Florida introduced a new surgeon general on Tuesday who says he is "done with fear" surrounding COVID-19.
Governor Ron DeSantis held a news conference to introduce physician and researcher Joseph Ladapo as the new surgeon general for the Sunshine State.
“We are done with fear,” Ladapo declared. “That is something that, unfortunately, has been a center point of health policy here in the United States since the start of the pandemic. It’s over here.”
“The state should be promoting good health,” he continued. “Vaccination is not the only path to that. It has been treated almost as a religion. That is just senseless. There are lots of good pathways to health, and vaccination is not the only one.”
WUSF Public News reports:
After large increases in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in July and August, the state has seen lower numbers in September. For example, a federal report Tuesday showed that 8,448 people were hospitalized in Florida with COVID-19. Three weeks earlier, the state had 15,682 patients hospitalized.
Rivkees, who was chairman of the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, was named surgeon general in spring 2019, a few months after DeSantis took office.
Lt. Gov Jeanette Nunez helped negotiate an agreement that allowed Rivkees to remain a tenured professor of pediatrics at the university and continue full-time employment. Under terms of the agreement, Rivkees was assigned to work as the Department of Health secretary, a position that doubles as surgeon general.
The contract was allowable under a law dealing with the transfer of public employees between agencies. But with positions appointed by the governor, such as the Department of Health secretary, the law limits the length of such intergovernmental transfers to two years, with up to a three-month extension allowed.
“We need to respect human rights,” Ladapo said. “People do have autonomy over their lives. It’s not OK, it’s not virtuous and it’s not right to just take away those rights from individuals.”
DeSantis added that Ladapo “understands there are no noble lies.”
“You have to say the truth to people,” he concluded. “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.”
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