Hundreds of people, including healthcare workers, have gathered outside a hospital in Dallas to protest vaccine mandates—as climbing COVID-19 hospitalizations left only 16 ICU beds available in the county.
More than 200 protesters were outside Baylor University Medical Center on Saturday, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Videos posted on social media showed the protesters, many of them dressed in medical scrubs, chanting: “My body, my choice.”
They came out to protest after the Baylor Scott & White hospital system announced every employee would need to be vaccinate against COVID-19 by this fall, joined other hospital systems, agencies and providers introducing mandates amid a surge in cases fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant.
In a statement, Baylor Scott & White said the variant has caused rates of severe illness and hospitalization to surge, and most of those patients are unvaccinated.
Blake Randolph and his partner Shane Lall attended the protest in Baylor Scott & White scrubs, the Morning News reported.
Randolph told the newspaper that requiring employees to get COVID-19 shots will reduce the workforce. “Every time somebody quits or is let go because they can’t get a vaccine, our workforce diminishes even more,” he said. “We’re already overworked as it is, and are understaffed every single day.”
Lall said he had a medical condition that prevents him from getting thee vaccine, and he believes more research is needed on its long-term effects. “Basically, we stand for body autonomy,” he said.
Baylor Scott & White has been contacted for comment.
The protest came as officials continue to urge people to get their shots, with the Biden administration repeatedly warning of a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins took to Twitter to note that only 16 ICU beds were available in all of Dallas County as of Saturday.
Around 50 percent of Dallas County’s total population have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to figures from the county’s health department.
“The enemy in the battle against COVID is the virus itself and not each other. We all have a role to play,” Jenkins also tweeted.
“There are three important things that you can do to curb the spread of COVID: 1. Get vaccinated; 2. Regardless of your vaccination status, wear your mask and get your children to wear their mask indoors when not in your own home; 3. In a spirit of compassion and understanding, talk to people who have yet to make a decision to be vaccinated, listen to their reasoning, and express your concern for them and give them access to the facts so they can become vaccinated and protect themselves and our community.”
Jenkins has been contacted for additional comment.
Meanwhile, in a video posted on Twitter on Saturday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state’s tax-free weekend was a “great time” for Texans to get the COVID vaccine. “The COVID vaccine is the best defense we have against getting the COVID virus,” he said.
But he added: “Always remember, vaccines are voluntary and never forced in the state of Texas.”