United States President Joe Biden speaks during a non-partisan meeting on cancer legislation in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington March 3, 2021.
Alex Brandon | Pool | Reuters
President Joe Biden on Wednesday beat up states that lifted Covid-19 restrictions on businesses and lifted mask mandates for local residents, calling the moves a “big mistake”.
Texas governor Greg Abbott and Mississippi governor Tate Reeves, both Republicans, announced Tuesday that they would allow companies to reopen at 100% capacity and remove mask mandates. Biden’s remarks were in response to questions raised by the press specifically about the two states.
“Look, I hope by now everyone has realized that these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We are on the verge of fundamentally changing the nature of this disease because we can get vaccines into people’s arms … The last, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking.” In the meantime, everything is fine . Take off your mask. Forget it, “It’s still important.”
He added that it was “critical, critical, critical” that state officials “follow science” and encourage Americans to continue wearing masks and following all public health guidelines.
“I know you all know,” Biden told reporters. “I wish the hell some of our elected officials would.”
In response to Biden’s remarks, Reeves tweeted, “Mississippians don’t need handlers. When the numbers go down, they can judge their decisions and listen to experts. I think we should trust Americans, not offend them.”
When announcing their decisions, Reeves and Abbott cited the falling number of new Covid-19 cases and the increasing availability of vaccines as reasons for lifting the restrictions. However, federal officials warned that the decline in new cases appears to be stalling and that the emergence of new coronavirus variants could lead to a resurgence.
Abbott representatives did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.
Both governors used a similar tone in their announcements on Tuesday, saying that people should continue to follow public health guidelines, but that statewide mandates are not appropriate. Despite the removal of the restrictions, some companies in both states have announced that they will still need masking in their branches.
On Monday, before the two governors made their announcements, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned state officials too quickly to lift public health restrictions.
In the past seven days, the United States reported an average of more than 65,400 new cases a day, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s well below the high of about 250,000 new cases per day the country reported in early January, but it’s still well above the infection rate the US saw the summer when the virus swept the sun belt.
“At this level of cases where variants spread, we will completely lose the hard-earned ground we won,” Walensky said on Monday. “With these statistics, I’m really concerned that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19.”
“Please listen to me clearly: at this level of cases with spreading variant, we are going to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she said.