The governors of Texas and Mississippi both announced on Tuesday they would be lifting their states' mask mandates and rolling back many of their Covid-19 health mandates, just one day after the CDC warned against complacency in the face of emerging coronavirus variants.
"It is now time to open Texas 100 percent," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday afternoon at Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock.
"Covid has not suddenly disappeared," he said, "but state mandates are no longer needed."
Shortly after Abbott's announcement, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that he would end Mississippi's statewide mask mandate, effective Wednesday of this week.
"Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed," Reeves tweeted. "It is time!"
In subsequent tweets, Reeves said that Mississippi was "rewarded" for keeping its businesses mostly open "with more jobs and economic recovery."
"Executive orders that interfered with peoples’ lives were the worst, but the only possible, intervention for much of the last year," Reeves said. "Now, we are putting our focus towards rapid vaccine distribution. We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do."
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky strongly cautioned against the very rollbacks that Abbott and Reeves were about to implement.
"I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19," Walensky said at the daily White House Covid-19 briefing.
President Joe Biden echoed those concerns Tuesday, even as he announced the U.S. will have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May.
"This fight is far from over," Biden said. "Though we celebrate the news ... I urge all Americans, please keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, wear masks."
Abbott said his new executive order would rescind "most" of his prior Covid-19 executive orders, and that all businesses would be allowed to open "100 percent," effective March 10.
The end of the mask mandate makes Texas, population 29 million, the largest state to end a rule aimed to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.