Meet hydroxychloroquine touter, mask skeptic, vaccine-dismissing Dr. Joseph Ladapo, last seen slathering on one of Donald Trump’s favorite insane pandemic drugs at a time when Trump was looking for pandemic solutions that wouldn’t do anything damned on his part. Ladapo is a surgeon general whom DeSantis can trust to follow Florida’s Republican line in making its state schools, government agencies, restaurants, cruise ships and alligator ponds glorious breeding grounds for new COVID-19 strains.
There was no chance DeSantis would pick someone who wouldn’t nod in approval at Republican talking points. DeSantis exists to serve DeSantis, and whether Floridians die while DeSantis poses for a Trumpian presidential run is an afterthought at best.
As for Lapado, he is an interesting choice. The “America’s Frontline Doctors” group that presented themselves to America in that video — a video Google removed for promoting misinformation about pandemic — is dodgy and nowhere near the “front line” of anything. But Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin is involved. The bizarre boost of hydroxychloroquine by the various members of the group should led to some sort of reckoning when it turned out that the treatment was snake oil nonsense. Still, Lapado and the others seem indifferent to the damage done by those claims.
Early in the pandemic, Lapado had already scrambled to the press with a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending anti-masks, social distancing refusers, and other public health threats with a relentless barrage of talking points straight from Republican mouths. There was no word that Lapado was prepared for the number of American deaths to rise to 700,000 when he suggested that government policy goals should focus on “not overwhelming hospitals” rather than preventing Americans from getting sick in the first place.
We can even count on his support for the DeSantis approach now that he has absolutely no problem with the current number of pandemic deaths — and believes the nation can tolerate significantly more.
Indeed, Lapado is all-in on the DeSantis approach. At the press event announcing his appointment, Lapado announced that the state will “reject fear as a means of policymaking” and stated that it was “pointless” to prioritize vaccines over, say, “eating more fruits and vegetables.”
Yes. So he’s a quack. A quack, a quack. A Trump-approved, Republican Party-talking quack who’s eager to brush aside his once-impressive medical credentials to instead announce that if you all ate more apples, you wouldn’t need vaccines at all. Understood.
All of this suggests that the Florida public remains extremely boned. The state’s conspiracy-promoting Republicans have no plan to reduce pandemic deaths and have absolutely no interest in doing so. DeSantis instead seems to be trying the hard way to achieve “herd immunity”: by exposing the entire population of the state and letting the mass deaths pass, Hopefully before the 2024 presidential campaign begins.
Even aside from the monstrous nature of that approach, it is astonishingly dangerous. As we have seen, the COVID-19 virus tends to mutate into new forms. The current kind of concern, delta, has every chance of mutating again into something even more dangerous. As in Texas and other southern states, choosing to make petri dishes from locals rather than responding aggressively to new outbreaks could still result in a dangerous variant named after one of the Republican charlatans who currently cultivate it.
I don’t know what to tell you, Florida. A majority of Floridians voted for this, and there is still no pressure among Florida voters to hand him DeSantis’ behind on a scale and pass pandemic responsibilities to someone who doesn’t have a kid’s soccer trophy where his soul should be. It seems that for the state’s Republican voters, cult following is indeed a more motivating force than keeping their own families alive, let alone anyone else’s.