A sign in a store window reads "Face Masks Required"

Florida’s New Surgeon General Refused to Mask up During Meeting With Lawmaker Undergoing Cancer Treatment

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Over the weekend, Florida’s new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, was kicked out of a scheduled meeting with state Senator Tina Polsky after he and two of his aides refused to put on masks. They refused even after Polsky explained that she was about to start radiation for breast cancer. As a person with cancer, Polsky is much more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 as well as experiencing harsher symptoms. She also explained that if she caught the virus, her treatments would be delayed. And yet Ladapo still refused.

He’s now offered an explanation defending his decision and guess what! It sucks.

“Having a conversation with someone while wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist,” Ladapo said in a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday. “It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can’t do that when half of my face is covered.”

As many were quick to point out, doctors “communicate clearly and effectively” while wearing face masks all the time, since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. And over the last year and a half, plenty of others have learned to do so as well.

In his statement, Ladapo wrote that “During the encounter with Senator Tina Polsky, I stated multiple times that she had every right to implement any safety protocols she wanted in her office,” which is correct—she does.

“I attempted in good faith to find some way for us to communicate that would respect each of our preferences,” he continued. Except his preference is not to wear a piece of cloth on his face for twenty minutes or an hour or however long this meeting was supposed to be, while her preference was not to cause complications to her cancer treatments and/or die. These are not equal and there’s no “good faith” involved in treating them as such.

Ladapo claimed in his statement that he would “never knowingly be disrespectful to anyone.” Not only was his refusal to wear a mask extremely disrespectful on its own, but Polsky also described his demeanor during their exchange as “very smug,” and said it seemed like he “was enjoying himself.”

As he was leaving her office, Polsky told news outlets one of her aides heard him say, “Sometimes I try to reason with unreasonable people for fun.”

That’s not exactly what most of us would describe as respectful.

(via The Week, image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.