- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2021

President Biden on Wednesday slammed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift a statewide mask mandate as a “big mistake” and the result of “Neanderthal thinking.”

“Masks make a difference,” Mr. Biden said.

As the COVID-19 vaccines roll out, the president said, “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it. It still matters.”

Mr. Biden criticized the Republican governor’s decision to lift the mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions as the president met with members of Congress at the White House. They are discussing the fight against cancer and other diseases.

Mr. Abbott on Tuesday said it was time to open up Texas “100%” because workers are suffering and the state is armed with treatments, testing and know-how in fighting the coronavirus. He also pointed to the new vaccines.

Only a small portion of the state is vaccinated, however, and the move clashed with the Biden administration’s plea for states to maintain restrictions that slow the spread of the virus. U.S. health officials are worried that case counts have plateaued at dangerously high levels.

Officials also fear aggressive new variants could upend progress in the fight as three effective vaccines are given to Americans through the summer.

Mr. Biden said the vaccine campaign will take time so Americans need to keep their masks on, maintain physical distance and wash their hands as the U.S. death toll climbs near 520,000.

“I know you all know that I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it,” he told White House reporters.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said the president should mind his own business.

“President Biden has a lot of problems to take care of. He has got a crisis at the border that he calls a challenge and not a crisis, dismantling all of our immigration laws and projections that protect our border,” he said. “So, I don’t think he has a lot to say about preaching to my state about how we have handled this COVID-19 virus.”

Mr. Cornyn said Mr. Biden should dedicate more of his relief package to vaccine production to speed the rollout and pointed to spinoff effects of the societal restrictions that Mr. Abbott decided to ease.

“We need to think about the victims of domestic violence that have been cooped up with their abuser, the suicides that are taking place, the children that have fallen further and further behind,” the senator said. “This is not just a one-dimensional problem.”

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