TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo on Thursday announced new coronavirus policy recommendations that discourage mask-wearing and push physicians to use off-label medications to treat the virus.
The guidance, titled “ Buck the CDC,” is the Republican governor's latest break with federal officials over COVID-19 rules, a feud that has boosted his prominence in the GOP as he eyes a 2024 presidential bid.
“People want to live freely in Florida, without corporate masking creating a two-tier society and without overbearing isolation for children,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We are empowering health care practitioners to follow science, not (Dr. Anthony) Fauci’s status quo.”
The announcement came a day before President Joe Biden's administration is expected to significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines, according to two people familiar with the change. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s action before the announcement.
Florida's new policy advises businesses to stop requiring masks for workers, as the state's health guidance does not rely on wearing masks in a community setting. It also suggests that adults and children who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for five days. The CDC has recommended the five-day quarantine for asymptomatic Americans who catch the coronavirus since late December.
In addition, the DeSantis administration is directing physicians to exercise their own judgment when treating virus patients, telling them to consider “emerging treatments backed by quality evidence, with appropriate patient informed consent, including off-label use or as part of a clinical trial.”
“It's really been a tragedy that my colleagues, my physician colleagues, have decided that it's more important to stick with whatever the CDC or Dr. Fauci is saying than relying on their clinical wisdom, experience and scientific expertise, which is what doctors usually do," Ladapo said.
The guidance comes a day after the Florida state Senate approved the nomination of Ladapo as surgeon general, over criticism that his virus health policy is too aligned with the politics of DeSantis. DeSantis has become one of the GOP's biggest stars through his fierce opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates for masks and vaccines.
Last year, the governor signed a bill to prevent private businesses from having COVID-19 vaccine mandates unless they allow workers to opt out for medical reasons, religious beliefs, immunity based on a previous infection, regular testing or an agreement to wear protective gear. The law also includes fines for businesses that fire workers without allowing for the exemptions.
Associated Press Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.