In less than a week, the State of Texas will stop requiring masks and businesses can operate without any restrictions, going against the advice of health experts.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “Now is not the time to release all restrictions. Every individual is empowered to do the right thing here regardless of what the states decide.”
The rule changes frustrating some local leaders like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. He said, “It’s going to lead to a lot of chaos, confusion, and conflict.”
And healthcare workers in Texas are fearful of another dangerous surge.
Associate Medical Director of Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center Dr. Richina Bicette said, “To say that I’m petrified didn’t really even explain the gravity and depth of my feelings.”
From the Oval Office, President Joe Biden called it a “big mistake” for states like Texas to lift restrictions. He said, “The last thing we need is this Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine. Take off your mask? Forget it. It still matters.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office responded to Biden’s criticism, writing in a statement: “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.”
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is also pushing back just hours before the state’s mask mandate and business capacity limits expired last night. “Given how long ago Mr. Biden was elected to the U.S. Congress, he certainly should know how Neanderthals think. Missippians can make their own decisions. They can assess their risk.”
But according to Dr. Anthony Fauci: “From a public health standpoint it’s ill-advised. You’re only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines.”
And health experts say it’s key to wait for more people to get vaccinated and have a lower number of new coronavirus cases before removing pandemic restrictions, a reality seemingly in reach as the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine continues to arrive across the country.
Dr. Celine Gounder is a CNN medical analyst and founding member of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. She said, “I would plead with people to give it another month or two. Let us get as many people vaccinated and control this new variant before we start to relax on mask-wearing and other measures.”
The CDC is expected to release guidance soon, outlining safe activities for those who are fully vaccinated.
The agency will continue to ask people to limit small gatherings inside their homes with other fully-vaccinated individuals as well as wearing masks and maintaining distance in public.
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