ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Sheriff John Mina is encouraging other law enforcement members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to data presented by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, 240 law enforcement officers across America passed away from COVID-19 in 2020. That is more than all other line-of-duty deaths combined that same year.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office lost one of their own earlier this month as the agency confirmed that Deputy First Class Craig Seijos passed away from complications related to COVID-19. The 54-year-old man had spent nearly three decades with the Sheriff’s Office before passing away while in the hospital. He leaves behind a wife and five adult children.
"Craig dedicated much of his life to serving the residents of Orange County," said Orange County Sheriff John Mina. "We will always be grateful for his service and he will never be forgotten."
Sheriff Mina added to this on Wednesday, releasing a video to encourage other law enforcement members to get vaccinated.
"Being a law enforcement officer is a dangerous job. And every year, brave men and women die in the line of duty protecting the communities they serve. But last year, law enforcement officers across the country had to confront another threat while on the job: COVID-19," he said. "As law enforcement officers, we must do everything we can to protect ourselves from COVID-19."
Sheriff Mina then urged," Get vaccinated. Do it for yourself. Do it for your community. Do it, so your fellow deputies and officers can honor you at your retirement, instead of commemorating you at your funeral."
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd made a similar statement on Tuesday as one of his deputies also passed away from COVID-19. Veteran deputy Christopher Broadhead, a father of five, succumbed to COVID-19 after being hospitalized for weeks.
"This virus is real and it is deadly, and Christopher is the poster child for it," Sheriff Judd said. "He was only 32 years old and healthy and now not with us anymore."
Judd did not say if Broadhead was vaccinated.
"I am not comfortable with releasing medical information, but the overwhelming majority of the people in the hospital with COVID are not vaccinated," he explained.
But Judd was eager to discuss his own vaccination status.
"My wife and I got the vaccination on day one when we were eligible," he said. "I had four direct exposures in a three-week period. One of the people I was exposed to sat right in that chair. He’s currently in the hospital in serious condition. Another one that I sat next to, the week before that, has died."
"Listen to the doctors, don't listen to the politicians; get your vaccine," Sheriff Judd continued. "It is a sad set of circumstances that, from the president on down, we have politicized this very dangerous disease. We need to follow the doctors, the scientists, who have spent their entire lives preparing for and saving people’s lives."
He hopes to lead by example – not by mandate.
"That’s a personal decision. The government or business does not have any right to get into your personal business," Sheriff Judd said. "I absolutely, unequivocally will not mandate the vaccine. Period. I think that's government overreach."
He added, "We’ve paid too much attention to know-it-alls on social media and politicians on mainstream television. We’ve not paid enough attention to the doctors."
According to Sheriff Judd, about 50 Polk County Sheriff’s Office employees have tested positive for the virus, and five are currently hospitalized, with one on a ventilator.
"If you didn’t have motivation before to get the vaccination, I hope that Christopher’s untimely death will give you the motivation," he said.
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Another Central Florida sheriff, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, spoke out on Twitter about COVID-19 and vaccinations in late July, stating "Covid is hitting us hard again. We can end it. Just get the vaccine if you can."
He added, "Forget the noise, the BS, & the politics. 1st responders, medical personnel & front line workers are getting pushed to the limit. Give them a break, get your shot & let's get back on our feet."
Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.
FOX 13 Tampa Bay contributed to this report.