When Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 the state was ditching its mask mandate and lifting COVID-19 restrictions, some of the state’s top doctors warned his decision could result in a new surge of COVID-19 infections.
“I think the governor’s decision was premature and I think it will cause another surge,” James McDeavitt, vice president and clinical affairs dean of the Baylor College of Medicine, told NBC News. Houston Methodist president Marc Boom said he encouraged people to “continue wearing their masks” even after the mandate was lifted.
President Joe Biden and White House press secretary Jen Psaki also bashed state governors who chose to end their mask mandates earlier in March, accusing them of “Neanderthal thinking” and ignoring science. Biden’s chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci warned “now is not the time to pull back” as state mask mandates were lifted. (RELATED: The CDC Says COVID-19 Cases Are Rising, But That Isn’t The Whole Story)
It has been three weeks since Abbott rescinded the mask mandate and relaxed restrictions, but COVID-19 infections in Texas are declining. The state confirmed 7,747 new cases the day of Abbott’s announcement March 2, far higher than the 3,234 cases confirmed Thursday, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Three weeks ago, Texas ended their lockdown. They said that it was a mistake. They said that Texas were lifting the restrictions too soon. But so far, the Covid cases in Texas have continued to fall. pic.twitter.com/1L4rqzWev3
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) March 22, 2021
CDC data shows the seven-day moving average for confirmed new cases is similarly shrinking, from 7,045 cases in the week ending March 2 to 3,436 in the week ending Thursday.
State-level data updated Thursday also showed Texas had a COVID-19 seven-day positivity rate of 5.68%, the lowest reported rate in more than a year, KVUE reported.
The rate of hospitalizations in Texas has also declined since Abbott lifted the mask mandate and statewide restrictions. The rolling seven-day trend of hospitalizations was approaching 200 cases March 2, a number that fell to roughly 130 cases Thursday, according to data from the Texas Medical Center.
Today Texas had the lowest reported Covid 7-day positivity rate in more than a year: 5.68%
Covid hospitalizations went down again–to the lowest level in more than 5 months.
Vaccine supplies are increasing & all adult Texans are eligible to get them beginning Monday.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 26, 2021
Abbott was not the only Republican governor who ditched the mask mandate and lifted restrictions. Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced March 2 that all county mask mandates would be lifted and businesses would once again be able to operate at full capacity.
The trajectory of COVID-19 infections in Mississippi in the last three weeks resembles that of Texas. The state confirmed 380 cases the day of Reeves’ announcement March 2, higher than the 268 cases confirmed Thursday, according to the CDC and data from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH).
CDC data shows the seven-day moving average for confirmed new cases is similarly shrinking, from 540 cases in the week March 2 to 270 cases in the week ending Thursday.
The hospitalization rate of confirmed COVID-19 patients in Mississippi has similarly declined since Reeves lifted the mask mandate and statewide restrictions. There were 393 reported cases of hospitalization March 2, a number that fell to 243 cases Thursday, according to the MSDH.
Republican Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon joined his gubernatorial colleagues, announcing March 8 he was rolling back the state’s mask mandate and would allow businesses to function at normal capacity.
Just as in Texas and Mississippi, the number of COVID-19 infections in Wyoming has declined. The state confirmed 139 cases the day of Gordon’s announcement March 8, far higher than the 33 cases confirmed Thursday, according to the CDC.
Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt also announced March 11 he was lifting all COVID-19 restrictions, including a mask mandate in state buildings.
Just as in the other states, there was a downward trajectory of COVID-19 infections in Oklahoma. The state confirmed 422 cases the day of Stitt’s announcement March 2, slightly higher than the 405 cases confirmed Thursday, according to the CDC.
A number of governors lifted some COVID-19 restrictions in their states in March, NBC News reported. But some Republican state leaders like Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb extended their mask mandates until April.
The New York Times COVID-19 tracker, using data from the Health and Human Services Department, reported the seven-day moving average for confirmed new cases increased 4% over the last two weeks. But CDC data indicates states that lifted mask mandates and eased restrictions earlier in March were not the contributing factor. (RELATED: Study Arguing Red States Did A Worse Job Containing COVID-19 Than Blue States Is Missing Key Context
New York, for example, has had a statewide mask mandate in place since April 17, 2020. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also enforced social distancing requirements and recently imposed stringent travel guidelines.
New York City in particular confirmed 2,907 new cases on the day Abbott and Reeves rescinded their states’ mask mandate, according to the CDC, but daily new cases registered at 4,145 Thursday.
Remember when Texas ended the mask mandate 3 weeks ago and we got countless articles about how ending the mandate would lead to a huge outbreak…
Let’s look at TX cases 3 weeks later vs NY cases in the same period…. pic.twitter.com/RsYc6DrTeM
— AG (@AGHamilton29) March 26, 2021
CDC data shows the seven-day moving average for confirmed new cases rose considerably, from 4,000 cases in the week ending March 2 to 5,046 cases in the week ending Thursday.
The rest of New York did not fare much better either. The state confirmed 2,683 new cases March 2, but daily new cases registered at 4,048 Thursday, according to the CDC.
CDC data shows the seven-day moving average for confirmed new cases similarly increased, from 3,407 cases in the week ending March 2 to 3,558 cases in the week ending Thursday.