US President Joe Biden says decisions to end the required wearing of masks — such as those by governors of Texas and Mississippi — amounted to “Neanderthal thinking” given the rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.
- US President Joe Biden says he hope people realise masks make a difference
- It came after the states of Texas and Mississippi rolled back mandates on masks
- More than half a million people in the US have died from COVID-19
Mr Biden was speaking to reporters at the White House when he was asked what message he had for Texas, as well as Mississippi, which have removed their state’s mask mandates.
Mr Abbott’s executive order to lift a mask mandate and allowing most businesses to reopen at full capacity next week came as many states and major cities experience a sharp decline in coronavirus infections.
The decision puts Texas in conflict with Mr Biden, who has urged Americans to keep taking COVID-19 precautions, including wearing masks, until vaccinations have slowed the virus.
“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realised by now, these masks make a difference,” Mr Biden said.
“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.”
Mr Biden said over 511,000 people had died of the disease in the United States and it would take time until everyone eligible was vaccinated.
The Texas Governor said he was able to lift the restrictions because Texas, the third-most-populous US state, had administered nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots to its 29 million residents.
“It is now time to open Texas 100 per cent,” Mr Abbott said in a press conference.
“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility.
“It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”
He said the new rules would take effect March 10, unleashing a wave of alarm from big-city mayors and leaders along the US-Mexico border, where the virus has been especially rampant.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Tuesday also lifted state-imposed mask mandates across Mississippi and removed COVID-19 related restrictions on business operations.