Coronavirus Pandemic

Five Us states have announced rolling back mask mandates in major recalls of COVID-19 safety measures over the past month.

Iran Press/America: Governors in Texas and Mississippi announced Tuesday that they would halt mask mandates and reopen their states, allowing businesses to operate at full capacity. They were followed Thursday by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who announced she would extend the state's mask mandate until April 9 – but allow it to expire after that date and instead make mask-wearing optional. 

Ivey said the decision to extend the order until next month would allow businesses to make appropriate decisions and preparations after the mandate expires. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that he was moving to "open Texas 100%" and would issue an executive order that would take effect March 10 rescinding most of his earlier orders, including restrictions on business occupancy and the July 2 statewide mask order. 

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves tweeted Tuesday that starting Wednesday, all county mask mandates would be lifted and businesses allowed to operate fully. Hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed, he said: "We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do."

Earlier this month, governors in Iowa and Montana announced they, too, were rescinding mandates on wearing masks. The five states join 12 others that either never had mask mandates or have since rescinded such policies. 

Public health experts widely condemned the moves by Texas, Mississippi, and other states, warning of the effect such policies could have on the rest of the country. 

Joseph Fauver, an associate research scientist in epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health who has been studying variants of the virus, said relaxing such restrictions could be "encouraging more risky behavior at a time when transmission risk is still very, very, very high."

According to the US CDC, there are at least 28,796,000 confirmed cases and at least 519,000 confirmed deaths in the country as of Thursday.