Florida health director forced to go on leave for encouraging staff to get vaccinated

‘He’s the damn county health director! It’s his job!’ wrote an angry lawmaker

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 19 January 2022 17:48

Related Video: New Florida anti-Covid campaign downplays importance of vaccines

The medical director who oversees Orlando, Florida has been put on leave after encouraging his own staff to get vaccinated sparking an outcry from a local lawmaker.

Dr Raul Pino, Orange County Medical Director for the Florida Department of Health, wrote an email to staff on 4 January in which he encouraged them to take the vaccine for Covid-19 and get booster shots.

In the email, he wrote: “I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it.”

Dr Pino was placed on administrative leave after sending the email. It is unknown for how long.

The state’s health department released a statement when approached by local media: “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.”

It continues: “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.”

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has banned workplace vaccine mandates in Florida, and the state has seen a big surge in Omicron cases since the new variant of Covid-19 began to sweep across the nation.

Throughout the pandemic, Dr Pino spoke at many Covid-19 briefings to provide updates on the fight against the virus in Orange County.

He worked closely with Orlando mayor Jerry Demings who has been an outspoken critic of Governor DeSantis’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic state representative Carlos Smith, who represents Orlando, tweeted on Tuesday: “The Orange DOH Director who helped lead Orlando thru Covid is off the job and under investigation by the DeSantis administration for encouraging staff to get vaxxed.”

“HE’S THE DAMN COUNTY HEALTH DIRECTOR! IT’S HIS JOB!” Mr Smith wrote, adding: “This is not okay.”

In an earlier tweet, he said: “Dr Raul Pino has been a public servant [and] hero for our community during Covid. The Tallahassee decision to place him on administrative leave appears purely political.”

He added: “When you work for the DeSantis administration, telling the truth has consequences. Pino did the right thing.”

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