Dr. Scott Rivkees will leave his position as Florida’s Surgeon General on Sept. 20, News 6 has learned.
As the state health officer who oversees the Florida Department of Health, Rivkees has been noticeably absent from public view as COVID-19 cases and deaths have spiked in the state and debates have raged over school mask mandates.
The Florida Department of Health has declined to make Rivkees available for media interviews in recent weeks and Gov. Ron DeSantis has not disclosed the surgeon general’s whereabouts during pandemic-related news conferences.
While serving as state surgeon general, Rivkees has remained employed by the University of Florida, where he previously served as chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
The Florida Department of Health paid the University of Florida $280,000 for Rivkees’s services as part of a two-year contract that expired June 20.
That contract was later extended for another 3 months, according to a UF spokesperson.
Rivkees will step down as the state’s surgeon general when that contract extension expires on Sept. 20.
Christina Pushaw, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s press secretary, issued a statement on Thursday:
“We thank Dr. Rivkees for his meaningful work during the most challenging pandemic of our lifetime. We appreciate his service to the people of Florida and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Pushaw said there will be an announcement later on who will replace Dr. Rivkees.
A Florida Department of Health spokesperson did not respond to multiple emails seeking information about Rivkees’s contract.
Rivkees was named Florida Surgeon General in April of 2019.
Communications Director for Gov. Ron DeSantis Taryn Fenske said Rivkees was integral to the state’s response to COVID-19.
“During his tenure, over 12 million Floridians have been vaccinated – 66% of Florida’s eligible population, which is above the national average. Eighty-six percent of Floridians over age 65 have been vaccinated, one of our most vulnerable populations,” Fenske said. “We have also administered over 13,000 monoclonal antibody therapy treatments in two weeks at state sites to continue protecting the health of those at higher risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.”
Fenske also shared how she felt Rivkees helped Florida battle the pandemic before the vaccine was available.
“Dr. Rivkees supported Gov. DeSantis’ mission to protect the vulnerable by deploying infection control strike teams to limit the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities statewide – an effort that ultimately saved many lives among Florida’s most vulnerable residents.”