‘I think it’s a big mistake,’ Biden said on Wednesday in the Oval Office.
‘The last thing we need is neanderthal thinking.’
His stance comes a day after Texas Gov Greg Abbott declared it was time to ‘open Texas 100 percent’ with all restrictions in the Lone Star state, including mask mandates, to end March 10.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves immediately followed suit announcing he is rolling back all county mask mandates and removing statewide restrictions on all businesses from today.
The two southern states join a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the US to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials.
President Joe Biden called it a ‘big mistake’ for Texas and Mississippi to reopen completely amid the coronavirus pandemic, referring to the decisions in the Oval Office as ‘neanderthal thinking’
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (left) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (right) both announced Tuesday that their states would end mask mandates and reopen businesses without capacity limitations, policies that were supposed to stall the spread of COVID-19
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that Texas would be reopening, going against federal guidance
Abbott tweeted from his personal account, ‘I just announced Texas is OPEN 100%. EVERYTHING. I also ended the statewide mask mandate.
Abbott’s decision comes on the heels of the state being hobbled by winter weather.
‘Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules,’ Reeves tweeted. ‘Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!’
But officials in the federal government, including Biden, have continued to preach caution.
‘We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease in which we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms,’ the president said in the Oval. ‘We’ve been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American a shot, and the last thing, the last thing we need is neanderthal thinking – that in the meantime everything is fine, take off your mask, forget it.’
‘It still matters,’ Biden urged. ‘It’s going to take time,’ he added, saying that it was ‘critical’ that policymakers ‘follow the science’
He also noted that ‘these masks make a difference,’ wearing one himself as he sat in a meeting with members of Congress, being watched by members of the press.
Biden’s slap comes after White House press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t take a swipe at the GOP governors head-on.
She pointed out that the president’s push for mask-wearing, which he has asked Americans to do for his first 100 days in office, was ‘based on the recommendations of health and medical experts.’
Asked about the reopenings in Mississippi and Texas, she pointed out that the president’s push for mask-wearing, which he has asked Americans to do for his first 100 days in office, was ‘based on the recommendations of health and medical experts.’
‘And their view is that it could save 50,000 lives,’ she said.
‘For nearly a year, we’ve been dealing and navigating and coping with this pandemic across the country and this entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic,’ the press secretary added.
She said the president is ‘hopeful’ people in these states will continue to follow the federal guidelines.
And she said it’s not just Biden who is recommending Americans stay socially distant.
‘I would say we’re not asking people just to listen to the president, of course, we recommend that, but we’re asking people to listen to health experts, medical experts, the CDC, to Dr. Fauci, to others who are basing their recommendations on how to save people’s lives,’ Psaki said.
The press secretary didn’t say if Biden had called Reeves or Abbott.
‘He speaks with governors of both parties on a regular basis,’ Psaki said.
She also pointed out that Biden and Abbott were together in Texas on Friday surveying storm damage.
‘I’m sure he will raise this the next opportunity he has,’ Psaki said.
In the Oval Office, several minutes later, Biden was shaking his head at the governors’ decisions.
‘Wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced,’ Biden said, repeating the federal advice. ‘I know you all know that,’ he told the reporters in the room. ‘I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew that,’ he said.
Biden says Texas and Mississippi reopening is a ‘big mistake’