Texas COVID numbers decrease 17 days after mask, other restrictions lifted

Just over two weeks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted coronavirus mandates allowing businesses to operate at 100 percent capacity and made masks optional, the red state is still reporting decreases in cases and hospitalizations.

The governor championed his state’s success in a Friday night tweet saying, "Today Texas recorded the lowest 7-day COVID positivity rate since that data began being calculated: 5.43%."

"We also recorded the largest daily number of vaccines administered to Texans: 342,849. More Texans getting vaccines will keep down the positivity rate," he said, though adding that receiving the vaccine was "always voluntary."

Texas reported 2,239 new infections Saturday, roughly 500 fewer cases on average from the previous week, according to data from the state’s health department.

Biden slammed Abbott's decision -- which was shortly followed by similar mandate removals by Mississippi -- as "Neanderthal thinking."

"We've been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough [vaccines] for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot," Biden told reporters from the White House earlier this month. "The last thing we need is the Neanderthal thinking."

MORE: Arizona Gov. Ducey lifts COVID-19 restrictions, including local mask mandates

As states have increased the number of vaccines administered in people's arms, health officials have warned states against lifting protective measures too quickly, as extremely contagious coronavirus variants are on the rise.

While Texas reported decreased caseloads, the nation reported a 7% increase over the previous week, with an average of about 7,000 new cases per day, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House press briefing Friday.

"I remain deeply concerned about this trajectory," Walensky said. "We have seen cases and hospital admissions move from historic declines to stagnations and increases. We know from prior surges that if we don’t control things now, there is a real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again."

RELATED: CDC director concerned over rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Walensky said the U.S. is vaccinating 2.5 million people a day, with over 140 million doses administered so far – a trend that means the bulk of the U.S. population could be vaccinated by mid-June, if there are no problems with vaccine production and distribution.

"Please keep wearing your well-fitting mask and taking the public health actions now that we know can reverse these concerning trends," the director concluded.

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