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Tags: florida | vaccines | mandates | ron desantis | coronavirus | public health

Florida Health Dept. Puts Official on Leave for Urging Staff Vaccinations

Florida Health Dept. Puts Official on Leave for Urging Staff Vaccinations
A health care worker administers a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a drive-thru site in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 19 January 2022 05:04 PM

Florida's Department of Health has placed Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino on administrative leave amid an investigation into whether he might have broken state law by telling staff in an email that "it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law in November stating that "government entities may not require COVID-19 vaccinations of anyone, including employees."

"As the decision to get vaccinated is a personal medical choice that should be made free from coercion and mandates from employers, the employee in question has been placed on administrative leave, and the Florida Department of Health is conducting an inquiry to determine if any laws were broken in this case," the Florida Department of Health wrote in a statement Tuesday, as first reported by ABC's WFTV-9.

"The Department is committed to upholding all laws, including the ban on vaccine mandates for government employees and will take appropriate action once additional information is known."

The email that led to the decision was sent by Pino to Orange County Department of Health staff, noting low employee vaccination rates among his staff of 568 active workers at the department. Only 77 received the booster, only 219 had two doses, and 34 had just one dose, he wrote.

"Colleagues, I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it," Pino's Jan. 4 email read, according to a copy posted to Twitter.

"I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated," the letter concluded. "We have been at this for two years, we were the first to give vaccines to the masses, we have done more than 300,000 and we are not even at 50%, pathetic."

Orange County Democrat Mayor Jerry Demings, the husband of Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., wrote a statement responding to the state's move and investigation into Pino.

"Dr. Raul Pino has been our trusted partner and friend throughout the pandemic," Mayor Demings wrote in a statement, WFTV-9 reported. "His sound medical advice has helped guide me and countless other Orange County leaders to make the best decisions possible in dealing with COVID-19.

"It is my fervent hope that Dr. Pino returns to work on behalf of the residents of Orange County soon."

That statement does not yet appear on the mayor's official press release archive, but one that announces Mayor Demings is himself quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19, despite being vaccinated and boosted, does.

"Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings will be working from home this week after testing positive for COVID-19," the statement read. "Mayor Demings is fully vaccinated and boosted and is experiencing mild symptoms. He received confirmation of testing positive Tuesday evening."

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Florida's Department of Health has placed Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino on administrative leave amid an investigation into whether he might have broken state law by telling staff in an email that "it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated."
florida, vaccines, mandates, ron desantis, coronavirus, public health
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2022-04-19
Wednesday, 19 January 2022 05:04 PM
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