Baptist to require employee vaccines as cases reach records

Baptist Memorial Health Care, including Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven, is adding itself to the list of area health care facilities that now require employees to be vaccinated.  

Baptist Memorial Health Care made the announcement Thursday, stating that its employees will need to be vaccinated by Nov. 1 of this year.  Earlier in the week, Methodist Le Bonheur, of which Methodist Olive Branch Hospital is a part, announced it too would require employees to be vaccinated for coronavirus.

“After much consideration and discussion, our leadership team believes this is the best decision for our employees, patients and community,” said Baptist Memorial Health Care President and CEO Jason Little. “With the growing threat of COVID-19 variants and our duty to provide a safe environment for vulnerable patients, a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for our employees is the responsible and right thing to do.”

In the news release, it was stated that about 60 percent of Baptist’s 19,000-plus employees in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are vaccinated, which is comparable to other Memphis-area hospitals. 

“As health care providers, we have seen firsthand the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in preventing severe illness and hospitalizations,” said Little. “We are taking every reasonable precaution to protect our courageous employees who are exposed to this virus daily.”

The overwhelming majority of Baptist’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. 

“As health care providers, it’s important that we set the example and take the lead in protecting our community,” said Little.

Baptist will have a process in place for employees who cannot get the vaccine for health and other reasons, similar to the process Baptist follows for the flu vaccine requirement.

Thursday’s announcement came as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Mississippi State Health Department reported new figures for cases and fatal victims from the virus.  

According to the CDC, DeSoto County remains in the high category for community transmission, one of 2,469 counties in the high category, or 76.68 percent of the nation’s counties/parishes. 

For the seven-day period through Tuesday, Aug. 10, 42.9 percent of county residents have had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 35.7 percent, or 66,007 residents have been fully vaccinated. 

There have been 703 new cases over the past seven days, an increase of 58.33 percent. The percent of positivity is 21.78 percent through Sunday, Aug. 8, up 3.24 percent. 

New hospital admissions in DeSoto County were  up 22.58 percent through Monday, Aug. 9 to a total of 76. Of that total, the percent of beds used for coronavirus rose 19 percent to 52.08 percent. The percent of ICU beds used for COVID-19 is 52.28 percent, a jump of 19.38 percent through Monday, Aug. 9. 

Thursday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 4,412 new cases of coronavirus, a new daily record for the Magnolia State, 20 deaths and 162 on-going outbreaks at long-term care facilities.  

None of the 20 new deaths are from DeSoto County, which has a total of 24,447 cases reported through the length of the pandemic.  

Also Thursday, Gov. Tate Reeves told Gulfport television station WLOX he is making plans to extend Mississippi’s state of emergency that was set to expire on Sunday, Aug. 15.  In an interview, Reeves said the extension is to get hospitals the emergency resources needed to combat the rising COVID-10 case numbers.  It is expected that the state of emergency will be extended for another 30 days.  

 State Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney also Thursdat encouraged all First Responders, including Fire Fighters and Emergency Medical Service personnel, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“First Responders are on the front line daily, protecting the public and need to be protected from the COVID-19 virus and not become super spreaders,” said Chaney. “There are more than 16,000 first responders in the state including firefighters and EMS. It is my sincere hope that all first responders answer this call to get vaccinated which in turn will help all of us fulfill our mission to protect lives and property in the state.”

The Mississippi State Fire Academy (MSFA) is experiencing a significant outbreak among students resulting in many classes being cancelled. The students contracting the virus are unvaccinated.

“This variant is a serious threat to those who are unvaccinated and getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to prevent illness,” said Chaney.

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