Masks Off: Texas and Mississippi to Lift COVID-19 Restrictions and Mask Mandates, Fully Reopen by Mid-March

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Texas and Mississippi announced plans on Tuesday to remove mask mandates and allow businesses to fully reopen in a move that defies recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, NBC News reports. To curb the spread of coronavirus, the CDC recommends masks in public settings, at events and gatherings and anywhere social distancing is not possible. The CDC recently mandated masks on planes, buses, trains and other public transportation into, out of or within the U.S.

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Texas aims to have the state operating like normal by March 10, with businesses allowed to open at 100% capacity and masks no longer required in public places, businesses, or anywhere social distancing is not possible, according to NBC News. Mississippi put the plan to resume full operations into place effective Wednesday, March 3, Fox Business reports.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that the pandemic sidelined too many Texans from employment opportunities, declaring that the state is in a “completely different position” than it was in March last year, when states began issuing mask mandates and business closures. He announced in a press conference that Texas has been averaging 1 million vaccine dose administrations per week and set a one-day record for vaccinations Tuesday, NBC News reports.

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Currently, 35 states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have mask mandates, according to the AARP website. Montana, Iowa and North Dakota recently lifted their mask mandates. According to New York Times statistics on new coronavirus cases, numbers continue dropping in both Montana and Iowa, although the states’ low population densities of just 6.86 and 55 people per square mile, respectively, according to World Population Review, could make the absence of masks less of a risk in these states than in places like Texas.

Texas reported 7,240 new cases on March 2 and at least 275 new deaths, according to New York Times statistics. With a population of 29 million, Texas stands as the largest state to roll back mask mandates and other initiatives designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, NBC News reports.

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Mississippi reported just 43 new deaths from COVID-19 and 301 new cases yesterday, representing a 29% drop in cases the past two weeks, The New York Times reports.

Both the CDC and President Joe Biden strongly caution against the removal of mask mandates and social distancing measures. “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,” said CDC director Rochelle Walensky, as reported by NBC News.

Likewise, President Biden urged American to “please keep washing your hands, stay socially distanced, wear masks,” NBC News reported.

Biden announced in a statement yesterday that the U.S. expects to have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May, partially as a result of pharmaceutical firm Merck assisting Johnson & Johnson with production of its new single-dose inoculation.

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