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A well being official who helped lead Florida’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been placed on administrative depart as state officers examine whether or not he tried to compel workers to get vaccinated.

The state well being company is conducting an inquiry into Raul Pino, director of the Florida division of well being in Orange county, to “decide if any legal guidelines had been damaged on this case”, the state division of well being press secretary, Jeremy Redfern, stated in an email.

Sources told WFTV that Pino was positioned on administrative depart after he emailed workers members on the Orange county division of well being relating to Covid-19 vaccination charges on 4 January.

Within the e-mail, Pino wrote: “I’ve a tough time understanding how we will be in public well being and never follow it.”

He added that he had an analyst look at vaccination information amongst workers and that out of the division’s 568 lively workers members, solely 77 had obtained a Covid booster dose, 219 had two doses of the vaccine and 34 had just one dose.

“I’m sorry however within the absence of affordable and actual causes it’s irresponsible to not be vaccinated,” he wrote. “We have now been at this for 2 years, we had been the primary to present vaccines to the lots, now we have completed greater than 300,000 and we aren’t even at 50% … pathetic.”

Final 12 months, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signed into regulation a measure that bans authorities companies from implementing vaccine mandates and restricts non-public companies from having vaccine necessities except they permit employees to choose out for medical causes, spiritual beliefs, immunity based mostly on a earlier an infection, common testing or settlement to put on protecting gear.

“We’re going to face up for Floridians’ jobs, rise up for Floridians’ livelihoods, and rise up for freedom,” DeSantis said on the time in an announcement relating to the vaccine mandate ban.

The state’s division of well being has not but disclosed the explanation why Pino has been placed on depart or what he’s accused of. It has, nevertheless, stated that the “resolution to get vaccinated is a private medical selection that must be made free from coercion and mandates from employers”.

It went on so as to add: “The worker in query has been positioned on administrative depart, and the Florida division of well being is conducting an inquiry to find out if any legal guidelines had been damaged on this case … The division is dedicated to upholding all legal guidelines, together with the ban on vaccine mandates for presidency workers and can take acceptable motion as soon as further info is thought.”

Prior to now, Pino spoke at quite a few Orange county Covid-19 briefings, offering updates relating to the pandemic and has labored carefully with Mayor Jerry Demings, who has criticized DeSantis’s dealing with of the pandemic.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democratic state lawmaker, has called Pino’s suspension “political”.

Related Press contributed to this report

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