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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) defended his decision to revoke the state's mask mandate on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, describing the move as backed by data and a necessary step to boost the state's economy.

Why it matters: Although hospitalizations have dropped, Mississippi had the largest increase in the average of new coronavirus cases over a seven-day period in the country as of March 2, according to Axios' weekly tracker.

Driving the news: Mississippi lifted its mask mandate for all counties last week and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ended all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some companies are continuing mask mandates.

What he's saying: "We have to get our economy rolling so that individuals can get back to work. And I think that's critically important," Reeves told anchor Jake Tapper.

  • "The fact is we have seen significantly reduced levels," Reeves said, referring to the drop in hospitalizations and number of patients in intensive care units.
  • "And oh, by the way, unlike President Biden, who wants to insult Americans and insult Missippians, I actually trust Mississippians to make the decisions. They've proven throughout the last year that they can do so."
  • "The numbers don't justify government interaction at the levels that we're seeing in other states."

Flashback: States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters last week, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Go deeper: The U.S. could be in danger of a fourth coronavirus wave

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 3 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker