Watson Clinic is requiring its more than 200 doctors and its 1,600+ employees to vaccinate against COVID-19 by November. The clinic’s board of directors made the decision in recognition of “the serious threat the COVID-19 Delta variant posses to our patients and community at large,” the clinic said in a news release.

“This requirement arrives as COVID-19 cases are increasing each day, leading to record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths,” the news release reads. “Data shows the overwhelming majority of these cases occur within the unvaccinated population, and the vaccines offer vigorous protection from this recent strain of the virus.”

The clinic also requires facemasks at its facilities.

In a news conference last week, Watson Clinic Managing Partner Dr. Steven Achinger joined leaders from Lakeland Regional Health and the Florida Department of Health in pleading that more residents become vaccinated.

“Your risk of contracting covid has never been higher,” Achinger said at the news conference. “There’s not particularly any segment of our population that is being spared. The frustrating part is that this can be prevented. When you are given a treatment that has a 95% effectivity rate, that’s among the best treatments for any condition or illness we have.”

In Polk, 55% of eligible people have received at least one of vaccine and 46.5% are fully vaccinated, the Florida Department of Health reported Friday.

Currently, about 50% of the Watson Clinic’s staff has received at least one dose, Achinger told The Ledger.

Polk County set new records for the last two weeks in a row for both the number of new infections and the testing positivity rate. The next update from the Florida Department of Health is expected Friday afternoon.

Earlier this week, The Estates at Carpenter, a senior residential care facility, announced it is requiring all of its staff to vaccinate.

In an interview with News Channel 8, CEO and Executive Director Brian Robare called on Lakeland Regional Heath to do the same. “They’re the 800-pound gorilla in town and we think they share that responsibility,” he said.

LRH is not requiring staff members to become vaccinated and does not know how many of its staff have received vaccines. “Although we offer the vaccine to all of our team members at our facility, many have chosen other locations, such as pharmacies to get vaccinated; therefore, we do not have complete data regarding our team’s inoculation status,” wrote Timothy J. Boynton, chief public relations and communications officer.

This morning, LRH said 338 of its current patients have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s an eightfold increase over the number reported June 25 and nearly double the daily peak during the coronavirus surge in January.

The total is a slight reduction from the “more than 350” reported by CEO Danielle Drummond on Tuesday in a news release announcing that the hospital will temporarily postpone elective surgeries requiring an overnight stay.

LRH’s announcement this morning says it has 38 COVID patients in intensive care and 29 on ventilators, both slightly higher than Monday’s figures of 36 and 23 respectively.

Hospital officials have said that 95% of patients with COVID-19 it has admitted recently were unvaccinated and most were under age 50.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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  1. The article never stated what happens to those who work in these places requiring vaccines if they refuse to be vaccinated. So, what happens to them? Will they be fired? Will they and their families no longer have an income?

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