Orange County health director Dr. Raul Pino placed on administrative leave

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino has been placed on administrative leave.

Sources tell WFTV 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.

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READ: Orange County opening county-employee only COVID-19 testing site

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

He wrote that he had an analyst run vaccination data for employees, and that out of the 568 active staff at the department, only 77 had received a COVID-19 booster, 219 had two doses of the vaccine and 34 had only one dose.

“I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated,” Pino wrote. “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.”

READ: Orange County sees alarming increase in COVID-19 cases, with 40% of residents testing positive

Pino has served as the face of the Orange County Department of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing updates on case numbers and vaccination rates during county news conferences.

Wednesday afternoon, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings released a statement in relation to Pino’s role and current employment status with the health department.

“Dr. Raul Pino has been our trusted partner and friend throughout the pandemic. 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,” Demings said.

READ: Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings tests positive for COVID-19

“It is my fervent hope that Dr. Pino returns to work on behalf of the residents of Orange County soon,” Demings added.

On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health released the following statement regarding Pino’s being placed on leave:

READ: Signs Omicron may be peaking show up in Orange County

“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 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.”

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Shannon Butler

Shannon Butler, WFTV.com

Shannon joined the Eyewitness News team in 2013.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.