By Andrea Shalal, Carl O’Donnell and Jarrett Renshaw
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday said decisions to end the required wearing of masks – such as those by governors of Texas and Mississippi – amounted to “Neanderthal thinking” given the rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked if he had a message to Texas and Mississippi, Biden told reporters: “I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference.”
Biden said the increasing availability of vaccinations was making a difference in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was critical to remain vigilant about wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distancing.
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it.’ It still matters,” Biden said before a brainstorming meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers to address cancer.
Biden said over 511,000 people had died of the disease in the United States, and it would take time until everyone eligible was vaccinated.
Cases of COVID-19 in the United States remain upwards of 50,000 daily even after the U.S. government has distributed more than 100 million vaccine doses and put shots into over 50 million arms, according to federal data.
“It is critical, critical, critical, critical, that they follow the science: Wash your hands, Hot water, Do it frequently. Wear a mask and stay socially distanced. I know you know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials would.”