Florida’s new surgeon general is Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a UCLA heart specialist who has fully embraced Governor Ron DeSantis’ personal freedom approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, judging by his remarks during of a press conference on Tuesday.
DeSantis has called reporters together to announce that he has chosen Ladapo to replace Dr Scott Rivkees, who stepped down on Monday after just over two years in which he kept a low profile as the pandemic raged. The position must be confirmed by the Florida Senate.
The governor used the announcement to denounce federal public health priorities, including the Biden administration’s decision to suspend monoclonal antibody treatments that DeSantis recently insisted on.
That said, when rationing began, Florida got the largest supply of treatment, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
President Joe Biden has already exchanged passionate words about their different approaches to COVID policy, but DeSantis’ rhetoric reached a new high on Tuesday, accusing the president of active malice towards his state.
âHe hates Florida more than anything, and it’s going to absolutely hurt people,â DeSantis said.
âThere is a time for politics – I get it. But, you know, being so obsessed with trying to bring Florida to its knees in any way you can that you would take away life-saving treatments – I’m sorry, some things should be beyond politics.
Ladapo will work under an agreement similar to Rivkees’ – involving a two-year contract (with a possible three-month extension) as general surgeon, chairing the Florida Department of Health, and a separate agreement with the University. of Florida College of Medicine. .
His UF salary will be $ 262,000, which represents the middle of the pack among medical colleagues with similar credentials.
âWe anticipate that the Florida Department of Health will contribute a significant portion of this salary based on the percentage of time it spends in the role of general surgeon,â said Ken Garcia, medical school spokesperson, via email.
The state’s base salary for the general surgeon is $ 250,000 per year. Ladopo’s contract was not immediately available, but under Rivkees, the state contributed $ 35,000 per fiscal quarter to the university to cover its general duties as a surgeon.
Ladapo is a cardiologist who was an associate professor at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine; previously, he was a faculty member in the Department of Population Health at the NYU School of Medicine and a staff member of the United States Food and Drug Administration, according to his UCLA biography.
He received his MD from Harvard Medical School and a doctorate. in Health Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He immigrated to the United States from Nigeria.
The administration dismissed Rivkees after stepping down from the administrative line on handling COVID in April 2020. He was even prevented from answering questions from members of the Legislative Assembly.
Ladapo, on the other hand, describes himself as a signatory to the Great Barrington Declaration which considers one of DeSantis’ top COVID advisers, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, “a good friend of mine.”
The statement, which Bhattacharya helped draft, calls for taking care to protect the elderly and the most vulnerable from the coronavirus while leaving younger and healthier people free to be infected and build herd immunity. It is firmly at odds with much of the scientific and medical opinion on the management of the pandemic.
The document describes the “devastating effects on public health in the short and long term.” The results (to name a few) include lower childhood immunization rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health – leading to higher excess mortality in children. years to come, the working class and young members of society bearing the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
âThere are a few things that I didn’t totally agree with,â said Ladapo.
âBut the spirit of what they believe – that, you know, we have to respect human rights; that, you know, people have autonomy over their lives and it’s not OK – it’s not even OK – but it’s not virtuous and it’s not fair to take those rights away from individuals. I totally agree with that. That’s why I signed it.
Ladapo insisted that science shows that natural immunity confers “excellent protection, formidable protection, long-lasting protection, robust protection” against reinfection with severe symptoms.
DeSantis has accused federal public health officials of downplaying the role of natural immunity because they don’t want to discourage people from getting vaccinated.
âThey think if you tell people that recovering from COVID provides solid protection, some people will say, ‘Oh, I might as well go and get infected,’ DeSantis said. would, but even if someone does, you have to tell people the truth, âthe governor said.
âYou can’t tell noble lies to try to get them to behave in a way that you think you want them to behave,â he said.
He accused federal authorities of downplaying monoclonal antibody treatments, which DeSantis has heavily promoted through state-sponsored clinics, for the same reason – that it would discourage vaccination.
Biden’s “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan identified monoclonal antibody therapy “as a key tool to improve health outcomes, prevent hospitalizations and reduce pressure on overcrowded hospitals.” The plan also called for strike teams to ensure more patients could access these “life-saving COVID-19 treatments.”
However, with seven states, including Florida, consuming 70% of the nation’s supply, the administration has taken control of monoclonal antibody stocks to ensure doses are available for patients elsewhere.
Ladapo was asked if the state should do more to promote vaccines.
âThe state should promote good health, and vaccination is not the only way to achieve this. It has been treated almost like a religion and it just makes no sense. There are many good paths to health and vaccination is not the only one, âhe said.
Other strategies include âlose weight, exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetablesâ.
He highlighted three points regarding his approach to COVID.
One: âWe’re done with fear. It’s something that has unfortunately been a centerpiece of health policy in the United States since the start of the pandemic, and it’s over here. Expiration date. It is done.”
Two: âWe’re going to be very explicit about the differences between science and our opinions. “
Three: âWe will never lose sight of the fact that public health is not one thing. â¦ It’s not about how many cases of COVID there are in one place. And that’s part of public health, but it’s not the only thing. And, as you all know, this is how public health has been treated for the past year and a half. “
Regarding the role of fear in responding to the pandemic, a reporter asked Ladapo about the role of conspiracy theories in vaccine resistance.
“This is in part a problem because of the climate of mistrust that has been engendered over the past year and a half. And that was the direct result of scientists – my colleagues, some of them – taking science and , basically twisting it to fit their agendas, their interests, what they wanted people to do, âLadapo said.
He said he supported vaccine education efforts, but insisted that the decision whether or not to take the vaccines should be left to individuals.
He rejected the idea of ââlockdowns – forcing non-essential businesses to shut down and people to self-isolate to contain the virus, saying the evidence shows they aren’t working.