“I think it’s a big mistake,” the president told reporters on Wednesday.
Despite the nation’s progress with vaccine distribution, including the president’s recent announcement that US supplies should support doses for every American by the end of May, “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it,” he said.
“As of yesterday, we had lost 511,874 Americans,” he said. “We’re going to lose thousands more ... Getting a shot in someone’s arm and getting the second shot, [that is] going to take time, 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 distanced. I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also told reporters on Wednesday that “this entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic”, adding that the administration hopes that the states will continue to follow guidance from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the president’s campaign to wear masks within the first 100 days of his administration.
“We’re asking people to listen to health experts, medical experts, the CDC, to [Dr Anthony Fauci], to others who are basing their recommendations on how to save people’s lives,” she said.
On Tuesday, Texas governor Greg Abbott and Mississippi governor Tate Reeves, both Republicans, announced that their states will drop mandates for their residents to wear masks to combat the transmission of Covid-19.
The states also will remove all other coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses, allowing businesses including restaurants to open at full capacity.
“The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” Governor Reeves said on Tuesday.
Texas has the third-highest coronavirus death toll after California and New York. More than 44,000 Texans have died from the disease.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Governor Abbott announced that he was issuing an executive order to rescind his previous orders that set the restrictions.
“Effective next Wednesday, all business of any type, are allowed to open 100 per cent,” he said.
Louisiana, which sits between those states on the Gulf Coast, has not dropped restrictions.
Nationwide, coronavirus infections, deaths and hospitalisations have dropped from the peak of a deadly winter surge, but health officials have expressed concern that the decline has plateaued and have specifically warned against relaxing restrictions.