Speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden spoke about the US government's plans to accelerate its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, and responded to questions regarding recent face mask legislation.
"I hope everybody's realized by now - these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we are able to get the vaccines into people's arms," he remarked, reiterating his plan to enhance production of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine.
NEW: President Biden calls Texas and Mississippi decisions to end mask mandates “a big mistake" and criticizes what he views as “Neanderthal thinking” after CDC warned against complacency in the face of emerging coronavirus variants on Monday. pic.twitter.com/Mmdln3gNG6— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 3, 2021
The US president expects to have enough vaccines for every American adult by the end of May.
"The last thing we need is neanderthal thinking," he argued, referring to the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions and mitigation methods, including state-wide mask mandates.
"Follow the science," the US president urged. "Wash your hands. Hot water. Do it frequently. Wear a mask, and stay socially-distanced."
Texas, Mississippi Move to End Mask Mandates, Despite CDC Director's Warnings
"Hospitalizations are the lowest that they have been in four months," Abbott claimed Tuesday while announcing plans to lift Texas' mask mandate. The governor's executive order, effective March 10, will also allow restaurants in the state to resume accepting patrons at 100% capacity.
"Far more Texans are recovering from COVID than contracting it," he added.
"Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%," Abbott said.
Critics of his decision have claimed the Texas governor is attempting to appeal to anti-mask residents following the deadly winter storm and state-wide power outages, as health officials previously warned against such a move.
"At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday.
Though states are rolling out their vaccine programs "what’s really helping to keep safe and protected this point is our viral control practices," the US health official expressed.
Nevertheless, Mississippi's governor also cited low COVID-19 case numbers as reason for effectively lifting the state-wide mask mandate on Wednesday. The lifting is presently set to last until at least March 31.
The Texas Department of Health has reported 4,781 new novel coronavirus cases and 297 newly reported COVID-19 fatalities. According to daily data from the Mississippi Department of Health, 380 new COVID-19 cases have been logged and 19 new novel coronavirus-related deaths were reported.
Despite the lifting of the mandates in Texas and Mississippi, local businesses maintain their right to require patrons wear masks.
"If businesses or individuals decide to take additional precautions, they are absolutely within their rights. In fact, it may be smart. But we are not going to continue to use the heavy hand of government when it is no longer justified by the reality we see around us," Reeves highlighted earlier this week.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs, health director for The Magnolia State, appeared to express opposition to the decision via social media on Tuesday.
To prevent COVID transmission and protect patients - MSDH guidance still necessitates the use of masks and other measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission in healthcare settings.— thomas dobbs (@TCBPubHealth) March 3, 2021
Please see https://t.co/hfl3hivFVL for details.
"To prevent the spread of COVID transmission and protect patients MSDH guidance still necessitates the use of masks and other measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission in healthcare settings," he tweeted, linking to his departmental website.