Fauci slams Texas and Mississippi’s ‘inexplicable’ decisions to risk another ‘surge’ in COVID-19 cases by lifting mask mandates

Abbott Fauci
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Tom Pennington/Getty Image, Graeme Jennings/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical advisor, criticized states lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Texas and Mississippi announced Tuesday that they would lift mask mandates.
  • “What we don’t need right now is another surge,” Fauci said, calling the decisions “inexplicable.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease expert in the US, has spoken out against the reopening of states including Texas and Mississippi, calling their decisions to lift mask mandates “inexplicable.”

Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Tuesday that Texas would lift its statewide mask mandate next week, making it the largest state to do so. The state would reopen “100%,” he said. That same day, Gov. Tate Reeves said county-specific mask mandates in Mississippi would be lifted, alongside many other COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state.

Other states including Michigan, Massachusetts, and Louisiana lifted some restrictions in February, including mask mandates and capacity limits for venues such as restaurants. Public-health experts and some government officials have criticized the states’ decisions.

Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, said it was too early to lift restrictions.

“I don’t know why they’re doing it, but from a public-health standpoint it’s certainly ill-advised,” he told CNN on Wednesday.

“Just pulling back on all of the public-health guidelines that we know work – and if you take a look at the curve, we know it works – it’s just inexplicable why you would want to pull back now.”

Fauci noted that the number of daily new coronavirus cases in the US had plateaued over the past week at a still-high rate of 55,000 to 70,000.

States lifting coronavirus safety measures in the past have caused “troublesome” rebounds, he said. “What we don’t need right now is another surge,” he said, adding: “I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you’re only going to set yourself back if you just push aside the public-health guidelines.”

When the country gets its coronavirus case rate low enough, lifting measures will still cause “little blips,” he said, but they would be manageable.

Biden on Wednesday called Texas and Mississippi’s decisions “a big mistake,” and a result of “Neanderthal thinking.”

It’s “critical, critical, critical that they follow the science: Wash your hands – hot water, do it frequently – wear a mask, and stay socially distanced,” he said Wednesday. “I know you all know that – I wish to heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency-medicine physician in Texas with expertise in public health and epidemiology, told Insider’s Lauren Frias that Abbott’s decision to reopen the state “may have dire consequences.”

She said only 7% of Texans had been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, compared with the roughly 75% she said was required to achieve herd immunity.

The winter storms in February disrupted vaccine operations, as well as wider healthcare facilities, in Texas and nearby states.

“This hurt us in a way that COVID-19 never did, paralyzing many of our hospitals, shutting down labs, halting water and power to some of our hospitals, and preventing ambulance transfers,” Kathuria said.

Despite states rolling back COVID-19 restrictions, some companies, including Target, Macy’s, and Kroger, have said they will still require that staff members and customers wear masks.