A doctor skeptical of many Covid-19 health measures will be Florida’s new state surgeon general, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference, DeSantis, a Republican, said Dr. Joseph Ladapo will become Florida’s next surgeon general.
“Joe has had a remarkable academic and medical career,” DeSantis said, adding that Ladapo graduated from Wake Forest University, received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and Ph.D. from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Ladapo, however, has been critical of many public health measures, including mask-wearing, lockdowns and vaccines, and his appointment comes as public health experts urge the state to take a more serious approach to the pandemic.
DeSantis, like Ladapo, has railed against measures like mask and vaccine mandates, with the governor saying last week that he will use fines to punish county and city governments for requiring their employees to get vaccinated. DeSantis also recently won his latest legal bid to preserve his executive order allowing parents, not school districts, to decide whether their kids would weak masks in school.
Ladapo said on Wednesday that he is “very happy to be working with someone like the governor, who has a similar vision about how to think about weighing costs and benefits with managing this pandemic.”
The doctor also touted the state’s new rules for quarantining students, which say that if a student has had close contact with a person who is positive for the virus but the student isn’t symptomatic, their parents can keep them in school instead of quarantining them as a precaution.
“We respect that some parents may be less comfortable sending their kid back to school after being exposed,” he said. “And so the new rule allows for those parents to keep their children home for a period of time. And the new rule also allows for parents who are more comfortable letting their healthy child return to school.”
Ladapo is also among a group of doctors who have supported controversial unproven and disproven Covid-19 therapies such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.
Ladapo most recently worked at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
In an opinion piece published last week in the Wall Street Journal, Ladapo penned his reflections on the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that public mask wearing “has had, at best, a modest effect on viral transmission,” although studies in real-world conditions have repeatedly shown masks reduce spread of the virus.
“Or take lockdowns, shown by research to increase deaths overall but nonetheless still considered an acceptable solution. This intellectual disconnect now extends to Covid-19 vaccine mandates. The policy is promoted as essential for stopping the spread of Covid-19, though the evidence suggests it won’t,” he said in the article, titled “Vaccine Mandates Can’t Stop Covid’s Spread.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, says fully vaccinated people are less likely than unvaccinated people to become infected with the coronavirus, which limits transmission, and they are less likely to become severely ill or die, lessening the burden on hospitals and health care systems. Fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections from the more transmissible Delta variant can spread the virus to others, the CDC says, but appear to spread the virus for a shorter time.
A recent CNN analysis showed the average Covid death rate in the 10 least vaccinated states was more than four times higher than the average death rate in the 10 most vaccinated states over the past week, and less vaccinated states tend to have higher hospitalization rates. The 10 least vaccinated states had an average of about 463 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, while the average case rate among the 10 most vaccinated states was less than half that – about 209 new cases per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess and Leyla Santiago contributed to this report.