Editor’s note: This story will be updated throughout the day.
Baylor Scott & White Health, the largest nonprofit hospital system in Texas, will require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after surges in the delta variant are raising health risks statewide, the company said Wednesday.
Baylor has over 40,000 full-time employees in North and Central Texas, and workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The policy extends to all providers on Baylor’s medical staff, along with volunteers, students, vendors and contract workers.
Baylor becomes at least the 70th health provider to adopt such a policy since the Houston Methodist system announced a mandate four months ago, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. They include the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; Mass General Brigham in Boston; University of California Health; and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The more easily transmitted delta variant has been driving up COVID cases and hospitalizations, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.
Baylor recently suspended elective surgery at its flagship hospital in Temple because of a big increase in COVID patients. In Bell County, which includes the Baylor facility, just 33% of those 12 and over were fully vaccinated through Monday. That’s far lower than the U.S. vaccination rate of 57.6% for the same population and 52.2% for those 12 and older in Texas.
“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,” the company 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.”