U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a bipartisan meeting on cancer legislation in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 3, 2021.

Alex Brandon | Pool | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Wednesday slammed states that rolled back Covid-19 restrictions on businesses and rescinded mask mandates for residents, calling the moves a “big mistake.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, both republicans, announced Tuesday they would allow businesses to reopen at 100% capacity and lift mask mandates. Biden’s remarks were in response to shouted questions from the press specifically about the two states.

“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms… 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.”

He added that it is “critical, critical, critical” that state officials “follow the science” and encourage Americans to continue to wear masks and follow all public health guidelines.

“I know you all know that,” Biden told reporters. “I wish the heck some of our elected officials would.”

In announcing their decisions, Reeves and Abbott both cited the declining number of new Covid-19 cases and the increasing availability of vaccines as reasons for ending the restrictions. But federal officials have been warning that the decline in new cases appears to be stalling out and that the emergence of new coronavirus variants could lead to a resurgence.

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Representatives for Abbott and Reeves did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.

On Monday, before the two governors made their announcements, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned state officials against lifting public health restrictions too quickly.

This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.



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