With COVID-19 infections on the rise and flu season approaching, Baylor Scott & White Health will require employees, vendors, volunteers, contractors, and students to get vaccinated.

The Dallas Morning News's Mitchell Schnurman broke the story Wednesday, July 28. Schnurman reports that the health system's 40,000+ employees will need to be fully vaccinated by October 1.

BS&W now joins at least 70 other U.S. healthcare providers who've adopted a vaccine requirement, Schnurman reports.

According to a statement from BS&W, the move was prompted by a rapid increase in COVID-19 infections due to the delta variant - a strain that's believed to be twice as transmissible as the original strain and able to replicate itself far more quickly.

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A recent article from the journal Nature breaks down why the delta variant is particularly dangerous and able to more effectively fool the body's immune system than the original strain.

Our partners at News 10 report that BS&W has been rescheduling elective procedures in Temple to ensure that the hospital is prepared to treat those in most need of care. BS&W says most of its employees area already vaccinated, but they're giving those who aren't until October 1 to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine unless, as KXAN-TV reports, they're granted an exemption.

According to BS&W, the majority of current COVID-19 patients they're treating are people under 50 who've not been vaccinated.

Bell County continues to maintain a COVID-19 dashboard, which indicated 793 active cases on Wednesday. There have been 24,029 total cases, 22,765 of which were recoveries. Sadly, there have been 471 deaths.

I know a lot of people don't want to hear it, but just because there's no longer a statewide mask mandate and many private entities are no longer requiring them, we should still be mindful and courteous and mask up when we're indoors and in crowds. I'm fully vaccinated, as is my mother, who I care for due to a medical condition affecting her lungs. Because I don't know everyone's circumstances or what I could potentially take home to my loved one, I'm still making up and keeping my distance as much as possible when out shopping for essentials.

This video does a great job of explaining why masks are effective, while this video debunks some common myths about mask effectiveness.

Look into getting vaccinated as well. Ask your doctor about the available vaccines and the potential side effects, and if it's safe to do so, get that vaccine. It's not a magical force field that absolutely guarantees you won't be infected or experience symptoms, but it can be a powerful tool to help your immune system build up a defense.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

Here's What's Happening at This Year's Central Texas State Fair

After taking a year off in 2020, the Central Texas State Fair returns this September with everything you love about a rip-roarin' good time at the Bell County Expo Center! Here's your guide to the great shows, music, food, and rodeo action you expect as they do it big for 2021.

It's Time to 'Stuff the Bus' for Central Texas Students

The new school year is just around the corner, and Central Texas students will face unique challenges as we put the pandemic behind us and look to the future.

One challenge no child should face is being without the essential school supplies they'll need to live up to their potential and achieve academic success.

That's where you and I come in. From July 19 to August 15, you can donate school supplies at the following locations. Donated supplies will benefit students in need in Belton ISD, Killeen ISD, and Temple ISD. (Click each district to view their 2021-2022 school supply lists.)

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