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U.S. Officials Warn Governors Against Easing Restrictions


On Friday, Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, a Republican, announced that on Monday, restaurants would be able to serve alcohol past 11 p.m., and residents would not need to get approval from the state to hold events with 250 people or more. To try to limit the spread of the virus, the state last year ordered bars to stop serving alcohol after 11 p.m., which is three hours earlier than the late-night bar crowd was used to.

Brian Symmes, a spokesman for Mr. McMaster, said the governor “appreciates perspectives that differ from his own” but “respectfully disagrees” with Dr. Walensky’s assessment.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Friday that he’d be lifting restrictions around capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms and large venues, but extending the state’s emergency order and mask mandate until March 31. The current emergency order was set to expire February 27.

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said he was considering lifting a statewide mask mandate in place since July.

In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves said he was also considering pulling back some restrictions, particularly mask mandates for people who have been fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 13 percent of the state’s population has received at least one shot, and 6.2 percent have received two, according to a Times database.

Dr. Fauci echoed Dr. Walensky’s warnings that more rollbacks at state or local levels would be unwise, noting that case levels remained at a “very precarious position.”

“We don’t want to be people always looking at the dark side of things, but you want to be realistic,” he said. “So we have to carefully look at what happens over the next week or so with those numbers before you start making the understandable need to relax on certain restrictions.”



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