Texas’s largest nonprofit hospital company, Baylor Scott & White Health, will require all of its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1. The decision was made due to the recent surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations caused by the delta variant.
Company officials said that the new mandate would affect all of its full-time employees plus Baylor’s medical staff, volunteers, and contractors. The company has over 400,000 workers all over Texas, and those workers will be expected to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.
“With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts due to the highly contagious delta variant and the start of the flu season fast approaching, we believe now is the right time to take the next step in achieving a fully vaccinated workforce,” Baylor Scott & White said in a statement. “The delta variant is the most contagious and dangerous strain we have seen to date, leading to exponentially increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization. The overwhelming majority of these cases are among the unvaccinated.”
With the Wednesday announcement, Baylor Scott & White Health is now one of 70 other Texas healthcare providers to adopt such a policy. The Houston Methodist system announced a similar mandate four months ago. Other providers such as Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Mass General Brigham in Bosto, the University of California Health, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have all adopted similar policies.
Official health reports show that the delta variant has been driving up COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, with areas where vaccination rates are low being hit the hardest. “This is real, this is killing people, and the price we pay is measured in lost lives,” said Dr. Alejandro “Alex” Arroliga, Baylor’s chief medical officer. “That’s why we have such urgency.”
Dr. Arroliga also said that the only way to slow or stop the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is for people to get vaccinated. “Most of the counties in Texas right now have either a substantial or high transmission rate,” Dr. Arroliga said. “So we better be concerned because we will have a surge. And the reason? Because a substantial portion of the population is not vaccinated.”