March 5, 2021
“I think it’s a big mistake. I hope everyone has realized right now these masks make a difference,” Biden said of the decision to lift mask mandates and other COVID mitigation measures. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms.”
According to a report by Politico, the president’s remark came after both Texas and Mississippi issued executive orders on Tuesday—flying in the face of health officials who have urged continued COVID restrictions. Biden has signed an executive order requiring mask-wearing on federal property but has little authority to overrule governors and other state and local officials.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) laid into Biden after his remarks on Wednesday. “President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is ‘neanderthal thinking.’ Mississippians don’t need handlers,” Reeves wrote in a tweet. “As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”
Later in the evening, the governor criticized Biden as being out of touch with people who live outside the Beltway.
“Today I feel the same way as I did the day that Hillary Clinton called all of us in Middle America ‘deplorables,’” he said on Fox News, referencing a comment the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee had made about supporters of Donald Trump. “When President Biden said that we were all Neanderthals, it struck me as someone who needs to get outside of Washington, D.C., and actually travel to Middle America.”
In a statement to Politico, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said Abbott was “clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn’t ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices to continue containing COVID.”
“The fact is, Texas now has the tools and knowledge to combat COVID while also allowing Texans and small businesses to make their own decisions,” Eze said. “It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations, and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed. We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans.”
On Wednesday evening, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top health adviser and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called these actions “ill advised.“ Although coronavirus numbers have declined since January highs, they have seemingly plateaued at levels that have concerned health officials.
“It‘s just inexplicable why you would want to pull back now,“ Fauci said on CNN. “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 55,000 to 75,000 infections per day in the United States. That‘s a very, very high baseline.“
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki earlier on Wednesday called on Americans to continue wearing masks and practice other pandemic mitigation measures even as governors in some states lift COVID restrictions, Politico notes.
“This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic,” Psaki said. “People are starting to feel a little bit better in some cases. You go to the grocery store and there’s Clorox wipes available. A year into this, that feels better, but there’s still more that needs to be done. We need to remain vigilant.”
“We’re not asking people just to listen to the president,” she also said. “Of course, we recommend that, but we ask 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.”
Research contact: @politico