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DeSantis announces new Surgeon General

Governor DeSantis and Surgeon General Ladapo

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo, MD, PhD, as Florida Surgeon General and Secretary of the Florida Department of Health.

Dr. Ladapo was recently granted a professorship at the University of Florida (UF) College of Medicine. Prior to joining UF, he served as an associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) caring for hospitalized patients. A graduate of Wake Forest University, Dr. Ladapo also holds an MD from Harvard Medical School and a PhD in Health Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

“We’re done with fear. That’s 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.” – Dr. Joseph Ladapo

In his remarks, Ladapo said he was “very happy to be… working with Governor DeSantis and the leadership here in Florida to really think thoughtfully and in a very positive way about our public health here in Florida and frankly, hopefully set an example for other states around the country and maybe even further than that… There are a few things we’re going to keep in mind as we approach public health here… The first is that Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health. We’re done with fear. That’s 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. 

“We’re compassionate, we get it, there are scary things, we’ve seen a lot of fear from COVID over the past year and a half, and it’s very understandable. But the way to approach that is not from a place of fear because it doesn’t lead to good decisions. And we’ve seen a lot of that, where the risks and benefits of decisions haven’t been considered wholly or thoughtfully.

“That’s over here. In terms of our approach… we’re going to acknowledge the fact that there are some things that are scary, but that’s not the place that we’re going to make decisions from. So we’re going to really think globally about the health policy decisions that we make in this state. 

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“What’s been happening over the past year is that people have been taking the science, and they’ve been mis-representing it… It’s been unclear where the discussion about the science ends and discussion about how you feel about the science and what you want people to do with the science begins. That will never be a problem here.” – Dr. Ladapo

“The second thing that I plan to be sure is very clear in our policymaking is that we’re going to… be very explicit about the differences between the science and our opinions. So we all have opinions, we all have a perspective, and we are absolutely entitled to those perspectives. What’s been happening over the past year is that people have been taking the science, and they’ve been mis-representing it… It’s been unclear where the discussion about the science ends and discussion about how you feel about the science and what you want people to do with the science begins. That will never be a problem here… You’ll know when we’re talking about data, and you’ll know when we’re talking about our opinions, our impressions, our preferences about the data…

“And the the third thing is that we are going to never lose sight of the fact that public health is not one thing. Public health is not about a single item, it’s not about how many cases of COVID there are in a location. That is a part of public health, but it’s not the only thing. As all of you know, that’s how public health has been treated over the past year and a half. That’s over, it’s not going to happen here… 

“As a perfect example of how glaringly we’ve ignored what public health really means… how we’ve just brazenly pulled children, who need the structure of school and need the structure of a routine in their lives, out of school… It’s terrible to do it for all kids, but we’ve also done it for kids with disabilities, and people have hardly even batted an eye.”

“Part of why [fear] is an issue is because of the climate of distrust 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 the science and basically misrepresenting it to fit their agendas, their interests, what they wanted to see people do.” – Dr. Ladapo

In response to an inaudible question from a reporter, he said, “Part of that fear that you’re talking about—and did you say ‘conspiracy theories’?—part of why that is an issue is because of the climate of distrust 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 the science and basically misrepresenting it to fit their agendas, their interests, what they wanted to see people do… I think vaccines, we’ll treat like any other preventive issue. The goal will be education… and this idea that people don’t get to make their own decisions on issues related to their own personal health is wrong, and it’s not something that we’re going to be about.”

in response to an inaudible question that seemed to be about whether he was a signer of the Great Barrington Declaration, he said, “Yes, I am. In fact, Jay Bhattacharya is a good friend of mine… and there are a couple things I didn’t totally agree with, but the spirit of what they believe, that we need to respect human rights, that people do have autonomy over their lives, and it’s not okay to… it’s not virtuous and it’s not right to take away those rights from individuals—completely agree with that. That’s why I signed it.”

“The state should be promoting good health, and vaccination isn’t the only path to that. It’s been treated almost like a religion… We support measures for good health. That’s vaccination, losing weight, exercising more, it’s eating more fruits and vegetables, everything. We support it all.” – Dr. Ladapo

In response to a reporter who said the state should be promoting vaccines, 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… We support measures for good health. That’s vaccination, losing weight, exercising more, it’s eating more fruits and vegetables, everything. We support it all.”

“Someone will test positive, and then they send the healthy kids home. That needs to be re-evaluated, that’s not how they do it in more European countries… We’re going to be looking at that… Healthy kids, they have a right to be in the classroom.” – Governor DeSantis

In response to an inaudible question about schools, Governor DeSantis said, “When they say schools close, it’s usually not because everyone tests positive. Someone will test positive, and then they send the healthy kids home. That needs to be re-evaluated, that’s not how they do it in more European countries… We’re going to be looking at that…  The data’s very clear… Everyone was saying, ‘Oh, if you give parents a choice, you’re going to have major outbreaks’… and in reality, not only are we down… bigtime with pediatric admissions, but we’re down ED visits, we’re down huge on hospital admissions… and then, of course, you’re seeing the cases go down dramatically, as well… Healthy kids, they have a right to be in the classroom.”

“You don’t need to go to medical school to look at the data and see that there’s really great protection, terrific protection, durable protection, robust protection, variant protection that confers some resistance to variants… There’s tremendous data that supports the fact that natural immunity protects people from getting very ill and also protects people from being infected again.” – Dr. Ladapo

In response to an inaudible question about natural immunity, Dr. Ladapo said, “As a scientist, this is one of the most startling aspects of the pandemic for me, in terms of what some of my colleagues are saying and doing… You don’t need to go to medical school to look at the data and see that there’s really great protection, terrific protection, durable protection, robust protection, variant protection that confers some resistance to variants, and obviously the story is still being written, so we don’t really know exactly what’s going to happen in the future. There’s tremendous data that supports the fact that natural immunity protects people from getting very ill and also protects people from being infected again.”

“You have to say the truth to people. You can’t tell noble lies to try to get them to behave in a way that you think you want them to behave in.” – Governor DeSantis

DeSantis added, “The ‘experts’… think if you tell people recovery from COVID provides strong protection, some people will say, ‘Oh, I might as well just go and get infected’… and I don’t think most people would do it, but even if someone does, you have to say the truth to people. You can’t tell noble lies to try to get them to behave in a way that you think you want them to behave in… Clearly, if this wasn’t something that was durable, you’d see massive reinfections by now… No noble lies. You tell the truth on what the data is saying, and the same thing with the treatment, the antibodies…

“When you’re in the midst of a wave, you can vaccinate, it doesn’t kick in for probably six weeks after that, so what are you going to do to help people in the meantime? And we were seeing people who were vaccinated getting infected… The role that vaccinated people play in spreading it, I don’t know, but I can tell you, I think every state in the country had higher cases this summer than they did last summer, when no one was vaccinated, so it’s hard for me to think it’s only occurring among a small slice… So what do you do?…

I do think that one of the reasons why [monoclonal antibody treatment] 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, you tell people COVID’s a treatable illness, they feared some people would say, ‘Well, you know, maybe I won’t get vaccinated, I’ll just get the treatment,’ and so they didn’t want that message out because they feared how people would behave.” – Governor DeSantis

“Many physicians, as of last month, were still telling people, ‘Ok, go home, hope you don’t get deathly ill. If you get deathly ill, go to the hospital.’ There was never any belief that this should be treated or even could be treated—I don’t know why. But I do think that one of the reasons why [monoclonal antibody treatment] 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, you tell people COVID’s a treatable illness, they feared some people would say, ‘Well, you know, maybe I won’t get vaccinated, I’ll just get the treatment,’ and so they didn’t want that message out because they feared how people would behave.

“In my view, it complements… When we started doing our push… we raised awareness.. and then we expanded access… Now you have other states where they’re now following Florida’s lead… You gotta tell people the truth, and you gotta let them make decisions. They may not always make the decision that you want them to make, but I think that’s much better than pulling the wool over their eyes.”

And why are they targeting Florida? Biden, he loves talking about Florida. He hates Florida more than anything, and this is absolutely going to hurt people… There’s a time for politics, I get that, but to be so obsessed with trying to kneecap Florida any way you can that you would take away life-saving treatments—I’m sorry, some things should be beyond politics.” – Governor DeSantis

DeSantis then said that despite the success of monoclonal antibody treatments in Florida, “the Biden administration has dramatically cut the share of monoclonal—first of all, they seized control of the supply nationwide, and now they’re dramatically cutting what’s coming to the state of Florida. That’s wrong. That is dead wrong. And why are they targeting Florida? Biden, he loves talking about Florida. He hates Florida more than anything, and this is absolutely going to hurt people. We’re going to work like hell to make sure that anyone who needs it… I hope to have an announcement on that soon… If they don’t have enough of it, that’s mismanagement on their part… There’s a time for politics, I get that, but to be so obsessed with trying to kneecap Florida any way you can that you would take away life-saving treatments—I’m sorry, some things should be beyond politics.”

“I think the game of doing these state-to-state comparisons and saying ‘So-and-so, they did a good job,’… I think that is a silly game. I think that what we need to be doing is thinking about the people in the state, their circumstances, what their values are, what their constraints are, and doing the best we can for people in each state.” – Dr. Ladapo

In response to an inaudible questions, Dr. Ladapo said, “Your question highlights one of the examples of confusion with thinking about the pandemic. Different places have factors that contribute to surges and how ill people become, that we don’t fully understand yet. No one knew that Florida would have a surge during these past several weeks, no one knows when the next one’s coming in California or in some of the northeastern states for sure. I think the game of doing these state-to-state comparisons and saying ‘So-and-so, they did a good job,’… I think that is a silly game. I think that what we need to be doing is thinking about the people in the state, their circumstances, what their values are, what their constraints are, and doing the best we can for people in each state.”

Dr. Ladapo graduated from Wake Forest University and received his MD from Harvard Medical School and his PhD in Health Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He completed his clinical training in internal medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Ladapo was born in Nigeria. He immigrated to the United States when he was 5 years old, along with his family, as his father, a microbiologist, came to the country to continue his studies.

During his time at Wake Forest University, Dr. Ladapo was a decathlete on the university’s varsity track and field team, serving as the team’s captain. Dr. Ladapo has a passion for mentoring middle and high school students, which he has done for much of his career.

Dr. Ladapo and his wife have three young children.

  • Wish he would stop dragging his feet and announce new county and city commissioners.

    At least fine them for everything he can.

    • Thats on YOU, the county voters. Call your commissioners Learn how to replace them if they suck.

  • Why did DeSantis not hire an infectious disease expert or epidemiologist during a pandemic? This guy and Dr. Bhattacharya are both Covid opportunists.

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