Health workers protest Dallas hospital vaccination warrant
DALLAS – More than 200 healthcare workers and others gathered outside Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas on Saturday to protest the growing number of hospital systems’ demands that employees receive covid-19 vaccines.
Baylor Scott & White, Methodist Health System and Texas Health Resources all announced employee vaccine mandates in late July. Children’s Health in Dallas and Cook Children’s in Fort Worth followed suit this week.
Dozens of protesters on Saturday were health workers in their medical gowns. Some have said the mandatory injections will only add to the tremendous stress that medical professionals have been subjected to during the pandemic.
Protesters lined up on both sides of CBD-Fair Park Link, near the intersection with Junius Street, holding signs reading “Stop the Mandate” and messages about freedom and choice.
Several motorists honked their horns in support and greeted protesters as they passed. At one point, a Dallas fire truck blew its horns, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Shane Lall and his partner, Blake Randolph, attended the Baylor Scott & White scrubs.
Lall, who said he had a health condition that prevented him from getting the vaccine, said he believed more research was needed on the long-term effects of the vaccine.
âBasically we are defending the autonomy of the body,â he said. “I am so that everyone can make a decision about their body and what they want to put in it.”
Randolph said medical workers have been overworked throughout the pandemic and requiring vaccinations will add even more stress.
âIn the long run, I think it’s going to really affect patients,â Randolph said. “Every time someone quits or is made redundant because they cannot get the vaccine, our workforce shrinks even more. We are already overworked and understaffed every day.”
The recent warrants follow what Dallas County health officials have called a “frightening trajectory” of cases due to the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. The variant has become the main strain circulating in the United States, experts say, and most people hospitalized with it are not vaccinated.
Experts and local officials urged the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. In Texas, just over 53% of people over 12 are fully vaccinated.
An executive order from Governor Greg Abbott issued in May prevents counties, cities, public health authorities and local authorities from requiring people to wear masks, and warns violators could be fined $ 1,000 .
GOP State Senator Bob Hall, who during the legislative session introduced a bill that would have prohibited government and state agencies from setting vaccine mandates, was also present Saturday.
âI think it’s a matter of individual freedom and personal freedom,â said Hall, who said he had not been vaccinated. “Individual freedom trumps corporate rights. So I think it’s up to the individual to make that decision.”
Hall’s bill died in committee, but Abbott signed a more ambitious executive order on July 29 banning mask and vaccination warrants, and banning public agencies and any private entity that receive public funds, including grants and loans, to require proof of vaccination.
Asked for comment on the protest on Friday, Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze released this statement:
“Gov. Abbott has made it clear that we need to rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates. Every Texan has the right to choose for himself and his children whether they will wear masks, open their business, or do vaccinate.
âVaccines are the most effective defense against contracting COVID and becoming seriously ill, and we continue to urge all eligible Texans to get vaccinated,â the statement said. âThe COVID vaccine will always remain voluntary and never forced in Texas. “
DAMAGED BY DELTA
Authorities in Austin, Texas, warned the public on Saturday that the city’s covid-19 situation had grown desperate, as an increase in the number of cases caused by the delta variant overwhelmed hospitals as officials of the city were barred from issuing warrants for masks and vaccinations by order of the state governor.
In an alert sent via text, phone call, email, social media and other channels to area residents on Saturday, city officials said, âThe COVID-19 situation in Austin is dire. Health facilities are open but resources are limited due to an increase in cases. “
Bryce Bencivengo, spokesperson for the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Friday was one of the worst days for hospitals in Austin since the start of the pandemic. More than 100 new covid patients were admitted that day, he said, and intensive care units were almost full, with covid patients occupying more than 180 intensive care beds and 102 of those patients on ventilators.
“We are at single digits of available intensive care beds,” Bencivengo said, adding that patients in emergency rooms were forced to wait for space in the intensive care unit to open.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in an interview on Saturday that the crisis could have been avoided had Abbott not stopped local government officials from issuing warrants over the masking. He said city officials wanted to avoid suing Abbott, but that “in the end, we will have to do what is necessary to fight for the safety of our community.”
âOur hospitals are just beyond the strain,â he said.
City council member Alison Alter was more direct.
“The governor is preventing the city from ensuring the safety of children and adults,” she said in an interview. “There are going to be a lot of deaths here. It’s a matter of life and death for our community.”
In a statement released Friday, three Austin-area hospitals said the vast majority of covid patients they admit were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
“We urge the community to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones – and to ease the burden on our frontline workers who have been battling this virus for a year and a half,” the statement read, released by Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White Health and St. David’s HealthCare.
Hospitalizations in Austin are at the peak of an increase in the region, reaching highs last seen before vaccinations became widely available, according to a New York Times database.
Travis County, where Austin is located, reported more than 3,400 active cases of the coronavirus on Friday, including 467 new infections. His daily average of new cases has increased 189% over the past two weeks.
Dozens of counties across the state have reported workloads that have more than doubled in two weeks, and some are seeing even larger increases than Austin. Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, has seen its daily average increase by more than 300%, to nearly 1,500 cases.
With 76% of the state’s most vulnerable population – those over 65 – fully immunized, deaths have increased much more slowly. But some of the counties with huge surges are lagging behind the state’s overall immunization average of 44%. Some counties fall below 30%.
Information for this article was provided by Catherine Marfin, Hojun Choi and Michael Williams of the Dallas Morning News (TNS) and by Alyssa Lukpat of the New York Times.