Month after TX reopened, numbers continue to decline, but local health experts urge caution

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A month ago, local health experts and politicians blasted Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to end the mask mandate. But so far, COVID-19 numbers continue to decline.

Texas is open for business. There are no restrictions, and there's no statewide mask mandate. Despite this, neighbors say they haven't noticed much of a difference.

"So far it's been good," said Miguel Gutierrez of Houston. "There are still some places that hold it, but I think everyone should still have the mask on."

"Most of the people are doing the responsible thing. But we see a lot of people with the mask down under their chin, under their nose," said Tim Bryant, who lives in Pearland.

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

The restrictions ended four weeks ago on Wednesday. The announcement had local health experts and politicians criticizing Abbott. Since then, COVID-19 numbers have improved.

"I still disagree with lifting the mask mandate, but nevertheless, things are good," said Houston Health Authority, Dr. David Persse.

Since the state fully reopened, there are 1,520 fewer COVID-19 patients across Texas. According to the New York Times, the average daily case number has fallen by 1,795 since March 10.

In the Houston area, the Texas Medical Center has 352 fewer patients, and the daily case count has dropped by 301. Experts believe trends are improving because Texans are still wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

"I think right now, Houstonians have a reason to be hopeful," Persse said. "Don't be overconfident. If you haven't received your vaccine yet, go and get your vaccine. That's the way out of this thing for good, is for as many people to get vaccinated as possible."

Over the month, there's been a dramatic shift in who's testing positive in Houston and Harris County. A month ago, about 20% of cases came from people 60 and older.

As of April 7, it's zero percent. The number has shifted to younger people, with children accounting for 25% of new cases.

Despite dropping numbers, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the COVID-19 threat meter remains in red, which means "stay home." She said there's a movement to change this, and it could come soon.

Hidalgo was one of the governor's harshest critics after the mask mandate was removed, ABC13 asked her about the latest data to see if she's changed her mind.

"I hope I'm wrong, and when I said it's too soon, that it turned out to be perfect timing," Hidalgo said. "The truth of the matter is, we don't know yet. We don't know because it takes about a month and a half from when there's been a reopening. When you look historically that's when things begin climbing up. Then it takes longer for the numbers to really worsen."

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