North Texas health care leaders fear the Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) decision to remove mask mandates may be premature.
Dallas County Medical Society President Dr. Beth Kassanoff-Piper said while COVID-19 hospitalizations are down to their lowest point in months, and each week more Texans get their COVID-19 vaccinations, the threat of another surge in cases isn't over, especially in pockets where treatments or vaccines aren't yet widely available.
"Some of the things that Gov. Abbott mentioned today was that we have the vaccines. We have the antibody therapy. We do, but I just don't know if all communities have the same access to all that and I don't want to see us back off on what we are doing and put everyone at risk," Kassanoff-Piper said.
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She said around 6% of the population in Texas has been vaccinated, which is far from the 70% to 80% it takes for herd immunity.
The governor said more than half of the senior citizens in Texas are vaccinated, but it's still unknown whether the vaccines stop transmission or are effective against future, or more highly contagious variants.
Those are the reasons medical leaders ask North Texans to continue to wear masks and take all the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.
"Even though it's not going to be required to do all those things, we need to keep doing them," Kassanoff-Piper said.
A statement from Stephen Love, President and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council reads, in part:
“Governor Abbott's decision today to remove the mask mandate in Texas is very unfortunate. This could increase community spread of COVID-19 and potentially cause mutations called variants. Worn properly, face masks can block respiratory droplets of COVID-19 produced when an infected person coughs. Face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic people who do not realize they have the infection.
"Masks help protect your fellow Texans by tamping down the community spread of the virus. Wearing masks can help the economy recover by slowing the spread of the infection in businesses such as restaurants and bars. Through our efforts to wear masks, physical distance and wash hands, we have decreased the infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in North Texas over the past six weeks. Let’s not reverse this trend. The COVID-19 virus with variants is still here and we have not achieved herd immunity.
"While we respect Governor Greg Abbott and realize he has faced enormous challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic and recent weather issues, we strongly disagree with removing the mandatory mask requirements. This decision will cause the community spread to increase, forcing our exhausted healthcare heroes to diagnose, treat and save the lives of newly infected patients. If the community spread increases, the risk of mutations will also increase, creating a new set of potentially dangerous challenges. If you truly want to honor our healthcare heroes, then continue to wear a mask! We ask Governor Abbott to please reconsider his decision.”