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Biden Says It's 'Big Mistake' For Texas To Lift Mask Mandate: 'Last Thing We Need Is Neanderthal Thinking'

(CBSDFW.COM) - President Joe Biden didn't mince words on Wednesday when he was asked about Texas rolling back on public health measures by lifting the statewide face mask mandate.

"I think it's a big mistake. I hope everybody's realized by now, these masks make a difference," Biden said. "We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way of which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms."

"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.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made the announcement on Tuesday that the face mask order will be lifted on Wednesday, March 10, along with allowing businesses of any kind to operate at 100%. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said his state will also lift its mask mandate.

The Texas governor cited lower COVID-19 hospitalization rates, increases in recoveries and continued vaccination efforts as reasons for choosing to lift his executive orders. The mask mandate has been in place since July 2020.

"Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed. Today's announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others," Abbott said.

On Thursday, Abbott said Texas set a new record of vaccines administered in a single day with over 229,000.

In response to the president's criticism, a spokesperson for Abbott's office said, in part: "The Governor was clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn't ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices to continue containing COVID. The fact is, Texas now has the tools and knowledge to combat COVID while also allowing Texans and small businesses to make their own decisions... We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans. The Governor's focus has been, and always will be, protecting the lives and livelihoods of Texans."

The hope is for the U.S. to have enough vaccinations available for every adult who wants to get one by the end of May, according to Biden. In the meantime, he's encouraging Americans to keep practicing health and safety guidelines against COVID-19.

"It's critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands... do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced," Biden said.

Many, like Fort Worth resident Joanna Perez, agree with the decision to lift the orders in Texas.

"It's been a year, I think that's enough," said Perez, a regular at Cat City Grill in Fort Worth. "People can make their own decisions."

Cat City Grill owner Martin Thompson is excited to finally be able to fill every table, but he isn't sure if the demand is there yet. And masks are another issue.

"We're put into a conundrum here in the restaurant industry as a business because a lot of people still want people to wear them, a lot of people don't want to wear them," he said.

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