White House admits Biden cannot force people to wear masks or get vaccines as Texas and Mississippi drop safeguards

“He can't do this alone. The federal government cannot do this alone,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday, reiterating a point Mr Biden has made repeatedly in his first month and a half in office.

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With Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi rolling back Covid-related public health safeguards, the Joe Biden administration has recognised the stark reality when it comes to overseeing the pandemic response: There’s only so much the White House can do.

“He can’t do this alone. The federal government cannot do this alone,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday, reiterating a point Mr Biden has made repeatedly in his first month and a half in office.

“This is going to require additional sacrifice from the American people. He doesn’t think that’s easy. None of us think that’s easy,” Ms Psaki said.

On Wednesday, Mr Biden was highly critical of Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Tate Reeves of Mississippi, who have both decided to dispense with mask mandates in their states and limitations on businesses, including restaurants that had previously been forced to operate at reduced capacity.

Despite the nation’s progress with vaccine distribution, including the president’s recent announcement that US supplies should support doses for every American by the end of May, “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask and forget it,” Mr Biden said.

“As of yesterday, we had lost 511,874 Americans,” he said. “We’re going to lose thousands more … Getting a shot in someone’s arm and getting the second shot, [that is] going to take time, and it’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water. Do it frequently, wear a mask and stay socially distanced. I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

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