Local expert warns against lifting COVID-19 restrictions like Texas

Posted at 2:35 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 16:22:27-05

NORFOLK, Va. - A local expert says now is not the time to lift mask mandates or completely remove restrictions on businesses, as Texas announced it would do this week.

"I don't have words for it that I can say on TV. I'm so devastated and disappointed in that response," said Dr. Edward Oldfield, an infectious disease specialist from Eastern Virginia Medical School. "I just can't imagine a more foolish thing to do."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Tuesday, "I just announced Texas is OPEN 100%."

In response, some have questioned how effective the restrictions have been. Virginia is about to reach the one-year mark since the first confirmed case was reported on March 7, 2020.

Since then, many local businesses have permanently closed. Others have remained open but with many restrictions in place.

"I think what we've learned is we don't have to lock down. We just have to be smarter," Oldfield said.

Many experts say lockdowns can be effective in slowing the spread of the virus. Oldfield says if people follow guidelines like social distancing and masking, they can be avoided.

"If we don't do the high-risk things, I think we can keep most of society open and not lock things down," Oldfield said.

In Virginia, restrictions have been in place for almost a year. For example, Gov. Ralph Northam instituted a mask mandate last May. In the following months, cases spiked in Hampton Roads.

Oldfield points to the behavior - not the mandates - as the issue. "What happens in Hampton Roads in July and August? The beach and beach bars. I would suspect if you look closely, it was a problem with adhering to masks and it was indoor gathering," he said.

Going forward, Oldfield believes getting the percent positivity rate under 10 percent is key to being able to lift more restrictions in Virginia, but vaccinations are helping.

"As we get more people vaccinated, we might be safe even at higher levels, but I would like to see it at under 5 percent," he said.