Dr Anthony Fauci says Texas and Mississippi residents should still abide by public health measures, including wearing masks, even after their Republican governors dropped all COVID-19 restrictions to fully reopen their states
Dr Anthony Fauci says Texas and Mississippi residents should still abide by public health measures, including wearing masks, even after their Republican governors dropped all COVID-19 restrictions to fully reopen their states.
Texas Gov Greg Abbott and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced this week they would be scrapping all restrictions, which includes mask mandates, in a move that President Biden slammed as ‘neanderthal thinking’.
Fauci on Thursday urged the residents of the two southern states to still adhere to the federal guidelines regarding public health measures.
‘My strong advice to them would be to continue to implement the public health measures,’ he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
‘Now is not the time to pull back.
‘I would advise the people of Texas and Mississippi to just abide by the public health measures we talk about all the time.’
In a separate interview with CNN, Fauci said the decision to drop restrictions was ‘explicable’ given the number of daily infections are not yet low enough to pull back all public health measures.
‘I don’t know why they’re doing it… from a public health standpoint it’s ill-advised,’ he said.
‘We’ve been to this scene before months and months ago when we tried to open up the country and open up the economy. When certain states didn’t abide by the guidelines, we had rebounds that were very troublesome,’ Fauci said.
‘What we don’t need right now is another surge.
‘Pulling back on all the public health guidelines that we know work, it’s just inexplicable.’
TEXAS: Texas Tech students watch Texas Tech and TCU play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lubbock, Texas on Tuesday
TEXAS CASES: The seven-day rolling average of cases in Texas has dropped to about 7,600, down from more than 10,000 in mid-February. Texas has seen a slight uptick in cases over the last week
MISSISSIPPI CASES: The number of daily cases in Mississippi plunged in January and February. The state has seen a slight uptick in cases over the last week
Fauci, who is Biden’s COVID advisor, said daily infections are now plateauing after a steep drop off at the beginning of the year.
Cases in the US have plunged more than 70 percent over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day.
The current nationwide average COVID numbers are at 64,000 cases per day. Fauci said that baseline average isn’t low enough yet to consider fully reopening.
‘I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you’re only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines – particularly when we’re dealing with anywhere from 55 to 70,000 infections per day in the United States. That is a very high baseline,’ he said.
Fauci’s comments came just hours after President Biden blasted the ‘neanderthal’ decision by the Republican governors of those two states for deciding to fully reopen.
‘I think it’s a big mistake,’ Biden said on Wednesday in the Oval Office. ‘The last thing we need is neanderthal thinking.’
The Republican governors promptly hit back saying his ‘insults’ wouldn’t stop them from ‘leaning towards freedom’.
‘President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is ‘neanderthal thinking’. Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,’ Reeves said.
Meanwhile, Abbott said that Texas has seen its lowest COVID-19 hospitalizations in months and had set daily records for vaccine doses administered.
‘We are able to contain COVID and safely allow Texas to open 100%,’ Abbott said.
‘Today… Texas has the lowest COVID hospitalizations since October 24th. The positivity rate is the lowest since October 14th – and has steadily declined for 2 straight months. We gave a daily record of vaccinations: 229,490. In the last week we gave 1,220,577 vaccine shots.’
President Joe Biden on Tuesday blasted the governors of Texas and Mississippi for reopening their states before their populations are vaccinated against COVID despite the drop in hospitalizations from the virus
Biden’s stance comes a day after Texas Gov Greg Abbott (left) and Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (right) both announced on Tuesday that their states would end mask mandates and reopen businesses without capacity limitations
Abbott went a step further in claiming that it is Biden who is putting Texans at risk of COVID-19.
‘The Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities,’ he said. ‘The Biden Admin. must IMMEDIATELY end this callous act that exposes Texans & Americans to COVID.’
CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky later echoed Biden and Fauci’s concern, saying Texas and Mississippi’s decision to defy federal guidelines and drop mask requirements were premature.
‘Now is not the time to release all restrictions,’ she said. ‘The next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes. I would still encourage individuals to wear a mask, to socially distance.’
Walensky cautioned that recent steep declines in deaths and cases showed signs of stalling, and warned that the hyper-transmissible mutant variant ‘looms ready to hijack our successes to date.’
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.
Most of the country has lived under mask mandates during the pandemic, with at least 37 states requiring face coverings to some degree. Those orders, however, are increasingly falling by the wayside: North Dakota, Montana and Iowa have also lifted mask orders in recent weeks.
Among the other states gradually reopening are Michigan and Louisiana with the easing of restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses. Massachusetts has lifted all restaurant capacity limits, South Carolina erased limits on gatherings and North Carolina allowed people back inside bars for the first time.
Chicago and Las Vegas’s public schools also welcomed back students this week and California has now reached an agreement that aims to get most children back in classrooms by the end of March.