Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino was placed on paid administrative leave after he sent an email on Jan. 4 to Orange County Department of Health staff about employee COVID-19 vaccination rates.
“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," DOH officials said in a prepared statement Tuesday, Jan. 18. "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."
In his email, Pino commented on the low number of county health employees who have been vaccinated.
"I have a hard time understanding how can we be in public health and not practice it?" Pino said. "The reasons can be many, but so many of us? I am sorry, but at this point in the absence of reasonable and real reasons, it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated."
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Pino has served as the face of the department by providing updates on case numbers and vaccination rates during news conferences in the county. He has been with the Florida Department of Health in Orange County since May 2019.
"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 (OCDOH), and we are not even at 50%, pathetic," Pino wrote.
According to Pino, 38% of employees have completed their vaccine series, with 13% being boosted and 6% having just one dose.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings spoke in support of Pino Wednesday, Jan. 19.
“Dr. Raul Pino has been our trusted partner and friend throughout the pandemic," he said. "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."
This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.