Home COVID-19 Gov. Reeves Defends Handling of COVID-19 Crisis

Gov. Reeves Defends Handling of COVID-19 Crisis

Gov. Reeves Defends Handling of COVID-19 Crisis

by Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today, March 30, 2020

Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Gov. Tate Reeves walks out of the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, March 26, 2020, as he prepares to speak to media about the coronavirus during a press conference.

Gov. Tate Reeves sat down with Mississippi Today on Friday, March 27, for a podcast interview about his response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the 45-minute interview, Reeves answered questions about decisions he’s made as the virus has spread in Mississippi, how prepared the state of Mississippi is for a “worst case scenario,” how he believes politics has played into criticism he’s received and whether the health care crisis has changed his perspective on Medicaid expansion.

Below is a complete transcript of the interview. Stream the podcast episode here or on your preferred podcast app.

Mississippi Today: We’re sitting in the Governor’s Mansion in a conference room you’ve actually mentioned a couple times the past week or so. When you were state treasurer, the previous biggest storm to hit Mississippi before this current one, I guess you could say, was Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago. You’ve pointed out the irony how things have changed for you 15 years later. You’re not even three months into your governorship yet, and you’ve been presented with this challenge. What has all of this been like for you the past few weeks?

Gov. Tate Reeves: Well it’s been challenging. There’s no question about that. This is a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in this country since over 100 years ago. There’s virtually no one alive in America who saw what we went through in the late teens last century. It’s certainly been a challenge. It has been ironic because when Hurricane Katrina hit, obviously we were housed at that time not far from here, a few blocks towards the Mississippi State Capitol. We lost power. While we had to do a number of things to make sure our machines were functioning properly since we were in charge of the state’s finances at the time, we had to take extreme measures to make sure we were paying our debt services and things such as that.

I did spend a good bit of time in this conference room working with Gov. (Haley) Barbour’s staff, preparing them and working with them on the special session that was ultimately called to deal with Hurricane Katrina. You’ve got to remember when Katrina hit, it was not only the largest natural disaster in American history, it was five times larger than what had previously been the largest natural disaster in American history, at least in terms of total dollar amount of losses. We’ve had others since then that have surpassed that, but it was something that we often said you can’t plan for something that’s five times larger than anything that’s happened. It’s beyond your ability to comprehend or imagine. This particular event is very similar to that in that it’s very complicated. Fortunately, (State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs) and his team at the State Department of Health, our Emergency Management Agency personnel, our state of Mississippi, we had a pandemic plan in place. It was 440 pages long, but it was a pandemic plan that contemplated many of these things. We’ve tried to utilize that plan. Quite frankly, as you look at the measures that we have taken to date, we’ve actually been much more aggressive than that plan ever contemplated. But we also know that we’re not out of the woods yet. We’ve got more work to do, and the number of cases are probably going to rise, and things are probably going to get worse before they get better.

Mississippi Today: There’s been a lot of debate both here and the federal level about when officials knew just how bad this could be for our country. Specifically in Mississippi, when did you realize how bad this could be for this state?

Tate Reeves: I think as you look back at history, Mississippi didn’t get our first case until 15 days ago. I think it’s fair to say that most of us did not anticipate that we would be moving this quickly, although we have about 500 cases now. There are approximately 100,000 cases in the U.S. today. So Mississippi currently has about 1 percent of the American population, and about one-half of 1 percent of the total cases. That’s not necessarily going to continue. What we are seeing is the cycle is such that it is different in various states, and it’s different in various countries. So I think and hope and pray that New York is a little further advanced in their cycle, and other states, particularly more rural areas, a little bit less so.

But I’ll also tell you that I think the corrective measures that we started to take were much earlier, overall, in Mississippi’s cycle than many other states took, relative to when they started taking these measures in their cycle. So again, I’m not sure that anybody today knows how bad it can and will get in Mississippi. We all have models. We’re looking at the data and looking at the worst case scenario and trying to plan for that. That’s what I spent my entire day doing today. But also understanding that we always approach these things trying to prepare for the worst, praying for the best and expect somewhere in between. That’s most likely where we’ll end up.

Mississippi Today: You mentioned the first case — the first confirmed case — was 15 days ago. You were actually overseas in Europe when that first case was confirmed. That was a family trip that I know had been planned weeks in advance, but I’m curious: Was there ever a point in the planning of that trip, as you were seeing how this was playing out, that you considered not going? Or maybe once you got there, coming back early? And then from there, what were some of the steps you’ve taken to manage this crisis?

Tate Reeves: We actually had our first conversation about the potential pandemic sometime in February. I don’t remember the exact date. We also signed an order and activated our task force with Dr. Dobbs as the leader before I left to go to Europe. It was a family trip. With 2019 having been an election year, some of us in my family  a lot of us in my family  worked pretty hard throughout last year and didn’t do any family trips or vacations. We really didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time together. My daughter is an up-and-coming soccer player. She made a national team. She had an opportunity to travel with some friends to Europe to play soccer, and we wanted to afford her that opportunity. When we left, I will tell you that in the country of Spain, there were less than 500 cases in Spain at the time.

While we were there, obviously, was about the time (cases in) Italy blew up, and that was also about the time that we started seeing some additional cases in the country of Spain, which since that time has grown considerably. I got a call from my staff and Dr. Dobbs, and approximately 24 hours later, I was on a plane back to the United States after out first case was confirmed. We worked hard to get back and have literally made the right decision to self-isolate here on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion. I was talking to the mayor of the city of Jackson the other night and I said, “Look, I never really ever envisioned spending 14 straight days in one square block of downtown Jackson.” Now if you’re going to spend 14 days on any square block of downtown Jackson, this is probably the one to do it. But no doubt that we really chose to self-isolate for a number of reasons. One, it’s the right thing to do, but also we wanted to utilize that to express to people in Mississippi the seriousness of what’s coming. And obviously that was approximately 15 days ago now, a little over 14, since we returned home, and we’ve seen just in the last five or six days an increase in the number of daily cases. And, by the way, it’s my view that when you start comparing numbers from state to state, you have to have knowledge of how many tests various states are running.

I would argue at this point that the number of positive cases, particularly at the numbers we’re talking now, are only a function of how many tests have been done. I’ll give you an example: We’ve looked at the ways in which many countries have responded to this. South Korea is looked at as a model, and one of the reasons they’re looked at as a model is because of the numbers of tests that they did and their very quick action in doing so. Dr. Dobbs tells me that they tested, in a fairly short order, approximately 5,200 South Koreans per million residents. Mississippi, at this point, has tested almost 5,000 people through the state lab, and we think about that many through private labs, which puts us about two-thirds of the way toward that 5,200 per million, which gives us a pretty good idea of where we are. There was a study that Dr. Dobbs and I were talking about earlier today that showed Mississippi had actually performed somewhere in the neighborhood of 30th or 31st-most tests per capita of any state in the nation. But, if you actually get down and look at the numbers, he believes that they’re only counting a third of the actual tests we’ve completed. And so again, all of that is to say it doesn’t matter if Alabama has 560 and we have 540, or if they have 540 and we have 560, my only point is simply the number of positive tests at this point in the cycle is largely a function of how many tests you’ve actually administered.

Mississippi Today: You mentioned a minute ago that you spent today looking at possible worst-case scenario. I know today you went to a couple military bases to look at potential temporary hospitals setups if our healthcare system does get overloaded with patients. That gets me to a general question here about the state’s preparedness for this. Hospital and health care capacity, generally speaking, are we equipped to handle the worst-case scenario if it were to come?

Tate Reeves: What I would tell you is we are as equipped to handle the worst-case scenario than any other state in the nation. The answer to that is depending on the what the worst-case scenario is, it could be very difficult. If you see some of the models out there, we could find ourselves in a very difficult spot. One of the things we were looking at today because we’re really in the planning phase for this worst-case scenario is the number of beds, for instance, at the (United States Air Force Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center), as well as the number of beds that might be available to us at Camp Shelby around Hattiesburg. When you think about that, the first thing that comes to mind is that we’re trying to set up temporary hospitals. Well maybe that’s a possibility. But what we’re really looking at is ways in which to reduce and limit the stress on our existing hospitals.

We have a significant number of beds throughout the state of Mississippi that are not currently being utilized for a number of reasons. One may be that you have a hospital system that had an old facility, and they felt that to compete they had to build a nice, new, shiny facility and did so. That doesn’t mean they sold their old facility, so there’s rooms available. We’re beginning to see (hospital) systems across the state think about, “Should we reopen those?” What we were looking at today, we could certainly think about using those as hospitals, but there’s a couple other things that we were talking about and planning about and thinking through. For instance, perhaps you go into the hospital for something other than the COVID virus. You’re there for a period of time and you recover to a point that you don’t need to be in a hospital facility where an ICU is immediately available but you don’t need to go home yet. So maybe it’s transition beds so that you reduce the amount of stress on the hospital system. In this instance, perhaps you’re in Hattiesburg at Forrest General (Hospital), so if you could move 100 or 200 patients into a facility that was not on the campus of the hospital, that would free up beds there.

Another possibility is: Let’s just assume you find yourself in a position in which you have someone that contracts a virus and is then treated at a hospital — let’s just call it, for instance, a homeless person — and that person has nowhere to go once they recover from that virus. Well the hospital system doesn’t want to put them back in the street, obviously, but by the same token they don’t want them to take up a fully staffed hospital bed, either, so that’s a possibility. We certainly don’t want to put that homeless person back on the street because if we did, we may find ourselves having a major outbreak among all the homeless in that community, which again would be very devastating for the state of Mississippi and certainly not a responsible move. So there’s a lot of different options out there.

I will tell you that in talking to Dr. Dobbs repeatedly — daily, if not hourly, over the past couple weeks — one of the things that we’re looking at: Obviously number of beds in hospitals is an issue, but we’ve been told by many of the larger hospital systems that they can increase both number of beds and number of ICU beds with potentially the adequate number of ventilators by 50 percent. Some say 50 percent of what they currently have, some say by 100 percent. So we feel good about that, but the thing we repeatedly hear our biggest challenge is will be staffing. Somebody’s got to operate that ventilator. That’s one of the things we’ve got to look at now: How do we shift assets? I’ll tell you that the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, I spoke with him on the phone earlier in the week. He’s very concerned, as am I, about what’s going on in Orleans Parish and the city of New Orleans. I’m very concerned about that, as well. And so I think we all have to lean into this and help ourselves and help our neighbors. Governor Edwards had made a request to the federal government, to (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) — he was on a call with the president yesterday, as was I.

I made it very clear to President Trump that I strongly support what Governor Edwards is asking for in New Orleans. Eventually, as the day progressed, the president had said that he believed there would be two 250-bed hospitals set up, funded by the federal government, and ultimately a public health team of some 60 people will be dispatched to the city of New Orleans. Well obviously that’s not in my state, but I love the city of New Orleans and I love my fellow residents of the state of Louisiana. I also know that what happens in New Orleans has a significant impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It has a significant impact in Hattiesburg because there’s such a transient population there. We’ve got a lot of people who live on the Coast who work in New Orleans. We’ve got a lot of people who live in Louisiana who work at Stennis or work at Ingalls. The virus doesn’t understand, appreciate or respect state lines or county lines, and we’ve got to be prepared to deal with that.

Mississippi Today: You’ve gotten a lot of criticism in recent days from the national media all the way down to local elected officials here in Mississippi for what they say is not doing enough in terms of taking precautionary measures and issuing orders. Specifically speaking, it seems the end game for most of these critics is why you haven’t issued some sort of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order. As I was prepping for this interview, governors in 23 other states had issued some sort of measure like that. You’ve deferred a lot to Dr. Dobbs, the state health officer, who’s been advising you on all things coronavirus. Why haven’t you taken that step?

Tate Reeves: It’s interesting that you ask. When I landed from Camp Shelby earlier today, the first article I saw was an article written about a press conference that was held earlier today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He is quoted today saying that he now believes that his citywide stay-at-home order was a major mistake and that it probably contributed to more people getting the virus in a shorter period of time because young people and old people were self-quarantining together, and it caused the spread of the virus. I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I’m not gonna comment on that. That’s just something that Gov. Cuomo had said about his own decision to do that. His public health experts had encouraged him to do so. He did, and now New York still has approximately 50 percent of all coronavirus cases in the United States, fastly approaching 50,000 cases, most of which is in New York City.

Now that notwithstanding, what’s happening in New York, California and Washington, and particularly in where they are in the cycle and the curve, is very different than what’s happening in Mississippi and Alabama and other Southern states. So what I have said is that at this point, and I’ve personally and specifically asked (Vice President Mike Pence) and the coronavirus task force — the leaders, (Dr. Deborah Birx) and other leading experts in Washington — if they were recommending that we have stay-at-home orders in places like Mississippi, and I got the same answer from them that I got from our own leading experts here from the Department of Health. I know your listeners are probably well-informed, but as a reminder, the Department of Health does not report to the governor. This is not someone who works for me. This is someone who works for the Board of Health, an independently appointed board of which I have appointed none of the members. I believe that Dr. Dobbs is a straight shooter and gives me the best advice based on data and information, and at this point he has not suggested that we have a statewide stay-at-home order. Just like things are different in New York and Texas, the same is true in Pearl River County and Tishomingo County. So when you think about the fact that up in Tish County — where we had a tornado two days ago, and I understand the damage is devastating there… — there hasn’t been one reported case in Tishomingo County at this time. So it’s unlikely to see significant community spread when we haven’t seen a case.

And so we haven’t been advised to do a stay-at-home order or shelter-in-place order, but as I said yesterday and as I’ve said repeatedly, if it comes to that and recommendations are made and I’m convinced that’s the best thing for the public health of Mississippians, I am prepared to do so. It will be done in an appropriate way, and it will be done to protect Mississippians. You’ll notice that yesterday we had a press conference in which Dr. Dobbs outlined our ever evolving strategy to deal with COVID-19, which includes more testing, particularly in those areas that may become hot spots. To the extent that we identify a potential hot spot, we will act quickly to mitigate even further, going above and beyond what we’ve already done.

Mississippi Today: This week you issued the first statewide blanket order of any type. When you signed it Tuesday evening, a lot of mayors and local officials were confused by some of the language in there. Some of them have continued to be critical of parts of your statewide order that conflicted with their more strict local orders. One example is you defined churches as “essential businesses” in your statewide order, whereas a lot of local governments had decided that churches and church gatherings should not occur. Another example is that your statewide order allows restaurants to stay open if they could have 10 or fewer people inside at once, while mayors across the state had completely closed dining rooms of their restaurants. I’m hoping you can clarify for everyone those contradictions, and what would you say to the folks who have been critical of you and think your restrictions on those businesses are a little too loose?

Tate Reeves: Well what I would tell you is that in times such as these, you always have experts who believe they know best for everybody. You have some folks who think that government ought to take over everything in times of crisis — that they, as government officials, know better than individual citizens. When we made the decision to issue a statewide order, I will tell you that for the vast majority of Mississippians, the restrictions that we put in place were far more stringent than what they had in place before we issued that statewide order. While there were some mayors across the state that had issued orders for their cities, the vast majority of Mississippians didn’t live in those cities. We actually issued an order that was significantly more stringent than what was in place in most of Mississippi.

Now I can assure you that while most of the folks that complained about the fact that we issued such strict guidelines, they didn’t necessarily go on MSNBC to complain, but I can promise you we were hearing from them, as well, saying, “These guidelines are too strict. Why did you do this?” That’s just part of it. With respect to some of the complaints from the mayors, I understand that some of them believed that they —they had a hard time understanding what our intent was. We have 400 towns and cities across the state. Any time you get 400 lawyers reading something, there are going to be those who don’t interpret it the same way. Every single day, there are thousands of lawsuits filed with a lawyer on either side of that lawsuit arguing different sides. It’s open to interpretation. So what we did, when we started hearing some of the concerns which were legitimate because again, as I told Mayor (Robyn) Tannehill, a Democrat from Oxford, when she and I were having conversations about this: What’s best for Oxford and what’s best for Tishomingo aren’t exactly the same because their situations are different. Robyn’s got the Square in Oxford with bar after bar after bar, and restaurant after restaurant after restaurant, and on a Friday night, it can look a lot like the French Quarter in Oxford. That’s certainly not something we think is advantageous at this time. Now I would argue that the mere fact that we had a no more than 10 people can socially gather can apply there, that’s OK. I talked to Robyn, I made it clear what the intent of the order was. She had called our office and we had gotten back to her. So instead of trying to make political points, which is what some of these political opponents do… and that’s the nature of it. I’ve been in this business a long time. It doesn’t affect me. I wish that some of the Democrats across Mississippi would rally behind us. Let’s take care of our people now. There will be plenty of time to point fingers and fight, but I understand.

And look, here’s another reality: The order we issued was issued on a topic that no one had really contemplated before. So I’m not going to sit here and argue that it was perfectly drafted or perfectly worded, but here’s the intent, and I think the clarifying language we offered yesterday in the supplement did a good job of trying to clarify that. Our intent in issuing the order was to say that while municipalities have great ability to issue orders, under the emergency declaration we signed, my executive order has the backing of being the law of the land in the state of Mississippi as long as this emergency is ongoing. We tried to do a couple of things. One, we said we were going to outlaw in Mississippi, for the foreseeable future — I think we said April 17 — public gathering of 10 or more people for social purposes. Number two, we said that we were going to shut down in-room dining for all restaurants and bars in Mississippi, unless they can comply with item one, which was (10 people or fewer) in any one setting. And in addition to that, we said that there is no longer an ability in Mississippi to just go visit hospitals and nursing homes and many areas where our most vulnerable population are. That was the first part of the order. The second part of the order said that no municipality can issue any order that would make it impossible for “essential businesses” to operate. In other words, here’s what we were trying to get at: There are some cities out there that would like to issue stay-at-home orders or curfews. Well what we’re trying to do is say, “You can issue a curfew, but you can’t issue a curfew that keeps a doctor from driving from his house to a hospital. You can’t keep someone who works in a grocery store from stocking the shelves because those are essential businesses.”

When we outlined what “essential businesses” were, almost without exception we took from the list of essential businesses as defined by the Department of Homeland Security of the United States government. Their cyber security infrastructure task force has a list, about four or five pages long. So that was the model that we used to define existing businesses. There was then some language that said, in essence, that the municipality could not keep those essential businesses from operating. But what it didn’t say, in our view, although there were different interpretations, it didn’t say that on those first three things that cities couldn’t go beyond that should they choose to do so. So what we were trying to do was set a minimum standard, basically set a floor, for every entity statewide for gatherings of 10, gatherings in restaurants, also for visitation rights, but not say to the city of Oxford or the city of Bay St. Louis — again who has a Democrat mayor, or the city of Jackson, another mayor I had spoken to regarding this very topic — it doesn’t disallow them from going further. They just can’t directly do something or outlaw something that is under “essential services.”

Mississippi Today: I think the “essential businesses” clause is what was tripping up some of the mayors because you defined those more broadly than they did. So a lot of the businesses or other organizations — churches, for example, some of those mayors had said you can’t go to church during this time, but your statewide order defined churches as an essential business.

Tate Reeves: Well that’s right. For a number of days, many of those very same mayors were complaining because we didn’t issue a statewide order. They wanted us to give them guidance, to give them the ability to understand what we were looking at from a statewide standpoint. We did it, and then some legitimately were having a hard time understanding what the order said, which is perfectly fine. And then some just didn’t like what it said. They didn’t like the way we defined business. And again, in some of the more liberal jurisdictions, they wanted to shut down every business, and there’s just some things we believe are essential. We had a day or so of back and forth. I met with the executive committee of the Mississippi Municipal League. I personally spoke to many of the mayors of many of the larger communities around Mississippi, and we’ll continue to do so. Look, we’re in uncharted territory, uncharted waters. There’s going to be some things done that some people like and some people don’t. But just know this: I’m doing everything I can to protect the safety and welfare of Mississippians. 

Mississippi Today: You just mentioned, in your words, “liberal jurisdictions.” You talked a little about politics earlier. From your vantage point, has this been political?

Tate Reeves: Well look, we’ve had a saying in my office for a long time: “It’s really hard to take politics out of politics.” And so there’s not doubt that there are some in the national media, I believe, that have decided they want to utilize this opportunity to attack President Trump. We are in an election year.

The timing of this is horrible, for lots and lots of reasons, but we are in an election year. There are some in the national media that would like to attack the way in which the president and vice president have handled this particular crisis, which is certainly their prerogative to do so. But because of that, they look at the way in which some of the red states have handled it and in working with the administration, and they’ve decided to attack the president by attacking us. And that’s OK. We know better on how to run the state of Mississippi than any national media or other figure will be able to do. But look, there’s going to be plenty of time to point fingers. There’s going to be plenty of time to look back and say, “Was the decision made by Gov. Cuomo in New York the right decision? Was the decision made by Gov. Reeves in Mississippi the right decision?” Now at that point, we’re going to have this small added benefit of actually being able to look back and see what happened. We don’t have that benefit today. We are taking the information and facts before us, we’re listening to our experts every step of the way, and we think we’re making the right decisions for Mississippians in both the short term and the long term.

Mississippi Today: As somebody who grew up in rural Mississippi, I grew up around a lot of this. I’m blessed and fortunate in a lot of ways myself because if I were to develop symptoms of this virus, I could call my primary care physician and say, “What do I do?” They’ll point me in the right direction. But 300,000 Mississippians, about 10 percent of the population, don’t have health insurance. They don’t have the money to afford health care. You were talking a little bit about politics just now, and a key focus of yours last campaign was resisting any talk of potentially expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Estimates show that if Mississippi were to expand Medicaid, about half of those 300,000 Mississippians would be covered. For those people, if they were to develop symptoms, they don’t have that primary care doctor, so they’ve got two options: They can go to the ER and undoubtedly foot very expensive bills they may never be able to pay off, or they can try to do their best on their own at home, and worst case would be worst case.

Two-part question: Has this crisis changed your perspective on Medicaid expansion at all, and what would you say to those 300,000 Mississippians who can’t afford health care under normal circumstances, let alone during a pandemic? 

Tate Reeves: Well what I would say is in my view, when you look at the situation and you think about those individuals you mentioned, the reality is Medicaid is an insurer. It is a provider. It is a way for services to be paid for individuals. What we’re dealing with here in the immediate crisis is access to care. If those individuals were to develop symptoms, there are a couple of different options for them: One, working with President Trump and his administration, there are more and more (Federally Qualified Health Centers) that are funded in the state of Mississippi.

In fact when I was lieutenant governor, we actually increased the funding for the FHQCs because we see that as a potential avenue for those in more rural areas to go. It’s primarily federally funded, but we increased funding by several million dollars through our FHQC, so those individuals have the opportunity to go to those FHQCs, which are funded for that purpose. They also, obviously, have the potential to go to an emergency room if their symptoms are horribly bad. One of the things we’re trying to do, as it relates to testing, is to ramp up testing, but we’re also trying to prioritize testing for those who have the worst symptoms. We’re also trying to prioritize testing for healthcare workers. We’re trying to prioritize testing for those who are already hospitalized, as they tend to be very high risk patients. And we’re also trying to prioritize testing for those who are 65 and older or those who have preexisting medical conditions. One of the challenges we have in Mississippi, and it’s one of the things that worries me, is we do have a lot of people in our state who are either obese or headed towards obesity, and that’s not a good condition to have if you were to contract the virus. That puts you in a higher risk category because you’re going to have similar challenges breathing, etcetera, if you get one of the horrible cases. So we’ve got to make sure, and we’re working to do so, that we have access to care for every Mississippian that contracts the virus. We do need to prioritize. We don’t need everyone who’s sneezing to run and get a test.

I noticed this today, there’s an awful lot of pollen out there. I’m terribly allergic to it. The timing of this is such that if you don’t have a fever of 100.4, the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says you don’t really need to take a test. Although I will tell you, our strategy is going to be in the coming days and weeks that if we find an area that is a hot spot, if we think there could be community spread — most of what we’ve seen so far, it seems, is person-to-person spread, not necessarily community spread, which doesn’t lead to the significant spread of the virus like an event like Mardi Gras. I think that is one of the reasons you’re seeing what you’re seeing in New Orleans. So we’re going to work to try to identify hot spots, limit and eliminate those community spread opportunities because the number one thing we can do is slow the spread of this virus so that we protect the health and integrity of our health care system. That’s the reason we met with the CEO of Forrest General (hospital) today and looked at ways we can help with things like that.

Mississippi Today: Just to circle back, you haven’t changed any thoughts on Medicaid expansion over this?

Tate Reeves: I have not.

Mississippi Today: Governor, I said this when you walked in the room, but it means a lot for transparency reasons that you took the time to do this. It’s a breath of fresh air in this state, particularly after how it’s operated the last few years. It does mean a lot that you’ve been transparent enough to sit down and share your thoughts and try to inform Mississippians the best you can.

Tate Reeves: Well thanks, I appreciate that. Here’s my plea to anyone listening, and I’m trying to use every avenue to say this: If you’re over 65, if you have a compromised immune system, if you fit into those categories, stay home. Everybody needs to stay home, but those particularly need to stay home because those are the highest risk patients and the most likely to suffer the worst case scenario in this, which is death. There are literally hundreds of people around the U.S. and thousands and thousands around the globe who have met death because of this very, very, very toxic virus. So please exercise caution, wash your hands, and stay safe.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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