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29 Mar, 2021 23:30

Biden calls for states to halt reopenings as Covid-19 cases tick upward nationally, even as some mandate-free states see declines

Biden calls for states to halt reopenings as Covid-19 cases tick upward nationally, even as some mandate-free states see declines

President Joe Biden called on states to halt easing of Covid-19 rules and reinstate mask mandates in places where they've been lifted amid a nationwide rise in infections, saying, "it's the only way we ever get back to normal."

"People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing," Biden said on Monday in a White House press briefing. With the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases nationwide rising 16% in the past week, he added, "We're giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains, and as much as we're doing, America, it's time to do even more."

But Biden apparently didn't look specifically at states that have ended mask mandates and other restrictions versus those that haven't. Texas, for example, has seen a 48% drop in its average case rate since Governor Greg Abbott announced the repeal of Covid-19 restrictions in the state on March 2.

Mississippi, which followed close behind Texas, has posted a 57% decline in the past month. South Carolina and Arizona, which didn't have mask mandates and eased their Covid-19 rules earlier this month, also have seen positive trends. South Carolina's case rate has fallen 6.7% decline in the past week and 40% in the past month, while Arizona's is up 3.6% in the past week but down 60% in the past month.

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In contrast, two of the states that have imposed the most draconian lockdown measures, New York and New Jersey, have seen surges in new cases and once again have the highest per-capita Covid-19 infections in the nation. New Jersey's case rate is up 10% in the past week and 37% in the past month. New York's seven-day average jumped 60% in the past week.

In fact, New York alone accounts for 40% of the nationwide increase in Covid-19 cases in the past week. New York and New Jersey happen to be Democrat-run, as are the states with the 11 highest per-capita infection rates in the nation in the past week.

All of the states that have dropped mask mandates have Republican governors, but Biden insisted that his blaming of the nationwide increase in coronavirus infections on those with lax rules isn't political.

"I'm reiterating my call for every governor, mayor and local leader to maintain and reinstate their mask mandate," Biden said. "Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down. Businesses should require masks as well. Mask up, mask up.

It's a patriotic duty. It's the only way we ever get back to normal.

Biden also lambasted scenes of "reckless behavior" seen on television over the past few weeks, perhaps alluding to crowded beaches and bars as college students on spring break descended on Florida, which is run by a Republican governor. In fact, Florida's case rate has risen 10% in the past week.

The Sunshine State still compares favorably to the nationwide trend, posting a smaller case increase in the past week and a 12% decline from a month ago, compared with a 6.9% reduction nationally.

"We still are in a war with this deadly virus, and we're bolstering our defenses, but this war is far from won..," Biden said. "Until this country's vaccinated, each of us has to do our part. We have an obligation, a patriotic obligation."

Biden said his administration is racing to vaccinate Americans as the number of deaths from the virus remains near 1,000 a day. A record 33 million new vaccine doses will be distributed by the federal government this week, he said, and the number of pharmacies providing Covid-19 jabs will jump to 40,000 from 17,000 in the next three weeks.

At least 90% of US adults will be eligible for inoculation shots by April 19, and 90% will live within five miles of a vaccination site in the same timeframe, Biden said.

"We still need everyone to do their part," the president said.

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