Florida Senate president calls Dr. Joseph Ladapo's unmasked encounter with Sen. Tina Polsky 'disappointing'

Senate President Wilton Simpson blasts surgeon general for refusing to wear mask in senator's office
Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson, May 2021
Posted at 9:06 AM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 10:35:14-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The president of the Florida Senate chided the state's top health official for failing to respect a South Florida lawmaker's request to wear a mask in her office.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Spring Hill, sent a memorandum Saturday to all state senators and Senate professional staff blasting Dr. Joseph Ladapo, without naming him, for his actions during last week's meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton.

Polsky claimed that Ladapo, who is awaiting his Senate confirmation hearing after being appointed state surgeon general by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, wouldn't wear a mask in her office after she asked him to do so.

Tina Polsky and Joseph Ladapo
State Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, says she asked Florida's new surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, to leave her office after he refused to wear a mask.

The 53-year-old senator, who represents portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and will soon undergo chemotherapy.

Simpson wrote that the incident between Polsky and Ladapo was "disappointing given the health challenges Senator Polsky is currently facing."

Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson letter on incident involving Sen. Tina Polsky

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

Simpson said that, although there is no mask mandate in the Senate, senators and staff "can request social distancing and masking within their own offices."

"If visitors to the Senate fail to respect these requests, they will be asked to leave," he said.

That's exactly what Polsky said she asked Ladapo to do after his refusal to wear a mask.

"The Florida Senate has a long history of respect and camaraderie, and I expect that tradition to continue during my administration," Simpson wrote.

There has been no reply to an email to the Florida Department of Health seeking comment.