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Maskless FL Doc Told to Leave Meeting  10/24 13:17

   Florida's top health official was asked to leave a meeting after refusing to 
wear a mask at the office of a state senator who told him she had a serious 
medical condition, officials have confirmed.

   MIAMI (AP) -- Florida's top health official was asked to leave a meeting 
after refusing to wear a mask at the office of a state senator who told him she 
had a serious medical condition, officials have confirmed.

   Florida Senate leader Wilton Simpson, a Republican, sent a memo to senators 
Saturday regarding the incident at the office of Democratic state Sen. Tina 
Polsky, asking visitors at the building to be respectful with social 
interactions. Polsky, who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, 
had not yet made public her breast cancer diagnosis.

   Polsky told The Associated Press about the tense exchange with state Surgeon 
General Joseph Ladapo that was first reported by the news site Florida 
Politics. She said Ladapo and two aides were offered masks and asked to wear 
them when they arrived for the Wednesday meeting. She did not tell him she had 
breast cancer, but said she had a serious condition.

   The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cancer patients are 
at a higher risk to get severely ill from COVID-19 and may not build the same 
immunity to vaccines.

   Ladapo had asked to meet her in Tallahassee as he seeks confirmation in the 
Senate after being named to the post by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month.

   "It was so shocking to me that he treated me in this manner," Polsky said. 
"If he is a surgeon general for the next several years, I am really concerned 
about a future public health emergency and not being able to rely on him for 
necessary guidance and proper scientific leadership."

   Ladapo offered to go outside, but the senator said she did not want to sit 
on the metal picnic tables on a warm day when her office was nice and spacious. 
She said she asked whether there was a reason why he couldn't wear a mask, but 
he wouldn't answer.

   The Florida Department of Health did not respond to emailed requests for 

   Democrats have opposed the appointment of Ladapo, criticizing him for 
comments and actions related to the pandemic.

   A day into his job, Ladapo signed new rules allowing parents to decide 
whether their children should quarantine or stay in school after being exposed 
to people who tested positive for COVID-19.

   On Thursday at a press conference with DeSantis to oppose vaccine mandates, 
Ladapo said people were not comfortable with the vaccines because the federal 
government has not been open about the effectiveness and safety of the 
vaccines, saying there was a "concerted effort" to hide stories of people with 
adverse reactions.

   Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has received the full approval by the U.S. Food 
and Drug Administration, meeting high standards required for the vaccine to be 
considered safe. It has been administered to millions and proven to be 
effective against hospitalization and death. However, immunity against 
infection can wane over time.

   Authorities in Sweden, Denmark and Norway earlier this month suspended or 
discouraged the use of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine in young people because of an 
increased risk of heart inflammation, a very rare side effect associated with 
the shot.

   Ladapo also wrote an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal saying masks 
have "little or no effect on respiratory virus transmission."

   The CDC still recommends people with weakened immune systems, and those in 
high-transmission areas to wear masks. Studies have supported their use, with 
some finding that cloth masks are less effective.

   In the memo sent by Simpson, the president of the Florida senate, he said 
that while there's no mask mandate in the Senate, senators can request social 
distancing and masking within their offices.

   "It shouldn't take a cancer diagnosis for people to respect each other's 
level of comfort with social interactions during a pandemic," he said. "What 
occurred in Senator Polsky's office was unprofessional and will not be 
tolerated in the Senate."

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