Mississippi governor says his goal ‘has never been to get rid of the virus’ in defense of his decision to end COVID-19 mask mandate

Tate Reeves
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks on Covid-19 testing in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 28, 2020.

  • Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves defended his decision to end the state’s mask mandate. 
  • Reeves told CNN’s Jake Tapper that it was never his “objective” to eradicate the virus.
  • Public health experts have said it’s too soon to eliminate COVID-19 prevention measures.
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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, in an interview Sunday defended his decision to roll back the state’s mask requirement even as public health officials warn such actions are premature.

“The numbers don’t justify government intervention at the levels we are seeing in other states,” Reeves, who in the said he still encouraged residents to wear masks, said in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Unlike President Biden, who wants to insult Americans and insult Mississippians, I actually trust Mississippians to make good decisions,” Reeves added. 

Biden on Wednesday criticized leaders in Mississippi and Texas for ending mask mandates, calling the moves “neanderthal thinking.

“I think it’s a big mistake,” Biden told reporters last week. “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 with which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms.”

But Reeves said he viewed his decision as necessary to bolster the state economy and that he never intended to entirely eradicate the disease in his state. 

“Our objective in Mississippi has never been to get rid of the virus,” Reeves said. “Our approach has been not only to protect lives but to protect livelihoods.”

Over the past seven days, 12% of COVID-19 tests have returned a positive result compared to the 4.2% positivity rate nationally over the past week, according to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University. In total, there have been 297,321 cases of the disease in the state that have resulted in 6,805 reported deaths. 

Dr. Michael Osterholm, a Biden adviser and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research, warned in an interview Sunday the US may be in the “eye of the hurricane” in a period where new cases are declining from an all-time high earlier this year but before a highly contagious variant first found in the UK causes a potential new “surge” in cases. 

Several states that have rolled back mask mandates, including Texas, Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota, have announced plans to rescind mask mandates. Other states, including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, or Tennessee, never had a statewide mandate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since April 2020 has recommended the usage of masks to stem the spread of the pandemic and in February recommended double masking to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. But throughout the pandemic, mask mandates have remained at the forefront of the fierce debate between health experts and politicians.  

Masks are still recommended by experts, even amid the accelerated vaccine rollout across the US.

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GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn says being called a ‘Neanderthal’ is actually a good thing after Biden criticized states for lifting mask mandates

Marsha Blackburn
Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

  • GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn defended Neanderthals after Biden called some states’ decisions to lift mask mandates “Neanderthal thinking.”
  • “Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, they’re protectors of their family, they are resilient, they’re resourceful, they tend to their own,” Blackburn said.
  • Lawmakers and members of the public mocked Blackburn by pointing out that Neanderthals are extinct.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee defended Neanderthals after President Joe Biden criticized Texas and Mississippi for lifting their mask mandates and called the decision “Neanderthal thinking.”

“I hope everyone’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters Wednesday. “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters.”

In a Fox Business interview Thursday morning, Blackburn suggested it was actually a good thing to be called a Neanderthal.

“Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, they’re protectors of their family, they are resilient, they’re resourceful, they tend to their own,” the GOP senator said. “So, I think Joe Biden needs to rethink what he is saying.”

Shortly after she made the comment, fellow lawmakers and members of the public mocked Blackburn and pointed out that her use of the present tense was incorrect given that Neanderthals are extinct.

The president on Wednesday emphasized that it was “critical” for officials to “follow the science.”

“Wash your hands – hot water, do it frequently – wear a mask, and stay socially distanced,” he told reporters. “I know you all know that. I wish to heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

States across the country have begun easing their COVID-19 restrictions as the country continues to see a drop in new cases and hospitalizations. Biden also announced earlier this week that Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with rival pharmaceutical giant Merck to expand the production of J&J’s vaccine.

As a result of the partnership, Biden said, the US is on track to have enough vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May.

Biden added that he hoped the country would be back to normal “by this time next year.” But he stressed that Americans need to “continue to be smart” about following COVID-19 guidelines.

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Biden condemns Texas and Mississippi for ending mask mandates, calling it ‘a big mistake’ and ‘Neanderthal thinking’

biden face mask
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds up a face mask at The Queen theater on October 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

  • President Biden said Texas and Mississippi lifting their mask mandates was “a big mistake” and a result of “Neanderthal thinking.” 
  • Federal health officials are urging Americans to continue wearing masks in public, social distancing, and washing their hands. 
  • The Republican governors of Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota all ended their states’ mask mandates earlier this year.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday called recent decisions in Texas and Mississippi to defy federal public health guidance and lift their face mask mandates “a big mistake” and a result of “Neanderthal thinking.” 

On Tuesday, Texas became the largest state to end its state-wide mask mandate and Mississippi lifted its county-specific mask mandates after ending its state order in September. 

“I hope everyone’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine, take off your mask — forget it. It still matters.” 

He added that it’s “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 to heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

Several states have loosened their COVID-19 mitigation policies in recent weeks and months. The Republican governors of Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota all ended their states’ mask mandates earlier this year. While North Carolina, Michigan, Louisiana, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Chicago, and San Francisco have begun easing restrictions on indoor dining and other activities, they’ve kept their state-wide mask orders in place. 

Federal health officials are urging Americans to continue wearing masks in public, social distancing, and washing their hands. 

“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this week. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

 

 

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Texas isn’t the only state lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Here’s how 11 other states and cities are easing lockdowns, despite the CDC insisting that ‘now is not the time.’

greg abbot coronavirus vaccine texas
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

  • Texas on Tuesday became the largest US state to ease its lockdown restrictions.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that would end all COVID-19 restrictions, including a mask mandate, on March 10.
  • Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan also made announcements to ease restrictions.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Texas on Tuesday became the largest state in the US to lift its mask mandate.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order set to end all COVID-19 restrictions on March 10. He tweeted that “Texas is OPEN 100%,” and said “people and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Monday of a potential resurgence of coronavirus infections in the US, despite a dip in numbers of new cases nationally.

“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, said. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Texas isn’t the only place in the US easing restrictions. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Michigan, as well as Chicago and San Francisco, all made announcements to ease restrictions on Tuesday, though the details varied.

Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, and Mississippi have already waived mask-wearing restrictions, and Michigan has eased other lockdown restrictions. Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina have not enforced state-wide mask mandates throughout the pandemic.

In Florida and South Dakota, schools and businesses have been widely open for months.

More than 35 US states have kept their mask-wearing rules in place, albeit with variable enforcement.

Here is how some other states, as well as some cities, are easing their restrictions.

Chicago

Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot arrives at a University of Chicago initiative event for the science in Chicago, Illinois, on July 23, 2020.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Chicago announced Tuesday that hospitality, sports, and performance venues could increase to 50% capacity, up from 40%. The maximum number of people is 50, or 20 people for indoor fitness classes. Curfews were also extended. The changes were effective as of Tuesday.

San Francisco

Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said Tuesday that indoor dining, indoor fitness, museums, and movie theaters would be allowed to reopen Wednesday at limited capacity.

Louisiana

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said on Tuesday that starting Wednesday, businesses could operate at 75% capacity, except in indoor event halls, which were limited to 50% capacity at a maximum of 250 people.

Live music could also resume indoors. He said that the state’s mask mandate would continue, and the new rules would remain in place for at least 28 days, until March 31.

Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan announced easing of restrictions on Tuesday, set to take effect on Friday.

Restaurants would be able to operate at 50% capacity – increased from 25% – and retail, entertainment, and sports facilities could open at increased capacity, she said. People can also visit a nursing home after a negative COVID-19 test.

Michigan has a state-wide mask-mandate, and Whitmer said mask-wearing, social distancing, and washing hands was “more important than ever.”

Mississippi

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.

Mississippi rescinded a state-wide mask order in September, but Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi said Tuesday that county-specific mandates would be lifted too. He also said that the only COVID-19 restrictions that would remain were a 50% cap on the number of people in indoor arenas, and that certain restrictions would remain in schools.

North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina eased restrictions starting February 26, lifting a curfew and allowing indoor venues to operate at limited capacity. There is still a mask mandate.

Arkansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson on February 26 lifted capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms, and large venues. He said that the state’s mask mandate would remain in place until March, provided the number of cases and hospitalizations were low.

Massachusetts

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said February 25 that restaurants could open at full capacity – albeit with social distancing and table size and time restrictions – starting Monday.

Other venues could open at 50% capacity, with no more than 500 people allowed inside. A state-wide mask mandate is still in place.

Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee lifted restrictions for five counties in the state on February 14, and allowed restaurants to open up at 25% capacity.

Montana

Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana terminated the state’s mask mandate February 12.

Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa lifted restrictions February 5. Iowans no longer have to wear face coverings in public. Businesses can have as many people as they want inside and don’t have to abide social-distance guidelines.

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