As the rate of new coronavirus cases in Central Texas continues to trend upward over recent weeks, two local hospital systems will require all employees to be inoculated against the coronavirus by this fall.

In separate news releases, Ascension and Baylor Scott & White have announced all eligible employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the coming months.

Ascension stated its employees must be inoculated by Nov. 12, 2021—regardless of whether they provide direct patient care. The deadline aligns with Ascension’s annual influenza vaccination requirement, according to the health care system’s July 27 news release.

The new mandate applies to people employed by Ascension’s subsidiaries and partners; both employed and independent physicians and advanced practice providers; and volunteers and vendors working in Ascension facilities.

“Tens of thousands of Ascension associates have already been vaccinated with the available vaccines, as have millions of people across the country and the world. But we must do more to overcome this pandemic as we provide safe environments for those we serve,” the July 27 news release states.

Ascension may grant exemptions to employees with medical conditions or “strongly held religious belief,” according to the news release.

Baylor Scott & White is requiring all employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before Oct. 1.

In a news release shared by the nonprofit health care system, which has 52 hospitals and over 800 patient care sites, a recent increase in reported case counts was cited as the reason all employees are being asked to receive both doses of the Moderna, Pfizer or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine before Oct. 1 unless they have an exception.

“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 release states. “The overwhelming majority of these cases are among the unvaccinated.”

Senior Marketing and Public Relations Consultant Christina Millweard told Community Impact Newspaper that Baylor Scott & White employs around 3,800 people in the greater Austin region.

This program has been identified by Baylor Scott & White as similar to its flu vaccine program, which requires that employees be vaccinated against the influenza virus as well.

Employees who do not receive the vaccine, have written proof of being vaccinated or receive an “approved” exemption by Oct. 1 will be subject to “separation from employment,” according to a statement provided to Community Impact Newspaper by Baylor Scott & White.

“Our culture of safety runs deep and so does our commitment as a large employer and trusted healthcare provider to take every measure to protect our patients, communities and each other,” the statement reads.

Local hospital network St. David’s HealthCare does not have plans to require its employees to achieve full vaccination against the coronavirus, according to a statement provided to Community Impact Newspaper.

“St. David’s HealthCare has strongly encouraged COVID-19 vaccinations for all staff, physicians and patients and has provided nearly 23,000 vaccinations on a strictly voluntary basis. While colleagues are not required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, our infectious disease experts, as well as those at the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], are strongly encouraging vaccination as a critical step to protect individuals from the virus,” the July 28 statement from St. David’s reads.

In Central Texas, Travis and Williamson counties are the only counties reporting full vaccination rates of more than 60% in its population 12 years or older. According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Hays County is currently reporting a 54.50% full vaccination rate.

Neighboring counties such as Blanco, Burnet and Bastrop all have less than have of their population 12 years or older fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Austin and Travis County reverted back to Stage 4 COVID-19 guidelines on July 23 after weeks of increasing coronavirus infection rates. Travis County’s rate of new coronavirus cases is the highest it has reported since late February.

In Williamson County, the rate of new infections has risen every day since early July. On July 27, the county reported a rate of 30.9 new cases per 100,000 people, according to Williamson County’s online COVID-19 dashboard.. That rate is the highest the county has reported since Feb. 9.