Joseph Ladapo: Florida's surgeon general says students with Covid can go to school
In a worrying shift, Florida's new surgeon general, Dr Joseph Ladapo, has issued a new rule that could increase the number of Covid-19 cases in the sunshine state. Ladapo issued a ruling on September 22 that takes masking and quarantine decisions out of the school's hands, leaving it solely up to parents to decide. The rule also means asymptomatic children who have Covid-19 will also be allowed to attend school, without needing treatment.
While many conservative states have been battling mask and vaccine mandates, Florida has been at the forefront of the war against science. Recently, Governor Ron DeSantis has been battling school districts over mask mandates, with a judge ruling against DeSantis in early September. One doctor was caught taking advantage of that battle, offering parents opt-out letters for $50. Meanwhile, business owners have also jumped in, with some banning masked patrons from their store.
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To help continue his fight, DeSantis recently appointed Ladapo as the state's surgeon general, a move that has generated ample controversy even before his ruling. The appointment has led to fears of a massive rise in Covid cases in Flordia, which already has one of the highest in the US.
Who is Dr Joseph Ladapo?
After over a year of sidelining his last top doc, DeSantis announced Ladapo has his new surgeon general on September 21. It's not hard to see why. After obtaining a BA from Wake Forest University, Ladapo went on to obtain an MD and PhD from Harvard University. He then went on to teach at the NYU School of Medicine and UCLA. Prior to his appointment in Florida, Ladapo was working as an associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
But it's not his resume that led DeSantis to pick Ladapo, but his open and unabashed battle with the scientific community over the pandemic. In July 2020, he was one of the many doctors at the steps of the Supreme Court promoting hydroxychloroquine and protesting mask mandates. He's also been hawking Ivermectin as a treatment method of late, and said vaccines were more dangerous "than advertised." In one op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, he also said removing children from school is harmful to public health.
Remember this press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court - doctors touting hydroxychloroquine, prompting praise from then-President Trump and Google, Twitter, and Facebook to take the video down?— Jay O'Brien (@jayobtv) September 21, 2021
Florida’s new Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, was a speaker. 👇 pic.twitter.com/wDQHNkkNXn
As you can guess, many of these ideas are exactly what DeSantis promotes himself. Despite the genuine threat of the virus, DeSantis wants kids in schools with no restrictions, and masks and vaccines to be a purely personal choice. So naturally, he tapped Ladapo to take over the job of surgeon general, which quickly escalated Florida's battle against science. He's reportedly on a two-year contract along with a simultaneous position with the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Ladapo's 'positive approach'
"We are going to have a positive approach," Ladapo announced at the September 21 conference, which we got a look at just a day later. The surgeon general announced a new rule targeting schools. From now, families will have the "sole discretion" over masking and quarantine for their children, not schools. It also adds that a child exposed to Covid-19 can continue to come to school, "without restrictions or disparate treatment, so long as the student remains asymptomatic."
The rule was backed by DeSantis, who said it was aimed at preventing the "quarantining healthy students", which would be "damaging for their educational advancement". He said the state would follow a "symptoms-based approach", even though a majority of cases don't present symptoms. Apart from rendering schools powerless, it also dismissed any legal challenges DeSantis has been fighting over the past weeks. "I don’t see any wiggle room whatsoever in doing anything other than dismissing this case," said Judge Brian Newman, who was overseeing the case on the mask mandate ban brought by school districts.
Adding to this, Ladapo also slammed vaccines, despite the proof they work. "It’s been treated almost like a religion, and that’s just senseless," he said, adding they were getting "too much hype". The ruling has left parents and educators fearful for their health and safety, but with few options to fight back. As of September 21, Florida reported a seven-day average of 9,112 cases with 85,000+ people in hospital, out of which 24,161 were in intensive care.