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Texas and Mississippi to lift mask mandates and roll back Covid restrictions

Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas would be back open "100 percent" by March 10, and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said his state's mask mandate would end Wednesday.

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.

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"Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed," Reeves tweeted. "It is time!"

On Monday, 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.

"Please hear me clearly," Walensky said. "At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained."

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.

In a speech championing Texas’ economic prowess, Abbott said that “too many Texans were sidelined from employment opportunities” while businesses operated at reduced capacity because of coronavirus restrictions.

Abbott said the Lone Star State is today in a "completely different position” than it was when Abbott first issued a coronavirus executive order in March 2020.

“We now have vaccines,” Abbott said, adding that Texas set a one-day record of vaccine administration on Tuesday and is now averaging 1 million vaccine dose administrations per week.

Abbott also claimed that the millions of Texans who caught and recovered from Covid mean that millions “have the proven ability to beat this disease."

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“Covid still exists,” Abbott said, "but it is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations, and from the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed.”

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."