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As Biden Urges Caution on Covid, Governors Split on How Fast to Reopen

In addition, the president’s top Covid-19 aides, including Jeff Zients, the coordinator of the response to the pandemic, are in touch with governors multiple times a day, officials said. The administration’s public health officials hold coronavirus briefings three times a week, in part to be a resource for state and local leaders.

Still, while the president and his aides have been clear about the need to wear masks and maintain basic hygiene, the Biden administration has not published any specific new suggestions for states and local governments to determine when to reopen restaurants, movie theaters, beaches, gyms and churches.

That is leaving many governors — particularly those in conservative-leaning states — balancing public health guidance with the impatience of shutdown-weary residents.

“There’s certainly a lot more pressure to open on Republican governors than Democratic governors,” said Neil Newhouse, a pollster who has worked for Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, among other Republicans. “The push on this is coming from more rural Americans, conservatives, Republicans. Many believe we are beginning to turn the corner, and there is a natural rush to try to get things back to normal.”

A senior administration official said, however, that no one could listen to Mr. Biden and believe he was doing anything other than encouraging people to remain vigilant. While there remains a patchwork of responses by state and local officials, the Biden administration has ramped up efforts to vaccinate Americans, the official said, creating what the official called a much more coherent federal response.

But even within political parties, there has been no uniform response. As some Republican-led states this week ordered mask mandates to be lifted, other Republican leaders called for the opposite. In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday extended its mask mandate into April. And in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice, another Republican, said “masks save lives,” insisting that he was in no rush to remove his state’s requirement to wear them in public.

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