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Health Highlights: March 3, 2021

By Robert Preidt HealthDay Reporter

Texas, Mississippi Drop Mask Mandates

Texas has lifted its mask mandate and all businesses can reopen next Wednesday with no seating limits, Gov. Gregg Abbott announced Tuesday.

Abbott's moves came as federal health officials have cautioned governors against easing restrictions because nationwide progress against the COVID-19 pandemic has plateaued in the last week, The New York Times reported.

"To be clear, COVID has not, like, suddenly disappeared," Abbott acknowledged. "COVID still exists in Texas and the United States and across the globe."

However, "state mandates are no longer needed," because better treatments are now available for COVID-19 patients, the state can conduct large numbers of tests each day and Texans have already received 5.7 million vaccine shots, according to Abbott, theTimes reported.

While saying that most state restrictions would be lifted, Abbott did not specify which mandates would remain in place. He said Texans could decide for themselves what precautionary measures they want to take to limit the spread of the virus and that top elected officials in each county could reimpose restrictions if hospital capacities passed 15 percent, the Times reported.

"At this time, however, people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate," he said, the Times reported.

Shortly after Abbott's announcement, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that he would end Mississippi's statewide mask mandate, effective Wednesday, NBC News reported.

On Monday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky strongly cautioned against the rollbacks that Abbott and Reeves were about to announce.

"I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19," Walensky said during a White House briefing, NBC News reported.

"Please hear me clearly," Walensky said. "At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."

Dolly Parton Gets Shot of COVID-19 Vaccine She Backed

Dolly Parton has received a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine whose development she helped fund.

The 75-year-old country music star received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday from her friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, CBS News reported.

Parton tweeted a video of herself getting vaccinated, saying she and Abumrad have been "friends forever."

"I thought it was only appropriate that you should be the one to give me my shot today," she said.

Tennessee began vaccinating those aged 70 and older at the beginning of February. Parton is 75.

Less than a year ago, Parton donated $1 million to help Abumrad develop the vaccine at Vanderbilt University. When she got vaccinated, Parton said quipped that she "got a shot of her own medicine."

Parton also had a message for those who may plan on avoiding getting vaccinated.

"I'm old enough to get it and I'm smart enough to get it. ...The sooner we get to feeling better, the sooner we are going to get back to being normal," Parton said during the video. "So I just wanna say to all of you cowards out there, don't be such a chicken squat, get out there and get your shot."

"Dolly's generous support helped fund early research at Vanderbilt Health into what is now a vaccine that's helping end the pandemic," the Vanderbilt University Medical Center tweeted.

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