Employees at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple will now have three more weeks to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The health care provider announced Monday that would give the extra time to staff members, contractors and volunteers after its previous deadline elapsed on Oct. 1. Company spokesman Deke Jones said the health care provider hopes the extra time can allow the remaining employees to get the shot.

“We remain committed to protecting patients, colleagues and communities through our fully vaccinated workforce policy,” Jones said. “As of Oct. 13, 99 percent of our workforce is now in compliance. We are focused on closing the gap and have decided to extend the employee and provider vaccination deadline to Nov. 15.”

Baylor Scott & White announced it vaccine mandate for all employees, contractors and volunteers in late July following a rise in COVID-19 cases related to the delta variant.

Some local workers at the provider opposed the move and staged a protest in August.

Dr. Matthew Altman of Salado said everyone at the rally was fighting for medical freedom, and that informed consent is a part of medical practice.

Dr. Stephen Sibbitt, chief medical officer of Baylor Scott & White-Temple region, explained in an interview Aug. 6 that it was a tough decision for the health care employer.

It was a difficult decision to require staff to get COVID shots, Sibbitt said, but it was done to protect patients. “We don’t want anyone of our staff to transmit COVID to any one of our patients.”

D’nae Ely, an operating room nurse, stressed in the August Telegram story that she is not anti-vaccine — she is vaccinated other than the COVID-19 shots and her children have all the required vaccines for school. She wants more long-term studies to be done, noting that essentially the people who have taken the COVID shots are “the study, they’re the guinea pigs.”

“My mom has the vaccine,” Ely said. “My dad wants to get vaccinated.” It should be an individual’s choice, she said.

“There’s a consent form that Baylor Scott & White is having all their employees sign in order to get the vaccine,” Ely said in August. “It’s basically relieving Baylor Scott & White of any liability for any side effects, any death, anything.

“In this consent it also says it’s an investigational medication, it’s an experimental medication. … Nobody should be forced to receive an experimental vaccination or any medicine that’s experimental. There’s unknown risks for anyone to take it.”

COVID-19 cases

Regionally hospitalizations of patients with COVID-19 continue to fall, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The department’s dashboard shows Trauma Service Area L — which includes Bell County — to have 5.93 percent of its hospital beds taken up by patients with the virus. This is a 1.43 percentage point decrease compared to the 7.36 percent reported in the region on Friday.

The dashboard shows 1,163 staffed hospital beds in the service area, with only 69 patients currently sick with the virus.

Trauma Service Area L includes all of the hospitals located in Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties.

On Sunday, the Bell County Public Health District reported local cases of the virus were also falling, with 407 active cases. This is 53 less active cases of the virus compared to what was reported last Thursday.

Falling active cases continued to be reflected in the district’s incidence rate, which fell to 112.14 cases per 100,000 people in the county.

Overall the county has seen 33,462 total reported COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, with 32,358 of those having recovered so far.

School cases

Temple Independent School District showed having five active confirmed cases of COVID-19 on its seven-day dashboard Monday, with no probable cases on its tracker. The active cases included one at Temple High School, one at Bonham Middle School, one at Travis Science Academy and two at Scott Elementary.

Belton ISD reported seeing only 14 active cases in the district Monday, four confirmed and 10 probable, accounting for about 0.09 percent of its student and staff population.

Of the district’s 18 campuses those with cases included one at Chisholm Trail Elementary, two at High Point Elementary, one at Miller Heights Elementary and two at Pirtle Elementary. Other cases included one at Lake Belton Middle School, three at North Belton Middle School, one at Belton High School, one at Lake Belton High School and two in other departments or buildings.

Salado ISD reported only one active case of COVID-19 in the district, a student at Salado Middle School.

Killeen ISD showed only 48 active cases of the virus on its campus, including 37 students and 11 staff members.