FORT WORTH, Texas — It's the COVID-19 comment that's creating a lot of buzz.
"We're working right now on evaluating when we're going to be able to remove all statewide orders," Governor Greg Abbott said Thursday. "And we will be making announcements on that pretty soon."
Statewide coronavirus orders include the individual mask mandate, leaving many, including Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, assuming the individual mask mandate could be going away.
The big question now is: when?
"I would just like to be a little bit further down the road," Whitley said. He said he doesn't feel we are ready right now. Overall new COVID cases are down in Tarrant County, close to the levels we saw during July's peak. But the county is still seeing hundreds a day.
"But I think if he were to cancel his mask order, then I think we as county officials should go ahead and cancel those we have in place for businesses," Whitley said.
When asked why, Whitley explained, "I just feel like at that point there's enough folks that are in an uproar about the masks that I think there will be enough non-compliance" that there wouldn't be a point keeping it in place."
Other authorities on the topic agree now is not the time to remove masks, including UNT Health Science Center epidemiologist Dr. Diana Cervantes.
"If, let's say, we said 'Okay, Monday we're doing this,' I would say no, it's probably not the best idea," she said.
Dr. John Carlo, who's on the statewide COVID task force, said it's too early.
"We need the cases to go down further, and especially we need the positivity rate to be 3%," he said.
Dr. Mark Casanova, the past president of the Dallas County Medical Society, provided these thoughts on the topic via email:
"Short answer, it is by no means the right time now. As to when is the right time, when we have a greater number of individuals vaccinated, is the short answer. What is that number, I don’t know. In an ideal world, probably the 75-80% range targeted for herd immunity – remembering, that a mask mandate is in no way shape or form, the same as restaurant / bar / business closures, or anything of the sort."
Cervantes says removing the mask mandate could be a potentially safe option once many have been vaccinated.
As of Wednesday, about 102,000 people, or 5 percent of Tarrant County, were fully vaccinated, and at least 220,000 had recovered from the virus, according to online county records.
"Even if masks mandates are done away with because the risk of infection is lower, it's still there," Cervantes said.
For now, she says: wear your mask.