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CDC slams Texas for lifting COVID mask order amid vaccine optimism

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Both White House officials and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday slammed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s move to lift the state’s mask mandate — imploring Americans to ignore science-snubbing elected officials as highly-contagious new COVID-19 variants threaten the fight against the virus.

“This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference when asked about Texas and other states that have scrapped mask mandates. “We need to remain vigilant.”

She added, “The president’s position on mask-wearing is based on the recommendations of health and medical experts. … He is  hopeful that people in these states will continue to follow the guidelines that have been laid out.”

Her comments came a day after Texas lifted its mask order amid approval of Johnson and Johnson’s single-dose vaccine —  and the announcement of an amped-up federal plan to get every adult in the US vaccinated by the end of May.

But despite more doses and vaccine success on the horizon, the CDC on Wednesday also criticized Texas for scrapping the mask order — insisting caution is needed as the US reaches a “critical nexus” in the pandemic.

An American flag face covering is displayed for sale amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the city on November 18, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.
An American flag face covering is displayed for sale amid a surge of coronavirus cases in El Paso, Texas, on Nov. 18, 2020.
Getty Images

“We have been very clear that now is not the time to release full restrictions,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky at a White House briefing in reference to Texas.

“Every individual is empowered to do the right thing here, regardless of what the states decide — for personal health, for public health, for the loved ones in their communities.”

She added, “I would still encourage individuals to wear a mask.”

Walensky urged people not to let pandemic “fatigue” cloud their judgment when it comes to masking up.

“Today we are at a critical nexus in the pandemic,” she said. The [UK variant] looms ready to hijack our successes to date… all the while we are just on the verge of capitalizing on historic scientific success,” she said.

“Fatigue is winning and the exact measures we have taken to stop the pandemic are now too often being flagrantly ignored.”

“How this plays over the next three months is up to us,” she said, urging Americans to continue to, “wear a well-fitting mask, avoid travel in crowds, and practice social distancing.”

On Tuesday, while announcing that Texas would scrap its mask order, Gov. Abbott said, “It’s time to reopen Texas 100 percent.”

North Dakota, Montana and Iowa have also lifted mask mandates in recent weeks.

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