By Natalie Luna
After a year of living through the pandemic, there is more talk of reopening and loosening restrictions across the nation. Although the virus has killed over half a million people in the United States since last March, many have called for local and state governments to lift the Covid-19 precautions set in place. Texas and Mississippi governors, specifically, announced March 2 that they would be lifting their states’ mask mandates as well as calling off several of their Covid-19 health measures.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “It is now time to open Texas 100 percent” in his March 2 statewide announcement. Texas has become the largest state to lift the Covid-19 restrictions.
Shortly after, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves tweeted, “Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!”
Both governors have allowed businesses to open at 100 percent capacity with no mask requirements, since the COVID cases and hospitalization have been at their lowest in months.
These lifting of restrictions come shortly after CDC director Rocelle Walensky said, “Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”
There have been more than 43,000 Covid-19 deaths and more than 2.6 million confirmed cases in Texas. In Mississippi, there have been more than 6,600 Covid-19 deaths and close to 300,000 confirmed cases. Less than 15% of each population has been fully vaccinated.
This decision to reopen Texas and Mississippi economies came about as governors across the U.S. have been becoming more lenient with the Covid restrictions, even despite warnings from health experts that the pandemic is far from being over.
Shortly after Abbott announced the state will be lifting its mask mandate, President Joe Biden called the decision a “big mistake.”
“We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because the way in which we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms. The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking in the meantime,” President Biden said of the Texas governor’s decision.
Even Governor Gavin Newsom criticized Abbot’s no mask mandate. While Newsom did not specifically name Texas or Abbott, it was clear his rebuke was aimed at Abbott’s decision to lift a mask mandate and allow businesses to operate at full capacity by reacting to a tweet, “Absolutely reckless.”
Newsom also suggested that the Repulican’s decision could lead to the type of surge that led California to go on a second statewide lockdown that lasted nearly two months this winter. As California moves towards fewer cases, Newsom still has stressed the need for continued attentiveness.
“We still very much believe in the masking policies and we’re not touching them,” Newsom said, warning against the urge to “overly indulge in reverting back to the way things were.”
On Tuesday, Newsom also highlighted the state’s commitment to the equitable vaccine distribution to all those surrounding the communities. It is still in effect that he is sure of his commitment to gradually lift health guidelines safely in accordance with standards established by public health officials and continue to wear masks for the safety of the people.