Abbott's order relaxing rules stirs fear of another COVID-19 spike

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Like talk in every corner and kitchen table in our state, there is a lot of debate about Gov. Greg Abbott's order ending COVID-19 mandates in Texas next week.

Leaders who spoke with Eyewitness News Thursday night for our Action 13 "Reopening Texas" town hall said Abbott's decision came way too soon or not soon enough.

"I think this should've been done a long time ago," Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said.

"What he has done is going to create chaos, confusion and conflict," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner countered.

But as the head of the Texas Restaurant Association reminded us, the change is coming in less than a week and we all have to deal with it. Her members have spoken.

"Almost 74% of our members will keep employees in masks," Dr. Emily Knight said. "There's two sides to that: there is a commitment the restaurant has and a commitment that you have as a customer when you walk into that restaurant that you abide by."

H-E-B has decided as well. President Scott McClelland said he will encourage the use of masks, but not to the point of confrontation and ugly reality of this politicized decision.

"In our Houston division - 100 stores - we've had 2,000 incidents where we had to involve security or store management to take care of them," McClelland said. "A customer refused to wear a mask or another customer confronted and began to get physical with a customer who refused to wear a mask."

Gov. Abbott's new order will allow businesses to open at 100% capacity Wednesday and removes the mask mandate.

Thursday afternoon, Abbott told ABC13 he consulted just one health expert about the decision.

Dr. Joseph Varon, chief medical officer for United Memorial Medical Center, said he can't find one who supports it.

He said he fears that just as COVID-19 cases spiked after previously relaxing of the rules, it will again.

"June, July and August, I signed the most number of death certificates I have in my life," Varon said. "Same after Thanksgiving. I am tired and history tends to repeat itself."

Watch a recap of the event, live newscasts and in-depth reporting from ABC13 on your favorite streaming devices, like Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and AndroidTV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.