Biden says states should reinstate mask mandates and wait to reopen businesses as Covid cases rise
President Joe Biden speaks about Covid-19 reactions and vaccinations in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington DC on March 29, 2021.
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden on Monday called on governors and local leaders dropping full masked mandates in order to reinstate their orders. Some states should wait to reopen their economies while condemning “reckless behavior” that is likely to cause further infections.
“Our work is far from over. The war against Covid-19 is far from won,” Biden said at a press conference in which he announced a number of plans to significantly expand access to vaccines in the coming weeks. “This is dead serious.”
The President said he supported Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said earlier Monday that the US is facing “impending doom” as daily Covid-19 cases rise again. Biden also said he believes some states should pause their reopening plans in light of the recent surge in cases.
Walensky said earlier in the day during a press conference that many states are reopening their economies even though virus transmission levels remain too high. Walensky said she would ask governors on Tuesday “not to open too quickly”.
“I’m going to pause here, I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to think about the reoccurring feeling I have before the impending doom,” Walensky told reporters. “We can look forward to so much, so much promise and potential where we are and so much reason to hope, but right now I’m scared.”
According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the US saw an average of 63,239 new Covid-19 cases per day over the past week, up 16% from the previous week. In 30 states and the District of Columbia, daily cases are increasing by at least 5%.
While hospital stays and coronavirus deaths tend to lag behind infection, the daily death toll has hit a plateau. The U.S. reports a weekly average of 970 coronavirus deaths per day, a 3% decrease from the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins.
“We’re giving up hard-fought, hard-won wins,” said Biden. “And as much as we do in America, it’s time to do more.”
Urging states and corporations to maintain or reintroduce widespread mask mandates, the president said failure to take the virus seriously “is exactly what got us into this chaos in the first place” and could lead to more infections and deaths .
Senior public health officials have urged states to proceed with caution for weeks, warning that highly transmittable virus variants – particularly B.1.1.7, which were first identified in the UK – threaten to jeopardize the country’s progress after the infections are almost have receded for three months.
Despite these requests, a handful of governors have decided to lift capacity restrictions on businesses like restaurants and gyms. Some states, like Texas and Mississippi, have dropped requirements for statewide masks, while others, like Alabama, announced it in early April.
“We’re making progress on vaccinations, but cases are rising and the virus is still spreading in too many places,” Biden said.
He announced that 90% of adults in the US will be eligible for Covid-19 shots by April 19 and can get it within five miles of their home under the government’s expanded vaccination schedule.