President Joe Biden says the Republican governors of Texas and Mississippi are guilty of "Neanderthal thinking," in reference to their decisions to reopen their states from lockdowns and mask mandates imposed in an effort to combat COVID-19.
What are the details?
On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued separate announcements declaring to their respective citizens that statewide mask mandates and other coronavirus-related restrictions would be lifted within a matter of days.
Mississippi Today noted that "both governors attributed their decisions to declining COVID hospitalizations and the rollout of vaccines."
During a meeting at the White House, a reporter asked Biden for his reaction to the policy changes in "Texas and Mississippi."
The president responded:
"I think it's a big mistake. 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 in which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms...And the last thing — the last thing — we need is the Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, 'everything's fine, take off your mask, forget it.'"
Biden went on to say that as of the day before, 511,874 Americans had died of COVID-19, and that the nation would "lose thousands more" before full vaccination is achieved.
"It still matters," he reiterated, "It's critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science."
Pres. Biden on Texas and Mississippi reopening: "I think it's a terrible mistake...the last thing we need is neande… https://t.co/pOTUUvzosQ— ABC News Politics (@ABC News Politics)1614799631.0
In reaction to Biden's comment, Reeves tweeted, "President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is "neanderthal thinking." Mississippians don't need handlers.
He added, "As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them."
President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is “neanderthal thinking.” Missi… https://t.co/DPtS6Y6gYP— Tate Reeves (@Tate Reeves)1614802046.0
Biden is not the only person criticizing Abbott and Reeves. Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center in Philadelphia, told CNN Wednesday, "It's very frustrating, actually, when you have the people, say, from Texas or Mississippi saying, 'OK, let's open up,' because we're still in the midst of this pandemic."
"There's 60,000 cases a day and 2,000 deaths a day," Offit continued. "It's obviously still the pandemic. And if we can just hang on for a few months and just — and mask and social distance until we get everybody vaccinated that needs to be vaccinated...we can stop this pandemic."