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Local hospitals respond to Gov. Abbott ending mask mandate

Local hospitals and clinics plan to continue practicing mask wearing precautions
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 4:29 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2021 at 5:05 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Local hospitals and clinics are taking a look at their mask-wearing policies following Gov. Greg Abbott’s loosening of restrictions Tuesday.

Baylor Scott & White Health, St. Joseph Health, and Caprock Health say that they all plan to continue requiring employees to wear masks at all times while working in both the hospitals and the clinics.

Jason Jennings, Regional President of Baylor Scott & White Health- College Station, says they are continuing to look at local and national trends to make decisions.

“Regardless if you come to a clinic or a hospital, in line with CDC guidelines, all patients, visitors, and staff are still required to wear a mask,” said Jennings.

Jennings adds that they are just now getting their feet underneath them after the ICU bed capacity stayed above 100 percent for months.

“Six weeks ago, we had three times as many COVID-19 patients as we have today,” said Jennings. “But those numbers of COVID-19 patients are still in the 20′s, so we’ve got to keep the COVID-19 numbers down so we can continue to help those who need healthcare.”

All three hospital systems add that they will require both patients and visitors to adhere to mask-wearing and social distancing as well.

Dr. Kia Parsi, Chief Medical Officer for St. Joseph Health, says that this virus has hit the community in waves. He adds that a big concern about loosening restrictions in medical facilities would be that the community would soon be hit with another wave.

“We have to ensure that we provide the utmost safety to our patients and our employees,” said Parsi.

Parsi adds that they too plan to look at trends, and guidance from the CDC on how to go about changing any current policies in place.

All three hospital systems add that they will continue to stand by limiting visitor capacity for now, and will reevaluate that policy once there is a significant decrease in cases in the community.

“It is uncertain when we will be able to loosen the visitor policy. Right now, we only allow one visitor per patient per day. I am sure in the future that will be loosened, but we can not predict it,” said Parsi.

Dr. Lon Young with Caprock Health System says they need to make sure they continue providing a safe environment for employees and patients, especially those who are health-compromised.

“The Governor removing the mask mandate is not the same thing as saying COVID-19 is over,” said Young. “This isn’t like a traditional war, where peace is declared and the fighting suddenly stops. So, the fact that he said we don’t need to wear a mask anymore as an entire state does not mean we don’t need to wear a mask, and it does not mean that COVID-19 is no longer a threat.”

The hospital systems say they will be looking towards guidance from both the CDC and local health officials as to when it would be safe to expand visitor capacity and loosen restrictions on masks.

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