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the coronavirus crisis

Biden: Texas, Mississippi governors are showing 'Neanderthal thinking' by lifting COVID-19 restrictions

President Biden thinks it's "a mistake" that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) are lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses in their states to operate at full capacity, and chalked their decision up to "Neanderthal thinking."

"Look, I hope everybody's realized by now, these masks make a difference," Biden said Wednesday. "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 country needs, Biden added, is "Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask, forget it. It still matters."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts have stressed that it is too soon to end mask mandates and fully open businesses, and this could lead to a surge in new cases, especially as variants that are more contagious are spreading. It is "critical" for people to "follow the science," Biden said, and wash their hands, wear a mask, and stay socially distanced.

In a statement to CNN, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said the governor was "clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn't ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices to continuing containing COVID. It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations, and the safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed."

As of Wednesday, only 6.8 percent of Texas' population has been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest numbers in the country. The state's COVID-19 data is also not totally accurate, KHOU reports, as the winter storm that slammed Texas last month shut down testing centers, meaning a drop in the number of confirmed cases could be misleading. More than 2.3 million Texans have tested positive for the coronavirus, with more than 43,000 dying.