The President and other react to relaxed rules - NBC's Jay Gray report
(NBC News) - Restaurants, bars and other businesses across the country are starting to ease restrictions.
Next week businesses in Texas will be allowed to resume normal operations, and the state's mask mandate will be scrapped.
That move is being sharply criticized by health experts, and President Joe Biden.
"The last thing we we need is Neanderthal thinking," Biden said Wednesday. "Take off your mask? Forget it! It still matters."
The president's stern warning comes with only 7.1 percent of nearly 30 million Texas residents fully vaccinated.
Even some of the business owners hit hard by the shutdown aren't sure "wide open" is the way to move forward right now.
"We're still going to encourage our customers to wear a mask because I think it is probably safer. Our staff is still going to wear masks," says Fort Worth restaurant owner Jon Bonnell.
Mississippi is also doing away with restrictions and masks, and many other states are softening their COVID requirements.
"It feels like there is a light at the end of the tunnel," says Chicago restaurant owner Manish Mallick.
The Centers for Disease Control, meanwhile, warns that light could be an oncoming train.
After a brief leveling off, the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths are growing again.