Orange County mayor issues statement in support of suspended health director

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings is showing his support for Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino after he was placed on administrative leave by state health officials.

Pino often helped lead the coronavirus updates for the county during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is now on administrative leave after he sent an email to workers at the Orange County Department of Health about employee vaccination rates, and someone then complained about access to that information.

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Many people see his leave as a political move by the state because of Pino’s alliance with Demings, a Democrat, and his fights with Gov. Ron DeSantis over COVID-19.

But on Wednesday, a Florida Health Department spokesperson said that human resource actions are not impacted or determined by political influences.

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

Demings, who is working from home after contracting COVID-19, released a statement in support of Pino:

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

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

The Department of Health released a statement on Tuesday that indicated the investigation into Pino to see if the health director broke any laws.

It’s unclear just how long the investigation will take.

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Sources tell WFTV that someone filed a complaint with the state health department about how the information on vaccination status of those employees was gathered.

Pino wrote an email telling employees that the low vaccination rate at the Orange County Department of Health was irresponsible.

He wrote that only 38.5% of health department employees had two COVID-19 shots and only 13.5% got their booster shots.

READ: Free N95 masks: Federal government to distribute more than 400 million masks

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

Pino said an analyst ran the vaccination data for employees. He still has not commented on his leave.

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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.