A Message From Florida’s New Public Health Chief: The State Will ‘Completely Reject Fear As A Way Of Making Policies In Public Health’

Florida has a new state surgeon general, and his message to the residents he now serves: We’re done with fear.

Gov Ron DeSantis on Tuesday introduced Dr. Joseph Ladapo as the state’s new public health chief. Ladapo succeeds Dr. Scott Rivkees, a pediatrician, who took over the Department of Health in 2019 per an agreement between the state and the University of Florida. Monday was his last day under the state law that governs such arrangements.

Ladapo comes to Florida from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. A graduate of Wake Forest University, Ladapo received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and also holds a doctoral degree in Health Policy from Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He was a staff physician at UCLA Health.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Ladapo said the Health Department would set an example for other states.

“Florida will completely reject fear as a way of making policies in public health. So we’re done with fear,” he said.

“That’s been something that’s been, unfortunately, a centerpiece of health policy in the United States ever since the beginning of the pandemic. And it’s over here, expiration date, it’s done.”

Ladapo said the state would “really think globally” about future health policy decisions. To that end, the agency’s policymaking will be “very explicit” about the differences between science and opinions.

“What’s been happening over the past year is that people have been taking the science and they’ve been misrepresenting” it, he said.

“We are going to never lose sight of the fact that public health is not one thing … not about a single item. It’s not about how many cases of COVID there are in a location … that’s how public health has been treated over the past year and a half. So that’s over, it’s not going to happen here.”

In some ways, based on past interviews, Ladapo sounds like comedian Bill Maher, who in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel last week scolded the liberal media for “scaring the s–t out of people” over COVID.

Ladapo also seems to reflect DeSantis’ attitude and desire for striking a balance between dealing straightforwardly with COVID and returning to the pre-pandemic normal, and the push to not downplay the effects of COVID therapeutics – including monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, and hydroxychloroquine.

Writing just last week in The Wall Street Journal, Ladapo noted, “The battle against Covid-19 is entering a new phase, and the choice for society is whether to live with the virus or to live for it.”

Positive trends in handling the virus, he added, have presented the nation “an opportunity to pivot away from the fear-fueled policy-making that has characterized the pandemic.”

“Policies forged in fear and panic have wrought tremendous damage in exchange for benefits that were attainable at a much lower cost,” Ladapo said.

“The point of life is living, and everyone is better off with policies that focus on protecting the most vulnerable populations,” he concluded.

“That doesn’t take universal rapid testing or never-ending mandates. It requires only abandoning fear, being sensible about who is targeted for testing and protections, expanding treatment capacity and therapies — and choosing to live with the virus, rather than to live for it.”

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