Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases and President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, criticized Texas and Mississippi for deciding to lift mask mandates earlier this week, calling the decision “inexplicable” and “ill-advised.”
“It just is inexplicable,” Fauci said. “Why you would want to pull back? Now I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you're only going to set yourself back.”
In comments made to CNN Wednesday, Fauci pointed out that while the rate of COVID-19 spread fell for nearly two straight months, cases have since leveled off at what he called a “very, very high baseline.”
"I don't know why they're doing it, but it certainly from a public health standpoint is ill-advised,” Fauci said. “If you look at right now, the curves of the diminution of infections that are going down, it's reached the point where the last seven days it's plateaued."
Fauci added that the U.S. found itself in a similar position in early summer and early fall in 2020, with cases declining for several weeks. However, Fauci noted that some states lifted mask mandates and other social distancing measures early, leading to surges in case rates.
“What we don't need right now is another surge," Fauci said.
Fauci’s comments echo issue recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky called for individuals in Texas and Mississippi to continue to wear masks despite ordinances being lifted.
"We have been very clear that now is not the time to release full restrictions," Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 response team briefing Wednesday. “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."
Biden on Wednesday also criticized states who lifted mask mandates, calling it a “big mistake” as the nation nears the ability to vaccinate most adults.
"The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything is fine. Take off your mask. Forget it. It still matters," Biden said.