/Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves attacks vaccine mandates, downplays states high death toll

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves attacks vaccine mandates, downplays states high death toll


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Biden announces COVID vaccine mandates for businesses, federal workers

The president unveiled a new “six-pronged strategy” to contain COVID-19 in the U.S with the growing threat of the Delta variant.

Staff Video, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in his state on Sunday, while challenging the legitimacy of vaccine mandates rolled out by the Biden administration.

“The president very much wants you and everyone else to believe that this is a fight between politicians. The reality is this is an attack by the president on hardworking Americans and hardworking Mississippians who he wants to choose between getting a jab in the arm and their ability to feed their families, and I just believe that is a false choice,” Reeves said.

Reeves has previously called new measures to mandate vaccines for a larger swath of Americans by President Joe Biden “tyrannical-type” behavior. Biden resented that characterization, pointing out that Mississippi already requires vaccines for a range of diseases to attend public schools in the state.

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Reeves also downplayed other vaccine mandates for children in Mississippi, saying they were only required for public school, not for the workplace.

“He knows he doesn’t have the political authority to do this, in my opinion,” Reeves said of Biden’s motives, adding they are entirely political.

Biden announced a range of new mandates for federal workers, contractors and employees at large companies through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which allows the federal government to impose emergency standards if there is a “grave danger” posed to workers.

Mississippi has the highest death count of any state per capita from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins. CNN’s Jake Tapper challenged Reeves about the state’s current approach to the pandemic and if officials would change course.

“With all due respect, governor, your way is failing,” Tapper said. “Are you doing to try and change anything to try to change that?”

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Reeves equated Mississippi’s experience with the Delta variant to spikes of coronavirus cases in Israel and the United Kingdom, calling deaths “a lagging indicator” and explaining “timing has as much to do with that statistic as anything else.”

Reeves, who is vaccinated, was clear that Americans and Mississippians should talk with their doctors about getting a shot. He was firm, however, that he would not be implementing any new public health guidelines.

The latest wave of the Delta variant has especially slammed the Southeast, where vaccination numbers lag behind other parts of the country. Mississippi has surpassed states like New York and New Jersey in per capita deaths.

Many states in the region, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, and reaching north to West Virginia, have also seen hospitalizations and deaths spike amid the new wave.

“If you want to talk about rising cases, look at Kentucky or West Virginia,” Reeves said.

“I’m talking to you about your state, governor,” Tapper retorted.

Biden’s new mandates require that any federal worker or contractor who works with the U.S. government be vaccinated. Businesses that employ more than 100 people will also be required to ensure their staff is either vaccinated or undergoes regular testing.

Employees at health care centers, including hospitals and nursing homes, that tend to patients who receive Medicare or Medicaid will also be required to be vaccinated for facilities to receive federal funds.

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.