This week, President Joe Biden has called out GOP lawmakers after Republican officials all over the country opted to repeal COVID-19 restrictions within their states despite the ongoing death toll.
Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves made headlines after they both announced they were completely eliminating statewide mask mandates and also allowing local businesses to operate at 100 percent capacity despite social distancing recommendations from health experts.
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Even though most medical professionals have cautioned against premature rollbacks, the governors in question both cited decreased infection rates and the increasing popularity of vaccinations as the reasoning behind their decisions.
“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters at the White House in response to that logic. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. We’ve been able to move that up to the end of May, to have enough for every adult American to get a [vaccine] shot. 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.”
“It’s critical, critical, critical that they follow the science,” he continued. “Wash your hands … do it frequently; wear a mask; and stay socially distanced. I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”
Following the science
Despite the governor’s controversial decision, the mayors of both Houston and Dallas continue to advocate for mask-wearing and social distancing.
“Unless the governor is trying to deflect from the embarrassing failure of the electrical grid, his decision to open the state 100% and revoke the mask mandate does not make sense,” the official Twitter page of the Houston Mayor’s office wrote on March 2nd.
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“This is the third time the governor has stepped in when things are going in the right direction,” Mayor Sylvester Turner continued in a series of tweets. “If you’re going to any city properties or venues, like the public libraries, you will be required to wear a mask. Only 15% of Texans have been vaccinated. That means 85% have not and are still at risk of getting.”
“I can understand easing some of the restrictions, but not the masks. If you’re not vaccinated, the masks are your only protection,” Turner concluded.
As we previously reported, Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor of integrative biology and director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium echoes Turner’s sentiments, noting, “The fact that things are headed in the right direction doesn’t mean we have succeeded in eradicating the risk.”
Meyers also noted that the recent deadly winter freeze in Texas that left millions of people without power — forcing families to shelter closely with others who still had heat — could amplify transmission of the virus in the weeks ahead, although it remains too early to tell. Masks, she said, are one of the most effective strategies to curb the spread.
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