Local doctor warns that virus will spike if masks not mandatory

HOUSTON – Dr. Joseph Varon has become a leading national and international voice in the fight against COVID-19 over the last year. He’s accurately predicted several spikes in the virus that cost lives as people relaxed precautions around the holidays.

Now, in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to open up the state, he’s making that warning again.

Abbott’s decision to open up the state, making face masks no longer mandatory, is the wrong move at the wrong time, according to Dr. Varon.

“We’re looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and now that light is further away after that announcement,” Varon said.

At his United Memorial Medical Center in north Houston, Dr. Varon worked battling COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

With only about 7% of the Texas population vaccinated, Georgia and Utah are the only states lower than that. And with a statewide positivity rate of 8.7%, the acceptable rate is 5% or below. Dr. Varon said everyone should keep wearing masks because they work.

“I just don’t understand the science that led the gov to make this announcement. I just don’t see it,” he said.

Dr. Varon expects a replay of last spring when Abbott lifted the COVID-19 restrictions the first time and was forced to reinstitute them a few weeks later.

“Last year we opened the state in April, late April, and then we had the worst months of my life. May, June, and July, when I wrote the most number of death certificates of my entire career,” he said.

Last spring, bed space was at a premium with critically ill and dying COVID-19 patients filling the wards.

Now, Dr. Varon and his staff are preparing for another surge that he says will likely come as a result of the governor’s order.

“We’re going to have to have more nurses, more respirators, more therapies, that’s going to be the problem,” he said.

Dr Varon says in the short term, people should continue wearing masks and social distancing to stay safe.