September 18, 2020

Mississippi governor suggests pandemic in election year not mere coincidence

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said it’s “unfortunate” that the coronavirus pandemic broke out during an election year, adding that the upcoming election has made conversations about the virus overly political.

“It’s certainly unfortunate that if we’re going to have a pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in over 100 years, that it would happen to occur — maybe it wasn’t happenstance — but that it would happen to occur during an election year, which has made a large number of people look at every single decision from a political viewpoint,” Reeves said at a Tuesday press briefing.

Reeves said initiating those conversations “certainly hasn’t always been helpful.” The governor did not elaborate on what he meant when he said “maybe it wasn’t happenstance” that the pandemic occurred during an election year.

He said he believes President Donald Trump has gone above and beyond in his response, especially in his efforts to make sure a vaccine will be readily available to Americans.

“Just to be clear, in my view, the president has taken unprecedented action,” Reeves said.

The federal government has come under criticism for not acting quickly or doing enough to stem the spread of the virus in the U.S., which has reported tens of thousands of more coronavirus-related deaths than anywhere else in the world.

While work is being done to find a vaccine to the virus, the Trump administration has funneled money into pharmaceutical companies. As part of “Operation Warp Speed,” the federal government has paid private-sector pharmaceutical companies working to develop a coronavirus vaccine more than $12 billion, according to the White House. The Trump administration has also invested in companies to increase manufacturing capacity if a vaccine is approved, as well as the production of vials, needles and syringes.

Reeves said he hopes that a vaccine will be available soon. He said that ultimately, it’s the Center for Disease Control’s role to approve a vaccine, not the president’s.

In the meantime, he urged people in Mississippi to stay vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing. Mississippi’s state department of health reported zero new coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday. Reeves said adherence to mask mandates and social distancing guidelines has helped numbers to drop.

“Mississippi has truly turned a corner,” Reeves said.

The state Health Department said Tuesday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had at least 87,379 reported cases and at least 2,585 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening. That’s an increase of 249 confirmed cases and zero deaths from numbers reported the day before.

The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most but can be more severe or fatal for some, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions.