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Biden criticises “Neanderthal” decision to remove mask mandates

Two Republican Governors have announced plans to repeal covid-19 restrictions in their states, prompting concern from the President and health officials.

Two Republican Governors have announced plans to repeal covid-19 restrictions in their states, prompting concern from the President and health officials.

On Wednesday President Joe Biden heavily criticised the decision by some state officials to remove a raft of covid-19 restrictions, including mask mandates.

The Republican Governors of Texas and Mississippi, Gov. Greg Abbott and Gov. Tate Reeves, announced on Tuesday that they will allow businesses in their states to reopen with full capacity and will no longer require mask-wearing in public places.

When asked about the decisions by White House reporters on Wednesday Biden decried the “Neanderthal thinking” of those who decided to repeal the restrictions while the covid-19 case numbers remain dangerously high.

Governors decide that “state mandates are no longer needed”

There has been reason for cautious optimism in recent weeks, which left the two Governors feeling that now was the right time to lift restrictions. The vaccination effort is picking up speed with a third coronavirus shot now cleared for use by the FDA and case numbers are falling across the country.

In announcing the decision Gov. Abbott said that he would issue a new executive order rescinding the vast majority of coronavirus restrictions and would allow businesses to be “100%” open from 10 March. When asked about the decision Renae Eze, Gov. Abbott’s press secretary, told CNBC that the move was based on the improving situation and the need to return to normality:

“It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations, and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed.

We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans. The Governor’s focus has been, and always will be, protecting the lives and livelihoods of Texans.”

Mask-wearing remains a priority for Biden and health experts

However the states’ decision was swiftly criticised by Biden who told reporters that it was “critical, critical, critical” that local authorities continue to “follow the science” in their covid-19 response.

He has made addressing the public health crisis the top priority for the early months of his presidency and is hoping to pass a new stimulus bill in the coming days that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars to speed up vaccine roll-out and get Americans back to schools, workplaces and social gatherings safely.

He rold reporters in Washington: “Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference… The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking, that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine. Take off your mask. Forget it.’ It still matters.”

Biden’s comments are backed up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who have warned of the risk of reopening too soon. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said on Monday that premature easing of restrictions risked “completely los[ing] the hard-earned ground we have gained.”

She added: “With these statistics, I am really worried about more states rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19.”


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