Houston doctors warn of 4th COVID-19 surge as mask mandate ends

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Medical experts are sounding off as Gov. Greg Abbott lifts the statewide mask mandate, calling it dangerous.

"Anger, sadness, fear," said Dr. Bich-May Nguyen, a board member with Doctors for America.

SEE ALSO: New website helps navigate who's requiring masks and who's not

"I'm frustrated," said Dr. Christina Propst, a pediatrician with Blue Fish Pediatrics. "We are doing our part, and so it is really a painful experience that our elected officials don't trust us, don't trust our expertise and are not listening to the science."

"We will be the largest state in the country, the largest population without a mask mandate in place and that's going to put all of us at risk," said Dr. Nguyen.

After an entire year of living on the front lines of a global pandemic, health care works say vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, but only with herd immunity.

SEE ALSO: Places in Houston where you do and don't have to wear masks now that mandate is over

According to the state's vaccine tracker, less than 9% of Texans are fully vaccinated. Medical experts have told ABC13 that in order to gain herd immunity, 70% to 80% of the population must first be vaccinated.

Propst said lifting the mask mandate comes too soon and feels like an insult to their endless work over the last 12 months.

"I personally know at least four people who succumbed to COVID-19. People who range in age from their 20s to 70s. So it is deeply personal to us," Propst said. "I think as health care workers, and as professionals, we try to compartmentalize that and we try to push our feelings down. But when there are instances when something is so blatantly wrong and so blatantly dangerous and risky at this point, when we're so close, and we have all suffered so much, it is emotional for a lot of people. I certainly have experienced that and had colleagues, when they heard about Gov. Abbott's ill-conceived and ill-informed rollback, [who] were both angry and tearful."

SEE ALSO: Computer models now project uptick in cases after mask mandate removal

Propst said a perfect storm is brewing as Texas reopens businesses to 100% capacity, with no masks as spring breakers take vacations and with five COVID-19 variants spreading through our city.

"We know they're here. We know they're spreading. They're getting isolated in more and more samples and they are more transmissible than the original strains," said Propst.

"More people will get sick, more people are going to get hospitalized and more people are going to die," said Nguyen.

Both doctors are asking Texans to follow CDC guidelines that still recommend wearing a mask at all times in public, vaccinated or not.

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