Doctor: Health care workers are ‘frustrated and concerned’ over lifting of virus mandates

Dr. Heather Yeo, SurvivorNet Medical Advisor & Associate Professor of Surgery and Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medicine, joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss the latest coronavirus updates.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: But I want to turn now to the coronavirus pandemic. Now the governors of Texas and Mississippi have decided to lift mask mandates in their states and let businesses operate at full capacity without restrictions. Meanwhile, in New York, Governor Cuomo has decided that domestic travelers no longer are going to be required to quarantine, while the outdoor limits on gatherings are going to be increasing later in March.

Now we have Dr. Heather Yeo here with us. She's a SurvivorNet medical advisor and associate professor of population health sciences at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medicine. So doctor, I want to start with everything that we have going on, but especially let's start here in New York, with Governor Cuomo saying that he's going to be raising the limits of folks that can gather. What do you make of some of these rolling back of restrictions? I'm going to come to what's going on in Texas and Mississippi next.

HEATHER YEO: Yeah, I mean, for providers who are caring for COVID patients, we all still feel that the threats are very real. When you're on the streets every day and you're just going about your business, you may not see the numbers of patients with coronavirus. But still, our ICUs have a number of intubated patients, over 100 intubated patients at our facilities. And I will tell you on a day-to-day basis, our hospitals are still full of sick COVID patients.

And so, for providers who are on the front lines, intensivists, they are really frustrated and concerned because we're seeing-- a lot of us have sacrificed away from our families and also put ourselves at risk. And I think we're worried that numbers could surge.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, looking over at Texas and Mississippi, let's just dive a little bit more into that one because I think people were a little bit surprised to see that they are not only allowing businesses to operate at 100% capacity with no restrictions, but doing away with mask mandates altogether. Does a move like that threaten our ability, really, to come out of this pandemic, come out of this health crisis?

HEATHER YEO: Yeah, I mean, I think that part of the biggest problem is it really sets a precedent for expectations, and it lets people think it's OK to let their guard down. And I mean, again, as providers, we are very worried that if patients and individuals don't protect themselves, we're going to have a surge again. Every opportunity the virus has to replicate, it has the opportunity to mutate. And I think that all of us are afraid that there's going to be another surge. And this is going to be a problem.

KRISTIN MYERS: I'm wondering if other states kind of also make similar moves, where you think we're going to end up in, let's just say, two weeks to a month, since we know that some of these numbers that we are being-- we've been seeing are really a lagging indicator of what we have going on.

HEATHER YEO: I mean, I think a lot of it's really also going to depend on how individuals act. We've talked before about kind of COVID fatigue. I think Governor Abbott himself said, it's really important. This doesn't mean, don't wear a mask. It just puts the onus on the individual. And this actually is not ideal as a public policy. Because if you think about it, not everyone has the opportunity to choose if the person next to them is wearing a mask. And so, by not wearing a mask, individuals are putting others nearby them with higher risks at risk.

KRISTIN MYERS: Do you think that other states perhaps need to take a little bit of a harsher restrictive tack, at least when it comes to travel to and from states like Texas and Mississippi, to at least protect themselves and their citizens? The residents, I should say.

HEATHER YEO: I think a lot of it has to do with the state's capacity and regulations for testing, the access to care, the access to virus-- I mean, to vaccines. As the rate of vaccinated individuals go up, we can eventually, I think, later in the summer, I think that Dr. Fauci and some of the other leaders in public health have said that as we reach herd immunity at higher rates of 60 plus percent, we maybe can kind of start easing off.

But as I don't think any of us thought a year ago, we would be in the situation we are now. And so I don't think we can predict. I don't think we know how much this virus is going to mutate. I mean, some of the spread in Brazil has been particularly concerning with the higher rates of transmission and potentially mutations that may make the virus-- the vaccines less successful.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Dr. Heather Yeo from New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, thanks so much for joining us today.