Did a hospital in McKinney, Texas, bus FEMA nurses in from out of state to replace staff lost due to a vaccine mandate? No, that's not true: Additional medical staff has been needed in hospitals throughout North Texas for some time. In August, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deployed additional medical personnel from out of state through the Department of State Health Services to help with the surge of COVID-19 cases in Texas. A FEMA spokesperson explained that while they help coordinate a federal response to disasters, FEMA does not employ their own medical personnel. A spokesperson from Medical City Healthcare in McKinney, Texas, conveyed that there is no COVID-19 vaccine requirement and they have not laid off or furloughed a single employee as a result of their vaccination status.
The claim originated with a first-person narrative posted to Facebook as a live streaming video on October 7, 2021. The 13-minute video has been reposted on YouTube and featured in additional articles. It opened with a woman explaining:
Yesterday as many of you know, our dear friend Michael, he had a diabetic episode. He's being treated. So I went to Medical City McKinney, and I'm saying that for a reason, to visit our friend -- and we noticed a charter bus, huge charter bus, outside of the hospital. And so Carmen and I decide, and Jesse, my husband decide, we're going to go. There's a lady standing outside of the charter bus and we're going to go and find out what's going on.
This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:
(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken onWed Oct 20 22:37:29 2021 UTC)
The entire video consists of a woman talking, recounting what she says happened a day before. She speaks of encountering a woman standing beside a "charter bus" at the hospital, but neither the other woman nor the bus are ever seen.
The woman speaking on the video tells a story of how she questioned the woman standing by the bus, who identified herself as a nurse from Wisconsin. The woman in the video says she asked the self-identified nurse how many beds are dedicated to COVID patients, and why there would be a COVID surge if most people are all vaccinated, and the other woman said she didn't know. The woman on the video says the "nurse" answered a question about vaccine requirements by saying, "Yes, all of the hospitals are requiring their employees, their nurses and doctors, to be vaccinated." At about 3:30 in the video, the woman talking claims the woman being questioned said she was from FEMA.
Lead Stories reached out by email to Sally Huggins, director of community and public relations at Medical City McKinney, to see if the hospital might be able to clear up some of the questions raised in the video. For one thing, Huggins said there "is currently no requirement to receive the vaccine" for hospital staff. Huggins' October 20, 2021 reply to Lead Stories said:
- Infectious disease experts as well as those at the CDC strongly encourage vaccination as a critical step to protect individuals from the COVID-19 virus. While Medical City Healthcare encourages all colleagues to be vaccinated for COVID-19, there is currently no requirement to receive the vaccine.
- In fact, Medical City Healthcare has not laid off or furloughed a single employee as a result of their vaccination status.
- Given the recent surge in COVID-19 that has affected hospitals throughout North Texas, additional staff from outside the area have provided needed support for our dedicated clinicians to continue to provide exceptional care for our patients.
- The vast majority of patients who reveal COVID-19 status to us are unvaccinated.
Lead Stories also reached out by email to Lauren Lefebvre, the Region 6 director of External Affairs at FEMA, about the role FEMA is playing in Texas' response to the surge of COVID cases. She replied:
As state governments experience increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and renewed strains on medical personnel availability many, including Texas, are using their own contracts to bring in surge medical professionals from outside the state.
FEMA does not have a cadre of medical personnel, we are responsible for coordinating the federal response to disasters. If a state submits a request for additional medical staff, we work with our interagency partners to support. There are different options to support these types of requests, that could include contracting resources from the private sector or mission assigning federal agencies with medical personnel to assist.
On September 9, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14043 Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees to promote the health and safety of the Federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service.
In August several press releases were issued from the office of Texas Gov. Abbott, on the 9th, on the 19th and on the 26th, announcing that the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) would be deploying additional medical staff to help with the surge of COVID-19 cases in the state. The press release from the August 9, 2021, says in part:
Governor Greg Abbott today announced a series of actions the State of Texas is taking to mitigate the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will be utilizing staffing agencies to provide medical personnel from out-of-state to Texas health care facilities to assist in COVID-19 operations. The Governor has also sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures, for which a delay will not result in loss of life or the deterioration of a patient's condition, in order to increase hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Detailed information about vaccination rates and COVID-19 cases at state and county levels can be found at covidactnow.org. Information for Collin County, Texas, where McKinney is located, shows that a surge of new cases peaked in early September. A "Hospitalizations" chart, which uses data from the Department of Health and Human Services, shows the overall use of ICU beds in Collin county's has been at or above 85% capacity since September 11, 2020. On October 7, 2021, the day the video was posted, the county ICU capacity was at 96% capacity. The breakdown of ICU bed use shows that as of October 20, 2021, 18.75% of the ICU beds are used for COVID patients:
Collin County, Texas has reported having 240 staffed adult ICU beds. 184 are filled by non-COVID patients and 45 are filled by COVID patients. Overall, 229 out of 240 (96%) are filled. This suggests hospitals cannot absorb a wave of new COVID infections without substantial surge capacity.