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Officials from President Biden on down to the local level are criticizing decisions by governors of Mississippi and Texas to lift their statewide mask mandates in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Texas — I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everyone’s realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms,” Biden said of his administration’s program for ramping up COVID vaccinations. “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 get 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’s opinion was backed up by experts, such as Dr Rochelle Wallensky who heads up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“I think we at the CDC have been clear that now is not the time to release all restrictions. I do think that, as I said, the next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes as scale up vaccination,” she said. “We really do need to decrease the amount of virus that is circulating as we’re trying to vaccinate all of the public.
“I will also note that, you know, every individual has, is empowered to do the right thing here regardless of what the state decide for personal health, for public health, for health of their loved ones,” added Dr Wallensky. “I would still encourage individuals to wear a mask, to socially distance and to do the right thing to protect their own house.”
In Mississippi, the governor may have lifted the statewide mask mandate but the city of Jackson will keep its mandate in place, according to Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
“Well, I would say that the decision actually operates in stark contrast to that. When we find that we are eliminating the mask mandate, then we are putting more people in jeopardy and consequently can see the numbers rise,” said Lumumba said. “And when we these see those numbers right, then we will have to make a decision of how we operate our economy in the presence of COVID-19. That is what has led to the restricting of businesses in the first place. And so, fortunately, the city of Jackson has the ability to be more restrictive than the state. And so we will maintain our mask mandate. And that is an effort not only to protect lives, protect families, but to protect businesses, as well.
“When we initiated the mask mandate prior to the state, we did so because we were learning how to navigate or offer our own solutions in the midst of this pandemic, and that is considering both life and protection of life, and it is considering economic well-being as well,” he added.
Jackson’s mask mandate would remain in place “until health experts — until my COVID task force, which is populated with medical experts, who are informed on the subject, who are following the data of the CDC, until they advise that it is appropriate to do so … “
MSNBC Morning Joe contributor Mike Barnacle cast the COVID situation in a “good news/bad news” light.
“The good news is, as you just pointed out, we have three vaccines now available and becoming more available to everybody in the United States of America. The bad news is that one state’s governor, in this case Gov. [Greg] Abbott of Texas has taken it upon himself to think that he can combat this virus the way no one else can combat this virus,” Barnacle said. “Texas is averaging 200 deaths per day. Now, that might not seem a whole lot to Governor Abbott, but it sure is a whole lot to the people who are suffering the losses, the families and the friends of the people who are dying.
“Less than 7 percent of the people in the state of Texas have been vaccinated. And the governor has managed to overrule with this new edict that he proposed yesterday, overrule various cities and towns who have a mask mandate,” he added. “This is not the way to go to combat the virus. It is the way to open the door to the virus and the various variants of the virus to come back into the house, something that nobody wants but they have done it in Texas.”
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