Dr. Fauci Urges Texans, Mississippians to Wear Masks As Mandates Lifted

Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged residents of Texas and Mississippi to continue following federal guidelines on mask-wearing after the two states announced their mask mandates would be lifted.

On March 2, Texas governor Greg Abbott said that from March 10 face masks would be "no longer needed" in the state due to the vaccine rollout, and said businesses would be able to open at 100 percent capacity. The executive order states masks are "strongly encouraged" but not required.

On the same day, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves said mask mandates in his state would also be lifted starting March 3, asserting that all executive orders relating to COVID "have to end at the earliest possible moment."

Speaking to MSNBC on Thursday, Fauci hit out at the governors' decisions to pull back the public health measures in their states and advised residents to continue wearing masks.

Asked what advice he would give to the states' residents, Fauci said: "My strong advice to them would be to continue to implement the public health measures. Now is not the time to pull back.

"The good news is that we have vaccines coming online, you saw the curve of the infections per day coming down, but over the last seven days or so we've reached a bit of a plateau where the deflection of the curve isn't going straight down the way it was.

"That's a bad sign, we've seen that before. We've seen that last summer when we were trying to so-called 'open up the economy and open up the country,' and then we had that really big surge. We were going in the right direction. Now's the time to keep the foot on the accelerator and not pull off because the thing that we don't want is yet again another surge.

"So I would advise the people of Texas and Mississippi to just abide by the public health measures that we talk about all the time: Uniform wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding congregate settings, particularly indoors, washing your hands frequently, we just have to keep doing that because we know it works."

Fauci is not the only federal official to have chided state decisions to withdraw public health measures at this stage of pandemic.

Speaking to the media on March 3, President Joe Biden dismissed the decisions as "neanderthal thinking." He said it was "critical" that Americans continue to wear masks, socially distance, and wash their hands.

"I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it," he said.

Mississippi's Reeves hit back at Biden on Twitter, writing: "Mississippians don't need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them."

Individual businesses may still require the wearing of face masks even in states where the law does not.

In a statement explaining the lifting of the mask mandate in Texas, governor Abbott's office said nearly 5.7 million vaccine shots had been administered to Texans as of March 2. The state is estimated to have a population of nearly 30 million.

Dr Anthony Fauci speaking
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on November 19, 2020. He has warned against mask mandates being lifted. Tasos Katopodis/Getty