Concerns over uncertain outcomes with new state mandates

Local health officials react to reopening

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Governor Abbott’s message to the state has left both Texans and the country sharply divided.

But the state has seen a major decline in COVID cases and hospitalizations since the fall, including right here in Lubbock.

“Everybody is relieved the governor feels like he can take these steps and we can get back toward life as normal. But we’re not there yet,” Dr. Craig Rhyne said.

As regional chief medical officer of Covenant Health, Dr. Rhyne has seen the Lubbock hospital system at its breaking point.

Naturally, he has concerns.

At the top of mind: the COVID-19 variants.

“Relaxing those state-wide mandates at a time in which we’re actually seeing the emergence of more contagious strains of the virus, is problematic,” he said.

But he recognizes there needs to be a balance, especially for businesses hurt by restrictive public health measures.

“I think the health care organizations as a whole will take a much more conservative approach. What you do at the hardware store and what you do at a hospital full of vulnerable people is going to be very different,” Dr. Rhyne said.

The state health department reports 2.5 million Texans have fully recovered.

A fact, Gov. Abbott argued, works in favor of the entire state re-opening at 100%.

“The CDC says the number of recoveries is typically 4 to 5 times the number of those who have officially tested positive and recovered. Mathematically what it means is that approximately 10 million Texans, or really more, have recovered from COVID and have the proven ability to beat the disease,” Abbott said in his address on Tuesday.

Dr. John Hellerstedt, the head of the state health department, told state lawmakers the governor did not consult with most of his COVID-19 task force before making that decision.

“Only time will tell if we’ve got enough herd immunity from the known cases, the unknown cases and the vaccinations to produce enough herd immunity to keep the pandemic returning with a vengeance,” Dr. Rhyne explained.

He says it will take at least 10 to 21 days to know the real effects of the governor’s latest order.

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