TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Senate Democrats walked out of a hearing on Wednesday following a tense set of questions with Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida’s surgeon general.
Ladapo, who was nominated for the position by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year, still received the votes from the Republicans on the committee and will now have his confirmation taken up by the full Senate.
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For more than an hour, Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health Policy asked Ladapo about his views on masks, vaccines and a specific incident last year when he refused to wear a mask while in the office with a state senator who has cancer.
“I am asking, do you regret the way that you treated our colleague when she asked you to wear a mask and you refused to do so, yes or no?,” asked Sen. Lauren Book (D-Broward County).
READ: Florida’s new surgeon general: State will ‘completely reject fear’ on disease mitigation
Ladapo responded by saying he respects personal choices and decisions.
When asked about vaccines, the surgeon general said they have been shown to reduce the most harmful effects of the COVID-19 virus, but added that they do not prevent infection.
“I don’t think the point of public health is coercion, it is education and allow people to make choices,” said Ladapo following the hearing.
READ: Florida’s top doctor refuses mask, is told to leave meeting
When asked if he thinks COVID-19 is under control in the state, the doctor demurred, saying, “I think COVID-19 is a chronic and likely endemic virus that we are going to deal with. The the objective should be that we ensure that Floridians are as healthy as possible.”
Ladapo was also asked about Orange County Dr. Raul Pino, who was suspended recently following comments he made in an email about the low vaccination rate within the county’s department of health staff. On that issue, Ladapo said the suspension was about policy and not politics.
READ: DeSantis, new Florida surgeon general announce new school COVID-19 quarantine policy
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