Major healthcare providers, hospitals will continue to require masks

It’s been a daily struggle for doctors and nurses over the past 12 months.

"The sheer number of patients, the amount of deaths that our nurses have seen over the last year and especially in the winter time, it’s enough to cause a great degree of burnout and even PTS for nurses," said Serena Bumpus, director of practice with the Texas Nurses Association.

Bumpus spoke to FOX7 about how members were reacting to the governor’s decision to eliminate a statewide mask mandate.

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"I think as a whole, we're relieved and excited to see that Texas is opening and expanding, because we know people need to get back to work, that too impacts health as a whole, however lifting of the mask mandate feels, it feels very soon. It’s stopping us all and cause us a little bit of concern," said Bumpus.

Major hospital groups were quick to say they are keeping COVID-19 protocols in place. In a statement sent to FOX7, Dr. Anas Daghestani, president of the Austin Regional Clinic said:

"Austin Regional Clinic (ARC) will continue to follow CDC guidelines and require all patients and staff to wear masks when in any clinics or our administration building, for everyone's safety. ARC knows that our masking guidelines have proven very effective at protecting both our patients and employees."


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A similar statement was issued from Family Hospital Systems which coordinates the COVID-19 vaccine hub in Williamson County. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nathaniel Greenwood stated:

"Family Hospital Systems will continue to require mask wearing in all of our facilities due to our covid-19 testing, treatment, and vaccine protocols. We certainly encourage the public to remain personally responsible as we continue to fight this pandemic."

Katrina Barton, who has a physical therapy clinic in Round Rock, said she and her employees have had COVID-19 or got the vaccine. Social distancing practices will continue and the use of a mask will be on a case-by-case basis.


"So we feel like we functioned in this way, with the masks and social distancing to the very best of our ability without transmission, so I have no concerns that going forward, we are going to increase our opportunity for transmission. Especially given the fact that we have partial immunity because we've had it or because we had the vaccines," said Barton.

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A coming event could factor into the mask debate as Spring Break season is just days away. Last year beaches and bars were packed with young people; and a lot were not wearing masks.  A repeat of that is expected and is a concern for health care providers.

"And we are sort of bracing ourselves if you will, for another influx of cases and then Easter is right around the corner after that," said Bumpus.

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The governor has provided somewhat of a fail-safe, which Bumpus said is something they can lean on. "Should we see an increase in any of our areas across the state, there is some comfort that our counties, county judges, have the ability to make those decisions, should they need to make them."

For local action to take place, COVID-19 hospitalizations must be above 15% for 7 days straight. The governor also put in a condition that if local restrictions are done, criminal and civil fines will not be allowed.