A Florida health director was placed on administrative leave after he encouraged his staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Florida Department of Health is investigating if Dr. Raul Pino, who’s the top public health official in Orange County, violated a new law signed by GOP Governor Ron DeSantis when he sent his staff an email earlier this month that read, “I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated. 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.”
Pino added that only 219 of his 589 staffers have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Just 77 got a booster shot.
“I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it,” he added.
The Associated Press explains:
A measure Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last fall prohibits government agencies from implementing vaccine mandates and restricts private businesses from having vaccine requirements unless they allow workers to opt out for medical reasons, religious beliefs, immunity based on a previous infection, regular testing or an agreement to wear protective gear.
“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,” [Florida Department of Health press secretary Jeremy] Redfern said in the email. He didn’t offer further details.
A different spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health told The Washington Post that “the decision to get vaccinated is a personal medical choice that should be made free from coercion and mandates from employers.”
The outlet adds:
Since the start of the pandemic, Pino has been a constant presence at coronavirus news briefings with Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (D), outlining best practices and safety recommendations. He has repeatedly urged residents to get vaccinated.
“Clearly, vaccines are working for us … and are the solution to this crisis,” Pino said at a news conference last month. “The vaccine continues to be effective against the variants.”
63,458 Floridians have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.