TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis named a UCLA doctor and health policy researcher who shares his approach to managing the coronavirus pandemic to serve as the state's surgeon general Tuesday.
Like DeSantis, Dr. Jospeh Ladapo said he doesn't believe in school closures, lockdowns or vaccine mandates.
“Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health. So we're done with fear,” Ladapo said. "That's been something that's been, unfortunately, a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic and it's over here. Expiration date. It's done."
He said approaching health policy with fear leads to bad decisions.
“We're going to be very explicit about the differences between the science and our opinions,” he said. “What's been happening over the past year is that people have been taking the science and they've been mispresenting it ... it's been unclear when the discussion about science ends and discussion about how you feel about the science and what you want people to do with the science begins.”
DeSantis agreed there's been misinformation spread about COVID-19 to control personal behavior.
“No more noble lies. You tell the truth on what the data's saying,” DeSantis said.
He used monoclonal antibody treatment as an example. While he's been advocating it for months, he said others haven't been pushing it as vocally. Doctors agree with DeSantis that the treatment, when delivered soon after infection, is effective. DeSantis said prevention and treatment need to work hand in hand.
“I do think that one of the reasons why this was not something that was put out there very publicly by the experts and by the powers that be in D.C. is because they feared that if you tell people there's an effective treatment ... some people would say, ‘Well, you know, maybe I won’t get vaccinated, I'll just get the treatment.'”
Lapado, who received his medical degree and a Ph.D. in health policy from Harvard University, will replace Dr. Scott Rivkees, whose contract expires at the end of the month.
“Unfortunately, Dr. Ladapo seems like a perfect fit for Governor DeSantis. He downplays masks and vaccines, while supporting surrendering to the virus to reach herd immunity, which would cost untold thousands of lives," said House Democratic Leader in an emailed statement.
Lapado said vaccines aren't the only way to combat COVID-19 and getting one is a personal choice.
“Vaccines are up to the person. There's nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure,” he said. “The state should be promoting good health, and vaccination isn't the only path to that. It's been treated almost like a religion. It's just senseless. There's lots of good pathways to health.”
He said in addition to vaccines, people should be encouraged to lose weight, exercise more and eat healthier.
And Lapado spoke out against lockdowns.
“After lockdowns, overall mortality increased. Lockdowns are bad. Lots of reasons why they're bad, that's just one really good one,” he said.