President Joe Biden is well into a science-versus-politics clash with Southern Republican governors. It could define the course of the race to vaccinate enough Americans before variants spread across the US.
On March 2, Biden asked the citizens to stay indoors for a while longer as he announced all US adults would have access to vaccines by the end of May. He used the wartime powers under the Defense Production Act to move ahead with this step. He unveiled a plan for pharmaceutical giant Merck to make a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.
President Biden said, “There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now to ensure victory is inevitable; we can’t assume that. We must remain vigilant, act fast and aggressively and look out for one another.” However, the governors of Mississippi and Texas disobeyed the federal government’s warnings against lifting restrictions and opening up economies too fast, while new infections rise and fears grow over a spike in the coming weeks.
But, the opening of economies may be a paradoxical effect of President Biden’s success as the country grows more confident about the availability of vaccines, which have been rolling out quickly since he took office. That said, experts have been warning that opening up too quickly may serve as the catalyst the new COVID-19 variants need to thrive. These variants are not just more infectious but can also render the vaccines less effective. Therefore, Texas and Mississippi are risking all Americans’ lives.
While Biden was warning the citizens against letting their guard down, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, was doing just the opposite—announcing that due to a severely damaged economy and reduction in infections, he was lifting a mask mandate and all restrictions on business from the upcoming week.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, also a Republican, announced an end to all county mask mandates and said businesses could start functioning at full capacity from March 3. While some Democrat governors are also easing restrictions, they’re not acting as though the virus has completely gone away.