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The Biden administration is delivering good news in the fight against the pandemic, announcing there will be enough vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May. But it comes as some states are easing restrictions. Nancy Cordes reports on the contrasting moves and why health experts say it's still too early to ease up.
GAYLE KING: Two major developments in the fight against the coronavirus. First, President Biden is vastly speeding up the timeline for the vaccine rollout by two months. He now says there will be enough doses for every adult in America by the end of May partly due to historic new cooperation between the government and rival pharmaceutical companies.
- We're also learning more about major gambles to fully reopen businesses in Texas and Mississippi. Texas will drop its mask mandate on March 10th. And Mississippi is dropping theirs later today. Nancy Cordes is at the White House. Nancy, the Texas decision flies directly in the face of experts' advice. How is the White House responding to this?
NANCY CORDES: Good morning. Well, they say it's a mistake. And they are reiterating that masks save lives. But Texas is one of at least 11 states that are now easing restrictions despite those federal guidelines.
JOE BIDEN: This country will have enough vaccine supply-- I'll say it again-- for every adult in America by the end of May.
NANCY CORDES: That came as welcomed news one year into the pandemic and lockdowns. But the president was clear. There's a long way to go.
JOE BIDEN: Today's announcements are a huge step in our effort to beat this pandemic. But I have to be honest with you, this fight is far from over.
NANCY CORDES: That's been a consistent message from the federal government.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY: At this level of cases with variant spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained.
NANCY CORDES: But regardless of administration guidance, states are free to do as they please. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced he's opening the second largest state in the country back up.
GREG ABBOTT: All businesses of any type are allowed to open 100%. Also I am ending the statewide mask mandate.
NANCY CORDES: Some states have been able to gradually lift some restrictions without seeing major spikes. But last April when Texas had 514 cases, Abbott made the decision to lift some restrictions. By early June, the number of cases there had more than tripled.
At the time, the vaccine wasn't available. And it still isn't for many Texans. As of Tuesday, Texas ranks 48th overall in vaccinations in the US. Just under two million people or 6.8% of the state's population have received the two necessary doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
DAVID PERSSE: Right now is not the time for us to be lifting restrictions.
NANCY CORDES: Health officials have been urging states to keep their safety measures in place.
DAVID PERSSE: If we lift the restrictions now, we're just asking for another wave. Remember, every time we get another wave, people have died. While we're getting fatigued, these variants will take any opportunity to succeed if we give it to them. And so we just cannot give them that opportunity.
NANCY CORDES: President Biden issued a new directive to states yesterday, telling them to put teachers and other people who work in schools at the front of the line to get vaccines. About 30 states are already doing something like that. And it's unclear how much power the federal government really has to compel the rest of the states to do the same.
- Yeah, Nancy, thank you very much. And what Nancy points out there is that there is a state's right issue here. Texas can do what it wants. But we're not in the end zone yet. And to ease restrictions is a bit like spiking the football in the 10 yard line. We haven't scored.
GAYLE KING: I like what he just said though. Every time you get another wave, people die.
- I was going to say that there's a connection between what we do, our movements, and the number of cases.
GAYLE KING: Exactly.
- We've seen it over and over again in the course of this pandemic. It feels like we're so close now. We just want to get to the finish line.
GAYLE KING: Feels like it because we are.
- We are. We're in a race.
GAYLE KING: Come on, people.