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Texas to lift mask mandate for public schools after reporting zero COVID deaths for first time in over a year

Greg Abbott
Texas governor Greg Abbott speaks during an interview on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on July 14, 2015. |

Two months after President Joe Biden derided state officials like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as exhibiting “Neanderthal thinking” for lifting statewide mask mandates, the state celebrated zero covid deaths for the first time in over a year on Sunday. 

Abbott signed an executive order Tuesday following the health update that bans city and county governments and public school districts from imposing mandatory mask mandates, starting June 5, and makes public officials subject to a $1,000 fine if they impose such mandates. 

“The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities," Abbott said in a statement. "Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities," he continued. "We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans' liberty to choose whether or not they mask up."

On Sunday, Abbott tweeted that Texas had achieved zero COVID-19-related deaths for the first time since the data was first tracked in March 2020. The state has also seen the fewest number of infection cases in over 13 months, the lowest seven-day positivity rate, and the lowest number of COVID-related hospitalizations in 11 months.

“Thanks, Texans!” the governor tweeted in response to the state’s most promising COVID-19 numbers in over a year. 

Texas has a population of nearly 30 million people and had close to 50,000 virus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Texas Health and Human Services

The state is experiencing a steep decline in both new COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

On Thursday morning, however, the state reported 58 deaths related to COVID-19 and 1,461 new infections. But the numbers continue to show a significant drop from peak infections on Jan. 9 that tallied at more than 3,800. 

Over 41% of Texans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and over 32% of the population was fully vaccinated as of May 19, USA Facts reported.

When Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, both Republicans, ended statewide mask mandates and encouraged business to open fully in early March, Biden accused them of “Neanderthal thinking” to believe that "in the meantime, everything is fine, take off your masks," CBS News reported. 

"I think it's a big mistake," the president told reporters regarding the lifting of the mask mandates. "Look, I hope everybody's realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way with which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms. We've been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden’s comments, saying the president wasn't comparing red-state governors to Neanderthals but meant to compare their actions to “the behavior of a Neanderthal, just to be very clear. The behavior of.” 

Psaki said Biden's remarks were a “reflection of [his] frustration and exasperation,” Fox News reported. 

Abbott pushed back against Biden’s comments at the time, asserting that Texans don't need government mandates to know best practices. 

Reeves also pushed back in a post on Twitter: “President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is ‘neanderthal thinking.’ Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them,” he added in the post back in March. 

Former Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, likened Abbott’s lifting of the mask mandate to a “death warrant” for the Lone Star State. 

“A death warrant for Texans,” O’Rourke tweeted on March 2. “Add them to the 44,000+ killed as he failed to confront the pandemic & botched the vaccine rollout. And those who froze to death because he cares more about energy companies’ profits than keeping Texans alive. Abbott is killing the people of Texas.” 

Governor of California Gavin Newsom also tweeted on March 2 that Abbott’s lifting of the mask mandate was “absolutely reckless.”

CNN and other corporate media outlets slammed Abbott’s decision to end the mask mandate as "appalling" and a “head-scratching, anti-science decision.”

The Texas Rangers also announced that the franchise will no longer require fans to wear masks inside its new ballpark following changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. 

The CDC reports that as of Tuesday, over 60% of American adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 125 million Americans are fully vaccinated, which is over 37% of the population. 

Last week it released new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated people to resume pre-pandemic activities without wearing a mask or social distancing while adhering to federal, state and local guidance.

Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: emily.wood@christianpost.com

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