Story at a glance
- Governors from Texas and Mississippi are beginning to relax public health measures.
- Public health experts are warning against this measure.
With national trends suggesting a long-awaited respite in new COVID-19 cases, some states — namely Texas and Mississippi — are issuing rollbacks on public health measures, including rules surrounding social distancing and wearing facial coverings.
In response to these changes, President Biden admonished the decisions as “a big mistake.”
“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference,” he continued. “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.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) justified the decision by citing a record low number of hospitalizations and the overall positivity rate for COVID-19 cases being at record lows.
He also cited improving vaccination rollouts as another reason to ease restrictions.
Today…Texas has the lowest COVID hospitalizations since October 24th.
The positivity rate is the lowest since October 14th–and has steadily declined for 2 straight months.
We gave a daily record of vaccinations: 229,490.
In the last week we gave 1,220,577 vaccine shots.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 4, 2021
State data, meanwhile, showcase a 6 percent increase in new cases, as well as a small uptick in fatalities associated with the virus.
On Wednesday, the Lone Star State recorded more than 7,500 new cases.
Meanwhile, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) fired back at Biden’s comment, writing on Twitter that allowing Mississippians to make the choice to protect themselves is not “Neanderthal thinking.”
“Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts,” Reeves continued. “I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”
He further commented on Fox News that more vaccines have been distributed, crediting former President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.
Data from Mississippi shows declining rates of new COVID-19 infections along with associated deaths and hospitalizations.
Public health experts have been quick to underscore that the pandemic is not over yet, with infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci warning that it would likely amount to a larger set back as variants continue to spread.
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