After Texas and Mississippi lifted their longstanding face mask mandates, President Joe Biden fired back at their leadership on Wednesday, calling it "Neanderthal thinking."
"The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking in the meantime: 'Everything's fine, take off your masks,'" Biden told reporters at the White House. "It still matters."
"It's critical, critical, critical that they follow the science," he continued. "I know you all know that. I wish to heck some of our elected officials knew it."
Biden was asked at the end of his Oval Office appearance before reporters about Texas and Mississippi both lifting face mask mandates a day earlier and removing restrictions on indoor capacities at businesses.
"I think it's a big mistake," Biden said. "Look, I hope everyone's realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to change the nature of this disease because of the way we're able to get vaccines in people's arms."
Biden announced there will be enough vaccines in America by the end of May to inoculate anyone who wants to be vaccinated. The timetable was moved up from the end of summer, to July, and now to the end of spring, Biden said. There are now three vaccines approved for emergency use in America, produced by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
"This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the daily press briefing.
"There's still more work to be done. We need to remain vigilant."
The issue of mask wearing has been a divisive one for months, with some critics calling the use excessive. Particularly as some medical experts have advocated for wearing more than one mask at a time for added coronavirus protection, some have bristled at the notion.
Masks have been recommended by many medical experts, along with social distancing and hand washing, as ways to curb the spread of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. At issue now is whether the arrival and dissemination of effective vaccines signals that the time is right for a relaxation of some of these restrictions.
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