ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A health official who helped lead Central Florida’s response to the pandemic has been placed on administrative leave as state officials investigate whether he attempted to forcing employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in violation of state law.
The state health agency is investigating Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, “to determine if any laws were violated in this matter,” the secretary said. Florida Department of Health press release Jeremy Redfern in an email.
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A measure Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law last fall prohibits government agencies from implementing vaccination mandates and prevents private companies from having vaccine requirements unless they allow workers to withdraw for medical reasons, religious beliefs, immunity based on previous infection, regular testing, or agreement to wear protective equipment.
“The Department is committed to complying with all laws, including the ban on vaccination warrants for government employees, and will take appropriate action once additional information becomes known,” Redfern said in the e- mail. He gave no further details.
Orlando’s WFTV reports that Pino was furloughed after emailing staff earlier this month criticizing their vaccination rates.
Pino wrote that of 568 staff members, only 77 had received boosters, 219 had received two doses of vaccines and 34 had received only one dose, according to the television station.
“I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons, it is irresponsible not to get vaccinated,” Pino wrote. “We’ve been here for two years, we were the first to give vaccines to the masses, we’ve done over 300,000 and we’re not even 50% pathetic.”
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Pino has led the Orange County Health Agency since 2019 and has been a leading figure in the public response to the pandemic in Metro Orlando.