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Image: Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott provides an update to the state's Covid-19 response in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 17, 2020.Eric Gay / AP file

Texas, Mississippi pretend that the pandemic is over (but it's not)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves are celebrating prematurely - just like Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII.

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Many Texans probably remember Super Bowl XXVII. It was the 1993 game known for, among other thing, Leon Lett's premature celebration.

For those who might need a refresher, toward the end of the game, Lett scooped a fumble and headed for the end zone. He assumed a touchdown was assured, slowed down around the 10-yard line, and started celebrating early. What Lett didn't know was that an opposing wide receiver was chasing him down, and he was only too pleased to knock the ball out of Lett's hand before he scored.

His team ended up winning anyway, but the embarrassing event became a case study against premature celebration. Everyone who saw the game should've made a mental note: reach your goal first, revel in your success second.

I wonder if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and his counterpart in Mississippi watched Super Bowl XXVII. Because yesterday afternoon, they started acting quite a bit like Leon Lett around the 10-yard line. NBC News reported:

The governors of Texas and Mississippi both announced on Tuesday they would be lifting their states' mask mandates and rolling back many of their Covid-19 health mandates, just one day after the CDC warned against complacency in the face of emerging coronavirus variants. "It is now time to open Texas 100 percent," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday afternoon at Montelongo's Mexican Restaurant in Lubbock.

Soon after, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) announced the end of his state's mask mandate, effective today. "It is time!" the Republican governor declared via Twitter.

Just one day earlier, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky urged officials not to take steps like these. "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 at a White House briefing.

She added, "Please hear me clearly: at this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."

Indeed, it's worth noting that while coronavirus numbers have improved greatly nationwide since the brutal highs two months ago, both Texas and Mississippi have seen infection totals inch higher in recent weeks.

And yet, there are the governors deciding "it is time" to celebrate now, before succeeding and reaching their goal.

"This will kill Texans," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. "Our country's infectious disease specialists have warned that we should not put our guard down even as we make progress towards vaccinations."

But letting down their guard is precisely what Abbott and Reeves have decided to do.