Health

Texas Hospital Lifts Mask Mandate

A hospital in western Texas is lifting its mask requirements, with just a few exceptions, according to local TV station News West 9.

Visitors and staff alike won’t be required to wear them, except when in close contact with patients, according to Christin Timmons, DNP, chief nursing officer at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, Texas.

“We have removed masks,” Timmons told the TV station in an interview. “We are highly encouraging masks to be worn but we are not going to catch someone in our hallways and ask them to leave because they’re not wearing a mask.”

Timmons noted that both visitors and staff will have to wear masks when in patient rooms and staff will have to do so in other close-contact situations because “we still need to protect people in those closed areas.” Children are still not allowed to visit patients, she said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) lifted the state’s mask mandate by executive order in early March, citing “medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs” that gave the state “tools to protect Texans from the virus.”

According to county data, only 26% of eligible residents in Ector County, where Odessa is located, are fully vaccinated, and about 31% received at least 1 dose.

While CDC guidance states that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings, the agency has warned that those who aren’t fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks inside.

Also, CDC guidelines for healthcare settings recommend that all healthcare personnel and patients continue to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.

Neighboring hospital Odessa Regional Medical Center is still enforcing a mask requirement, according to the news station. Both hospitals were hit hard during a fall surge last year. According to CNN, Odessa Regional had to turn a neonatal intensive care unit into a COVID-19 ICU and create an overflow unit in a separate building.

“The most critical people get admitted and the rest get sent home,” Rohith Saravanan, MD, Odessa Regional’s chief medical officer, told CNN at the time.

Last Updated June 02, 2021

  • Kristina Fiore leads MedPage’s enterprise & investigative reporting team. She’s been a medical journalist for more than a decade and her work has been recognized by Barlett & Steele, AHCJ, SABEW, and others. Send story tips to [email protected] Follow

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