As physicians across the state toil against the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Medical Association leaders met with Gov. Greg Abbott’s office on Friday to ask for greater flexibility at the local level to respond to and slow the surge and its impacts on the health care system.
The meeting is the latest in a series of actions by TMA to ramp up vaccination and masking efforts as the pandemic worsens. It also came in the wake of a decision by the Texas Supreme Court to temporarily OK school mask requirements, and actions by the Biden administration to obligate COVID-19 vaccination for nursing home staff and allow schools to require masks.
“As this latest wave has shown, we are seeing many more patients who are younger and sicker requiring hospitalization and intensive care, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated,” TMA President-Elect Gary Floyd, MD, said. Those statistics are particularly concerning for kids under the age of 12 who do not yet have access to a vaccine, he added.
While there is no panacea for this pandemic, “all disasters are local and need local community and medical input,” Dr. Floyd said.
With Governor Abbott recently testing positive for COVID-19, TMA leaders emphasized that message in a virtual meeting with his staff. Dr. Floyd was joined by TMA President E. Linda Villarreal, MD; TMA Board of Trustees Chair Richard W. Snyder II, MD; TMA Board of Trustees Vice Chair G. Ray Callas, MD; and TMA Executive Vice President and CEO Michael J. Darrouzet.
TMA leaders did not ask for statewide mandates. Their request to the governor: Please allow all institutions – including schools, school districts, hospitals, health care facilities, medical schools, and medical centers, regardless of funding source – to make local, independent decisions regarding vaccinations and the use of masks, preferably in consultation with physicians in those communities, and always using evidence-based data to inform their decisions.
The lengthy discussion underscored the need for physicians and state leadership to continue educating Texans about the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and to address vaccine hesitancy.
“Physicians across Texas are committed to fighting COVID-19 as it spreads quickly across the state,” Dr. Snyder said. “We want to be evidence-based influencers in local decisions about what is best for the health of each institution and community.”
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