Reinstate coronavirus mask mandates, Biden urges governors

US President Joe Biden listens to the US National Anthem during the virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service hosted by the Washington National Cathedral, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021. (Photo

President Biden called on governors and local leaders to reinstate coronavirus-related mask mandates during a White House briefing Monday, before announcing several other vaccine-related directives. 

"I’m reiterating my call for every governor, mayor and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate," Biden said. "Please, this is not politics, reinstate the mandate if you let it down."

The call follows actions taken by several states to lift mask requirements earlier this month and ease business restrictions, such as Texas and Mississippi, which drew sharp criticism amid early-stage vaccine rollouts and the spread of highly transmissible coronavirus variants.

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However, just over two weeks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted coronavirus mandates allowing businesses to operate at 100% capacity and made masks optional, the red state is still reporting decreases in cases and hospitalizations.

The governor championed his state’s success in a Friday night tweet saying, "Today Texas recorded the lowest 7-day COVID positivity rate since that data began being calculated: 5.43%."

During Monday’s briefing, Biden said businesses should require masks, too. When prompted by a journalist, the president agreed that some states should pause reopening efforts. 

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"The failure to take this virus seriously [is] precisely what got us into this mess in the first place, risk more cases, more deaths," he said. "As I do my part to accelerate the vaccine distribution and vaccinations, I need the American people to do their part as well."

The president called on the American people to "mask up," adding that it’s a "patriotic duty," and "the only way we ever get back to normal."

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