President calls Texas and Mississippi actions “Neanderthal thinking”
President Joe Biden on Wednesday sharply criticized the decision by the governors of Texas and Mississippi to eliminate the requirement to wear protective masks, calling that approach “neanderthal thinking.” Asked by a reporter what the president had to say about Texas and Mississippi, Biden called the actions of those states’ authorities “deeply flawed” and stressed that “wearing masks matters.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced the most sweeping liberalization of pandemic coronavirus restrictions of any state, eliminating the requirement to wear masks and saying most businesses could open at full capacity next week.
“It’s time for Texas to open 100 percent,” Abbott, a Republican, said at a news conference, saying his order would go into effect March 10. The governor eliminated face mask requirements throughout the state and prohibited local authorities from penalizing people who don’t wear masks, and lifted all restrictions on doing business in counties without a high number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.
Under Abbott’s order, local governments in counties that still have high hospitalization rates can apply restrictions to businesses, but the governor has prohibited county governments from requiring businesses to operate at less than 50 percent capacity.
The governor said he decided to lift the restrictions because Texas, the third most populous state, has already received a dose of the vaccine from nearly 5.7 million of its 29 million residents. By the end of March, Abbott said, all older Texans will be able to get vaccinated if they so choose.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Joe Biden said the increasing availability of vaccines could help contain the pandemic, but Americans still need to wear masks, wash their hands often and keep a social distance.
“We don’t need this kind of Neanderthal mindset at all right now: since everything is fine, we can take our masks off and forget about it. (Wearing masks) still matters,” stressed Biden, who answered questions from reporters before his meeting with congressmen from both parties to discuss the fight against cancer.
White House Coronavirus Advisor Andy Slavitt commented on the Texas governor’s decision in an interview with CNN, expressing hope that “the governor will change his mind. It’s just a little piece of fabric that we still need. I don’t think it [negatively] affects the state’s economy,” Slavitt said, referring to the governor’s decision to waive the requirement to wear masks.