By Ashley Sadler
Florida’s new surgeon general, a Harvard-trained physician and researcher specializing in public health policy, argued that there is no “clinical benefit” to forcing children to wear masks at schools. He backed up Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stance that the decision to mask children should be left up to parents, not school boards.
Speaking at an event in Brevard County along with Gov. DeSantis, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who was appointed to his roles as Surgeon General and Secretary of Health for the state of Florida in September, invited attendees to “step back for a moment from what you hear sort of constantly on TV.”
“Just very briefly, in terms of the data that supports mask use in kids and mandates for masking kids, it is very weak, and that’s a fact,” Ladapo said.
The surgeon general, who earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his Ph.D. in Health Policy from Harvard Graduate School, added that despite what is being repeated by “some of our public health leadership in other states and nationally,” “there is a substantial gap between the quality of the data out there supporting masking kids yielding any benefit for kids whatsoever.”
“In Florida we’re going to stay close to the data, and we’re going to let you know how we feel about the data. And the data do not support any clinical benefit for children in schools with mask mandates. The highest quality data find no evidence of benefit. And we’re going to stick with that,” Ladapo explained.
Dr. Ladapo went on to defend parents’ rights to make decisions for their children over the authority of school boards and political leaders.
“Putting a mask on the face of your child, that’s a parent’s decision. That’s not a school’s decision, it’s not a school board’s decision, it’s not a governor’s decision. It’s no one else’s decision except for the parent, and parents are being placed in these impossible situations related to the health of their children,” Ladapo said.
Many parents have demanded their children not be forced to wear masks to attend in-person school, citing data indicating that children are not at high risk from COVID-19, do not significantly spread the virus, and may face psychological and physical damage from prolonged mask wearing.
The state of Florida under the leadership of Gov. DeSantis has strongly supported the rights of parents to choose not to mask their children.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order that directs the state's health and education departments to issue emergency rules that prevent the implementation of a mask mandate in schools https://t.co/aIQ2UXB5K0
— CNN (@CNN) July 30, 2021
By appointing Dr. Ladapo, a decision met with outrage from mainstream media outlets promoting increased mandates and restrictions, DeSantis sent another strong signal about where the state of Florida stands on COVID-19 and the medical freedoms of Floridians.
Even before his appointment, Ladapo had come out strongly in support of policies which honor Americans’ free choice to make their own medical decisions.
Ladapo, who previously held a position as an associate professor with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said that “[d]espite a mask mandate imposed last April and steady, high rates of compliance, California experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases over the winter.”
In a statement made upon accepting his appointment, Ladapo said “We must make health policy decisions rooted in data and not in fear. From California, I have observed the different approaches taken by governors across the country and I have been impressed by Governor DeSantis’ leadership and determination to ensure that Floridians are afforded all opportunities to maintain their health and wellness, while preserving their freedoms as Americans. It is a privilege to join his team and serve the people of Florida.”
Ladapo’s statements rejecting mandated masking and supporting the authority of parents to make choices for their own families align with current Florida law.
In July, Gov. DeSantis directed the Florida Department of Health to issue an emergency rule banning school boards in the Sunshine State from mandating masks for students, arguing that decisions about masking should be left up to parents.
Earlier this month, the Florida Board of Education enforced the law by stripping funding from eight Florida school districts which were forcing kids to mask up.
In a press conference held by Gov. DeSantis on September 22 to introduce the state’s new surgeon general, Ladapo said that in dealing with COVID-19, “We are done with fear.“
“That is something that, unfortunately, has been a center point of health policy here in the United States since the start of the pandemic,” he said, adding that that’s “over” in Florida.
During the press conference, Ladapo spoke in favor of treatments other than vaccination to deal with COVID-19, and argued that the experimental injections on the market have been “treated almost as a religion.”
“The state should be promoting good health,” Ladapo said. “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.”
Florida’s controversial ban on school mask mandates has faced continuous pushback from proponents of forced masking.
While a federal judge upheld the ban September 15 and rejected an appeal to reconsider on September 30, an administrative law judge this week rejected a request by the Florida Department of Health to dismiss a challenge to the law put forward by six school boards.
Orlando Weekly reported that the Wednesday “decision by Judge Brian Newman came a day before a hearing is scheduled to start in the challenge filed by the school boards in Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Duval, Alachua and Leon counties.”