BRAZOS COUNTY, TEXAS — Similar to Texas, additional states across the country have begun announcing their plans to reopen, following months of COVID-19 safety protocols.
Leaving many wondering, however... is now really the time?
25 News KRHD caught up with local healthcare leaders in Bryan-College Station. Looking to see how Governor Abbott's newest announcement ending the mandate of COVID-19 safety protocols, truly impacts them.
"Effective next Wednesday, all businesses, of any type, are allowed to open 100%," Governor Abbott stated Tuesday in his press release, which has since, gotten a lot of feedback across the Lone Star State.
"I think we are all optimistic about the future, as more vaccines get out there. However, when we go to different businesses and see people take their masks off, that is concerning. But I am hoping in another month or so, more vaccines will become available and get into the shoulders of more people. Whenever and wherever you can get the vaccine, please do, but yeah, it's still concerning. COVID-19 has not gone away, it's still part of our community, unfortunately," Jason Jennings, Regional President of the College Station Region of BS&W shared with 25 News.
Over the last two days, the Brazos County Health District has reported 11 new COVID-19 deaths in Brazos County, totaling 220 deaths from COVID-19. Jennings with Baylor Scott & White says, now is not the time to relax.
"As we are watching trends for COVID-19, we are very happy that we are seeing trends come down, but it's still not the time to lose our focus... why is it coming down? Because of hand-hygiene, social distance, and face masking," Jennings added.
For the first time in months, Brazos County finally saw its ICU bed occupancy go below 100% maximum capacity.
For both BS&W and St. Joseph Health, everything will remain the same as far as masks and their other current protocols.
"It's not the time to loosen up. We've got spring break around the corner. If we've learned anything, hospitalizations with COVID-19 have spiked over the holidays. People get together. So it's not the time to loosen up. BS&W is going to stay the course and continue to require masking, social distancing, etc," Jennings added.
Also still following CDC guidelines and recommendations, is St. Joseph Health. Chief Medical Officer, Kia Parsi, says, while it's nice to see some normalcy on the horizon, masks will still be required within their walls.
"We have to make sure that what we are doing, is what's safe as possible for our patients and staff, and we do know already that wearing masks, as well as social distancing, and now that we have the vaccine, we have the tools to combat this pandemic," Parsi, Chief Medical Officer at St. Joseph Health shared.
While lessening restrictions isn't completely out of the question in the future, Parsi says, it's hard to predict the pandemic and any potential trends to come.
"We've had several waves with this pandemic, in March, then July and August, and now January, and February. We don't want to have another wave. We want to continue to move down this path in a safe way," Parsi shared.
Parsi says, every day in their clinics, their emergency room, and hospital, people are admitted with COVID-19 infections. Parsi still wants to encourage the public to follow safe practices, practices he says, he knows to be very effective.
"We have such courageous healthcare workers, nurses, therapists, team members, physicians, all of us have been working diligently to provide safe care for our community and help us battle this pandemic. It's hard to predict. We just can't say for sure what the future will be, but we know there are certain practices we can take and move to help us handle this pandemic. So we will continue to do so, but we are prepared to care for our community," Parsi noted.