Mississippi Gov. clumsily tries to defend inaction despite large spike in Covid deaths

As Covid kills thousands of his citizens, Mississippi's GOP governor refuses to do more
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) speaks during a news conference, Photo: Screenshot/Mississippi Governor's Office

First published at Daily Kos

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves may not have decided to go on CNN’s “State of the Union” this Sunday to embarrass himself, but his mouth seemed to have had other plans when he was asked by host Jake Tapper about what he was going to do now that Mississippi has become the state with the most COVID-19-related deaths per capita this week.

“In fact, if Mississippi were its own country, you would be second in the world only to Peru in terms of deaths per capita,” Tapper said. “That’s a horrible, horrible heartbreaking statistic, so with all due respect governor, your way is failing. Are you going to try to change anything, to change this horrible statistic from what you’re doing already?”

Insert Reeves babbling about Mississippi’s legislature working part time. He’s not wrong. The state is one of 14 with part-time and lower-paid lawmakers utilizing small staffs. The implication, however, that because of this fact the governor had no means of protecting his constituents is not one Tapper let go. He challenged Reeves. “How can you say that,” he asked.

“Well Jake, let’s talk about where we are and why we are there,” Reeves said. “in large part, just like the summer of 2020 it was the Sunbelt states that saw the initial surge from the Delta variant.”

Missouri started to see upticks in its COVID-19 cases, then Arkansas, then Louisiana, the governor said. “And now it’s Mississippi,” he added. “Our surge went from less than 100 cases per day in Mississippi to 3,600 much like what happened in the country of Israel, much like what happened in the country of Great Britain and in England. We saw a very quick spike, and now we’re seeing a very (…) quick decline in the total number of cases. We spiked at about 3,600. We’re now half of that in our state.

“As you know, unfortunately fatalities is a lagging indicator when it comes to the virus.”

TAPPER: Governor, if Mississippi were a country, you would have the 2nd worst per capita death toll in the world. And I’m saying, are you going to do anything to try to change that?

TATE REEVES: Deaths unfortunately are a lagging indicator pic.twitter.com/uelbjQRqJo

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 19, 2021

After the governor’s answer, a lengthy but very much noticeable dodge, Tapper asked again was Reeves going to do anything to try to change that. “Jake, as I mentioned earlier deaths unfortunately are a lagging indicator,” Reeves said.

I’m not sure what the people of Mississippi are supposed to do with that answer, but it’s apparently the governor’s story and he’s sticking to it.

The state has seen 306 COVID-19-related deaths per 100,000 people, or one in 326 people, The Guardian reported. Peru’s death rate is 612 per 100,000 people. Dr. Jessica Lilley, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Mississippi Center for Advanced Medicine, told the nonprofit media source Mississippi Free Press she is concerned the COVID-19 pandemic may be having an effect on new pediatric diabetes diagnoses, which are on the rise in the state. “We are all seeing an increase in type 1 diabetes diagnoses as well as type 2 diabetes diagnoses,” she told the nonprofit. “Those of us who tracked it have noticed anywhere from a 30% to 40% increase compared to (2019).”

President Joe Biden mentioned Mississippi specifically on Thursday when he talked about governors doing everything in their power to undermine him following a mandate that federal employees get vaccinated. He said, pointing out their hypocrisy, that some of the governors lead states with the “strictest vaccine mandates for children attending school in the entire country.”

Children in Mississippi are required to be vaccinated against “measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus and more,” Biden said. “These are state requirements, but in the mist of a pandemic that has already taken over 660,000 lives, I propose requirement for COVID vaccines and the governor of that state calls it quote, ‘a tyrannical-type move’?”

Reeves’ response on Twitter was to double down on his statement. “It is a tyrannical move, Mr. President,” Reeves tweeter. “Huge difference between laws passed by a state’s legislative body with input of the people vs. one man threatening American workers’ ability to feed their family. If you can’t comprehend that, you’re in the wrong job-or the wrong country!”

It is a tyrannical move, Mr. President.

Huge difference between laws passed by a state’s legislative body with input of the people vs. one man threatening American workers’ ability to feed their family. If you can’t comprehend that, you’re in the wrong job-or the wrong country! pic.twitter.com/oyoxdxLBhl

— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) September 16, 2021

He said on CNN: “The president … knows he doesn’t have the authority to do this in my opinion, but he wants to change the political narrative away from Afghanistan and away from the other issues that are driving his poll numbers into the ground and focus on anything, particularly a political fight, other than those issues.”

I would love to pretend to care about how Reeves interprets Biden’s response to COVID-19, but I don’t have the time. My family is from Mississippi. Some of them work in health care. They are not being served by a governor who is trivializing death while scrutinizing someone else’s approach to save lives. If I could ask Reeves one question, it would be a sadly unoriginal one: You’ve said you won’t issue a statewide mask mandate, and you won’t require state employees to get vaccinated. What are you doing to save lives in the state with the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths per capita?

That question has still not been answered.