Dear faculty, staff, students and residents:
In recent days much has been publicly discussed about the wearing of face masks. For example, in dispute in Texas and elsewhere is whether a “mask mandate” is legal or not. I write today to make clear our UT Health San Antonio policy: Everyone should wear masks on campus and at every operating location of our organization.
There are several reasons for this. First, there is indisputable evidence that masking is effective in reducing COVID spread. Second, we are a health care institution that serves to protect the health of our community in our clinics, hallways, classrooms and laboratories. Our work in all areas is vital to the public health. Interruption or cessation of this work means some aspect of our health care mission will suffer. Further, we have an open campus which means a mix of patients, patients’ families, students, health care providers and staff are a part of the daily commerce in our buildings. And finally, we are connected via several corridors and a bridge to two hospitals that are at capacity active in caring for COVID patients. In short, we must make the campus environment as safe as possible so we are able to sustain our life-saving, life-affirming work by maintaining a fully functional workforce.
The last point to make on this issue is regarding our calling and commitment to lives of service to others. Being a professional in this domain means we place the health and safety of our patients as the paramount objective in all that we do. What matters most is their health, their safety irrespective of personal considerations. Whether or not you come in direct contact with patients, you will come in contact with someone who is. We are all part of one team, and what one member of the team does affects all of us.
In sum, we do not have a “mask mandate” on campus as a legal order. However, what we do have on our campus is an abiding and unrelenting commitment to the health of those whom we are privileged to serve and work with. Everyone, without exception, on the UT Health San Antonio campus should wear a mask during this COVID surge.
William L. Henrich, MD, MACP
President and Professor of Medicine