DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Pushed to the pandemic brink.

For months, healthcare workers have pleaded with the community to take simple precautions, like wearing a mask.

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Now, many are reacting to Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to end those mandates with concern and frustration.

“To remove the mask mandate, while we still don’t have herd immunity is very disheartening to us,” says Stephen Love, President & CEO, DFW Hospital Council.

Although new infections and hospitalizations are trending in the right direction, local health leaders say now is not the time to abandon the practices contributing to that progress.

“Are we lower in case numbers than we were two months ago? Yes. Is that a positive? Hands down! Absolutely,” says Mark Casanova, M.D., past president of the Dallas County Medical Society. “Is it the time to let go of a mask mandate on March 2? I don’t believe so.”

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Dr. Casanova says he supports safely reopening businesses, but not at the expense of public health. His concern is that messaging matters and lifting restrictions now, he says, sends the wrong message.

“And it’s not as though we are out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination,” says Dr. Casanova. “To add to that concern, we do know that a variety of COVID-19 variants are not only circulating around the world but have found their foothold in North Texas as well. So, the threat is that we could see a rapid increase.”

So, for many reasons Dr. Casanova says his advice to patients, friends and family remains unchanged.

“Keep the mask on, keep the physical distancing. Be very mindful and considerate of those engagements that you’re considering whether it’s a restaurant or a family gathering. That’s the cornerstone.”

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“We want things back to normal,” says Love. “Trust me hospitals want businesses open and robust. But the fact is we’ve still got this virus. Yes, we’ve got some great things happening like the vaccines, but we still have not achieved herd immunity. It’s going to take a while. As I said yesterday, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. And every day we get closer to that light, but by removing the mask mandate, our fear is it may take longer.”