in this manner," Polsky said to the AP. "If he is a surgeon general for the next several years, I am really concerned about a future public health emergency and not being able to rely on him for necessary guidance and proper scientific leadership."
The CDC still recommends people with weakened immune systems, and those in high-transmission areas to wear masks.
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