'Fear is done': Florida's new surgeon general Ladapo outspoken critic of COVID lockdowns, mandates (2024)

'There is nothing special about (vaccines) compared to any other preventive measure,' Dr. Joseph Ladapo said

Jeffrey Schweers, Capital Bureau| USA TODAY NETWORK FLORIDA

Dr. Joseph Ladapo —a UCLA medical professorwho has published controversial articles about “COVID mania” and is an outspoken critic of lockdowns, mask and vaccine mandates and other mitigation measures — has been named asFlorida's newsurgeon general, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday.

Ladapo, who was hiredMonday at the University of Florida College of Medicine, said he wants to usher in a new era of battling the COVID-19 pandemicin Florida, one that sets a model for other states to follow.

“Florida will completely reject fear. Fear is done,” Ladapo said during a press briefing after the regularly scheduled Florida Cabinet meeting in the Capitol.

Ladapo in USA TODAY:

DeSantis said his appointment as surgeon general and his hire at UF were two separate things, and based solely on his credentials.

"I don't think anyone who interviewed him knew he was going to be appointed to this," DeSantis said. "Itwasn't anything we had done and obviously we wanted to see how that shaped out before we formally offered him."

For UF, which U.S. News & World Report ranked the fifth best public university in the country, "to get someone of Joe's caliber" from third-ranked UCLA is a major coup, he added.

"I’m happy he got this job and I think he’s going to do a great job, but that's a big deal," DeSantis said. "Any university would be foolish not to want to get this guy."

Like hispredecessor, Scott Rivkees, also a professor at the UF College of Medicine, Ladapo will split his duties between his professorship at UF andhis state role as surgeon general and secretary of Florida's Department of Health.

Stepping down: Scott Rivkees relinquishes Florida surgeon general role, returns to academia at UF

Ladapo’s base yearly salary was set at the 50th percentile for a professor of general internal medicine, or $262,000, said Ken Garcia, spokesman for the UF College of Medicine.

"We anticipate that the Florida Department of Health will contribute a significant portion of this salary based on the percentage of time he dedicates to the surgeon general role," Garcia said in an email to the USA TODAY Network-Florida.

'Fear is done': Florida's new surgeon general Ladapo outspoken critic of COVID lockdowns, mandates (1)

'Fear is done': Florida's new surgeon general Ladapo outspoken critic of COVID lockdowns, mandates (2)

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The state will contribute more to Ladapo's salary than it had to Rivkees's.Under the agreement, Ladapo will spend 80% of his time as surgeon general and 20% working forUF.

Rivkees, whose contract with the state ended Sept. 20,had a similar arrangement with for the past two years and three months, with UF contributing $140,000 a year to his $239,000 salary.

Neither Rivkees, a pediatric endocrinologist, nor Ladapo, a cardiovascular specialist, are trained in epidemiology, virology or public health. Yet Ladapo has written volumes on the subject.

Mask battles: Judge shields Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees from deposition in mask fight

Ladapo says science, not opinion,shouldguide policy

Tuesday, Ladaposaid he understoodthat during a crisis people can be fearful and that state leaders should show compassion. But headded that “fear doesn’t lead to good decisions.”

Ladapo also said he would be clear that the Department of Health draws a distinction between science and opinion:“People have been taking the science and misrepresenting it,” he said, hinting at mainstream public health officials who have been setting policy for the nation.

“You will know when we are talking about data and opinion. Never lose sight that public healthis not just one thing. It is not just about the amount of COVID at a single location."

When asked about what mitigation strategies he supported for school children, Ladapo dodged the question.

"I’m discussing that with my team in terms of recommendations," he said. "It’s complicated."

One thing DeSantis said he wants to reconsider is the mitigation policy that a classroom or entire school is quarantined when students, teachers or staff show up and test positive for COVID-19.

"When they say schools are closed, it's not because everyone tests positive. Someone willtestpositive and they send the rest of the kids home," DeSantis said. "That needs to be reevaluated. That’s not how they do it in European countries and they’ve had verypositive results. We’re going to be looking at that."

The news of Ladapo'sappointment drew immediate praise from Jenny Beth Martin, honorary chair of Tea Party Patriots Action, a national nonprofit fighting medical mandates.

“I have had the honor and privilege of working with Dr. Ladapo over the past year, and I have seen first-hand that he is a well-researched, well-credentialed medical doctor with strong character and leadership traits,” Martin said.

“He is well-spoken, thoughtful, and as his Wall Street Journal op-eds have demonstrated, he has a gift for communicating medical information to the public in a factual and persuasive manner."

'We need to respect human rights'

Ladapo is a signatory of the Great Barrington Declaration, which expressesconcerns about prevailing policies for treating the COVID-19 pandemic.

It wasco-written by Dr. JayBhattacharya, aprofessor at Stanford University Medical School, epidemiologist and public health policy expert who has participated in several COVIDpanels hosted by DeSantis.

Ladapo called Bhattacharya a "good friend" but said he didn't agree with everything in the declaration before it was made public.

"There is this idea that things are black and white, you have to wear a mask all the time or not, that you have to get vaccinated or not," Ladapo said. "The spirit of Great Barrington is that we need to respect human rights, people have autonomy over their lives and that it isnot OK, not virtuous, not right to take away those rights."

He didn't mention anything about promoting the COVID vaccine, which DeSantis has stopped promoting publicly in lieu of boosting monoclonal antibody treatments.Ladapo said getting vaccinated is a matter of personal choice.

"There is nothing special about them compared to any other preventive measure," he said. "The great thing about thevaccine for COVID-19 is that it prevents the risk of serious illness. Fantastic. People get to make the choice about what they want to do with that information."

But he said vaccination is not the only path to good health.

"It’s been treated almost like a religion and that’s just senseless," Ladapo said. "We support measures to good health. That’s vaccination, losing weight, exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, everything."

Danielle Ivanov of the Gainesville Suncontributed to this report.Jeffrey Schweers is a capital bureau reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. Contact Schweers at jschweers@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.

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'Fear is done': Florida's new surgeon general Ladapo outspoken critic of COVID lockdowns, mandates (2024)


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