President Joe Biden has responded to Texas and Mississippi’s removal of mask mandates and opening up businesses, calling it a “big mistake,” and referring to the moves as “Neanderthal thinking.”
“I think it’s a big mistake,” said Biden in an interview on Wednesday. “Look, I hope everybody’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 in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. 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 to get a shot.”
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the mean time everything’s fine, take off your mask,” Biden added. “Forget it. It still matters… And it’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently. Wear a mask and stay socially distant. And I know you all know that, I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”
His remarks were seized upon by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who mocked Biden as the “Uniter-in-chief,” with a GIF of a neanderthal.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 3, 2021
It’s worth noting that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did not instruct people to no longer wear their masks, saying instead that “removing state mandates does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for your family members and caring for your friends and caring for others in your community.”
“Personal vigilance to follow the safe standards is still needed to contain COVID,” Abbott said. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed. To stay safe, Texans should continue following medical advice on preventing COVID just as they do on other medical issues.”
“Now, listen, I know that some local officials are concerned that opening the state 100% could lead to a worsening of COVID in their communities,” Abbott added. “And my executive order addresses that concern. If COVID hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas rise above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, then a county judge in that region may use COVID mitigation strategies in their county. However, under no circumstance can a county judge put anybody in jail for not following COVID orders, and no penalties can be imposed for failing to wear a face mask.”
“Today’s announcement does not abandon the safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year,” Abbott said. “Instead, as a reminder that each person has their own role to play in their own personal safety as well as in the safety of others. It’s a reminder that individuals’ safety is managed every day as a matter of personal responsibility rather than by government mandate. Individual responsibility is a corollary to individual freedom. We can have both.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves made similar remarks, stating that the mask mandate was lifted because no county in the state now meets the original criteria for a mask mandate. He added that people and businesses can still take extra precautions to protect themselves however they feel is necessary, and urged them to heed the advice of medical experts.