Biden had just finished making comments about developments in cancer research when he was asked about the end of mask mandates in Texas and Mississippi.
“Texas — I think it’s a big mistake. Look, 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 in which we are able to get vaccines in people’s arms.”
The president added, “The last thing, the last thing we need is neanderthal thinking in the meantime.”
The governor’s spokesman responded to Biden in a statement, emphasizing that Abbott “was clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn’t ended.”
“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,” the statement said.
“It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations, and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed. 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.”
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the American people should continue to heed the instructions of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic. People are starting to feel a little bit better in some cases,” Psaki opined. “You go to the grocery store and there’s Clorox wipes available. A year into this, that feels better, but there’s still more that needs to be done. We need to remain vigilant.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) reportedly responded to Biden’s comments by pointing out that Abbott is not preventing anyone from wearing a mask.
“I don’t think [Biden’s] got a lot to say about preaching to my state about how we’ve handled this COVID-19 virus[.] And the fact of the matter is if you want to wear a mask you can still wear a mask,” Cornyn said.
The White House joins a chorus of Texas Democrats who are distraught over Abbott’s announcement. Some called the decision a “death warrant,” while others alleged that the governor is responsible for killing people.
Update: This piece has been updated with a statement from the governor’s spokesman.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."