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Texans head out to bars after state lifted mask mandate and reopened fully

 Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that new daily cases should be at least below 10,000 before all health restricitons are eased

Texas residents were pictured heading out to bars maskless on Thursday just two days after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the mask mandate will be lifted and the state fully reopened from next week.

Texans enjoyed the freedom of not having to cover their faces as the sat outside to dine even before the mandate is lifted from March 10.

Mississippi residents were also seen taking advantage of the end of the mandate in their state on Thursday as they went maskless into public places.

The scenes caused concern for Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, who cautioned that the nation's new daily cases remain far too high for mask mandates to end.

While he warned that there is no model yet as to the right time that mandates should end, Fauci suggested in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday evening that new daily cases should at least be below 10,000 before restrictions are eased. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced this week they would be scrapping all restrictions, which includes mask mandates, in their states in a move that President Biden slammed as 'neanderthal thinking'.

Fauci on Thursday urged the residents of the two southern states to still adhere to the federal guidelines regarding public health measures.

President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser said the U.S. has currently reached a plateau of new daily cases, remaining between 60,000 and 70,000 a day.

He warned that unless this dropped significantly, health restrictions should be remaining in place as the risk of community spread of COVID-19 is too great.

'We will be able to open up the country, open up the economy, but right now we want to get that level of virus much lower than it currently is,' Fauci told Tapper.

Texas residents were pictured heading out to bars maskless on Thursday just two days after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the mask mandate will be lifted and the state fully reopened from next week (asa pictured above)

TEXAS: After Governor Abbott fully reopened Texas, restaurants are allowed to open at 100% capacity again

TEXAS: Texans were pictured without masks on Thursday ahead of the end of the mask mandate

TEXAS: Texans enjoyed the freedom of not having to cover their faces as the sat outside before the mandate is lifted  March 10

TEXAS: Maskless Texans were pictured in Madison on Thursday after Abbott announced the lifting of the mandate

TEXAS: Texas Tech students watch Texas Tech and TCU play an NCAA college basketball game without masks on Tuesday

'We've reached the situation over the last week where it seems to have plateaued at a level of somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 infections per day.

'With that amount of virus circulation at the community level, it really is quite risky to completely remove all of the public health measures and just act like there's no virus in the community when we know it is at an unacceptably high level.

'I think that's ill advised,' he said of the recent decisions in Texas and Mississippi.

'I don't want to get to a light on-light off situation,' Fauci added about reopening, suggesting that states could be forced to enforce restrictions again if cases start to spike.

'I would like to see us get the levels of virus in the community to a very low level, well below the 60 to 70k,' Fauci suggested. 

'There's not a good model there yet, I would say less than 10,000 and maybe even considerably less than that.'

TEXAS: One server is seen wearing a mask around her chin as customers dine without masks

TEXAS: Restaurants and bars in Texas are preparing to open at 100% capacity from March 10

MISSISSIPPI: Residents of Jackson Mississippi are seen eating outside after Gov. Tate Reeves dropped the mask mandate

MISSISSIPPI: Residents were pictured shopping without masks on Thursday

MISSISSIPPI: A delighted shopper pictured without her mask on Thursday

The infectious disease expert also warned that he would 'like to see a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated' before restrictions are eased.

'We will be pulling back,' he said of the restrcitions. 

'We're now up to about 2 million vaccinations per day. That means every day that goes by, every week that goes by, you have more and more people protected.'

Yet he warned: 'We have circulating variants in the community ... some of them have increased capacity to transmit and some are less protected by the vaccines, which means you want a person to get vaccinated to get that level of antibody high enough so that you can have a cushion against the variant.'

'There are so many reasons why you don't want to pull back just now,' Fauci said again of the reopenings. 

'You want a plan that within a reasonable time you will be able to pull back but not when you have circulating variants and when you have what looks like a plateauing of the decline of the cases on a daily basis.'

'There are two things we can do to continue a downward trend: abide by public health measures and get vaccinated when their times come up,' Fauci said. 

He added that it didn't mean that all the restrictions couldn't be removed, simply that they should not all end in one swoop.

'You can gradually get people into back again to outdoor dining indoor dining with limitations,' Fauci told Tapper.

'You don't want to go from very stringent health restrictions to just turning if off and saying, "that's it, just left everyone do what they want". 

Fauci's warning came as there were 3,493 new cases reported in Texas on Thursday and 315 deaths.

Target, Starbucks, CVS, and Kroger announced that they will still be requiring customers in their stores in Texas to wear masks on Thursday.

Yet other Texans were already celebrating that they were free from the restriction as they went out to dine this week.

MISSISSIPPI: Some shoppers still chose to wear masks in Mississippi on Thursday

MISSISSIPPI: A store worker kept his mask around hsi chin on Thursday as he helped a customer

MISSISSIPPI: Some shoppers kept their maks in their hands as they went to Mississippi store 

Gov. Abbot was criticized by some on Tuesday who claimed that he had acted to quickly to reopen to the state.

Yet he claimed that Biden was to blame for bringing COVID-19 into Texas communities by 'releasing illegal immigrants' in the state.

Abbott said that Texas has seen its lowest COVID-19 hospitalizations in months and had set daily records for vaccine doses administered.

'We are able to contain COVID and safely allow Texas to open 100%,' Abbott said.

'Today... Texas has the lowest COVID hospitalizations since October 24th. The positivity rate is the lowest since October 14th - and has steadily declined for 2 straight months. We gave a daily record of vaccinations: 229,490. In the last week we gave 1,220,577 vaccine shots.'

Reeve also hit back claiming Biden's 'insults' wouldn't stop them from 'leaning towards freedom'.

'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,' Reeves said.

CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky has echoed Biden and Fauci's concern, saying Texas and Mississippi's decision to defy federal guidelines and drop mask requirements were premature.

'Now is not the time to release all restrictions,' she said. 'The next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes. I would still encourage individuals to wear a mask, to socially distance.'

Walensky cautioned that recent steep declines in deaths and cases showed signs of stalling and warned that the hyper-transmissible mutant variant 'looms ready to hijack our successes to date.'

The two southern states join a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the US to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials.

Most of the country has lived under mask mandates during the pandemic, with at least 37 states requiring face coverings to some degree. Those orders, however, are increasingly falling by the wayside: North Dakota, Montana and Iowa have also lifted mask orders in recent weeks.

Among the other states gradually reopening are Michigan and Louisiana with the easing of restrictions on bars, restaurants, and other businesses. Massachusetts has lifted all restaurant capacity limits, South Carolina erased limits on gatherings and North Carolina allowed people back inside bars for the first time.

Chicago and Las Vegas's public schools also welcomed back students this week and California has now reached an agreement that aims to get most children back in classrooms by the end of March.

On Thursday, Democratic Connecticut Governor joined with Abbott in announcing that he was reopening the state to 100% capacity from March 9 but with the mask mandate kept in place.

There is currently no mask mandate in 15 states with Texas set to add to the list next week.

However, on Thursday evening, Alabama broke from the curve as Republican Gov. Kay Ivy announced that she was extending the mask mandate in the state for at least another month.

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