Dr. Raul Pino, the Director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH/Orange), has been placed on administrative leave by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) while it investigates an email Pino sent to employees about its low percentage of staff that is vaccinated for COVID-19.
The DOH released the following statement about Pino:
“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 [Pino] 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."
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has banned vaccine mandates in the workplace.
Pino has been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 in Orange County.
”Clearly vaccines are working for us,” he said last month at a press conference. “The vaccine continues to be effective against the variants.”
According to multiple media outlets, Pino wrote in the email that only 77 had received a COVID-19 booster, 219 had two doses of the vaccine, and 34 had only one dose. The DOH/Orange has 568 active staff at the department.
“I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated," he 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.”
Pino was appointed Director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) in May 2019. Before joining DOH-Orange, he served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) starting in December 2015 following his role as Deputy Commissioner. Pino graduated from the University of Havana with a Doctorate in Medicine and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine with a Master of Public Health degree.
He was also awarded the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association’s 2020 Public Servant of the Year Award for his service to the community at the height of the pandemic.
The DOH/Orange is one of 67 Public Health Departments under the governance of the integrated Florida Department of Health. Although DOH-Orange is a state agency, it maintains a very strong partnership with Orange County Government. DOH/Orange is responsible for protecting, promoting, and improving the health of the county’s 1.2 million residents and over 59 million annual visitors. It has offices throughout Orange County, including one in Apopka.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings 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," said Demings. “It is my fervent hope that Dr. Pino returns to work on behalf of the residents of Orange County soon."
As of Tuesday, January 11, 2022, the Florida Department of Health is reporting that Orange County’s 14-day rolling positivity rate is 40.79 percent. Additional County statistics:
- CDC level of community transmission: HIGH
- Eligible residents (5+) who have at least one vaccine dose: 73 percent
- Total positive cases for Orange County residents: 319,144