Gov. Tate Reeves has promised to continue to take action to protect Mississippians from the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
In a press conference held on the steps of the Governor’s Mansion Tuesday, Reeves made his first public appearance since returning from a vacation in Spain and self-quarantining for about 10 days.
“We have taken decisive action,” he said. “In fact, we have taken very aggressive and decisive action to help protect Mississippians from this virus.”
After providing a lengthy timeline of his response to COVID-19 to date, Reeves announced several updates to the state’s response. Among them is the delivery of nearly 450,000 surgical and more protective n95 masks to hospitals. He encouraged hospitals to utilize their existing contracts and supply chains to secure masks and personal protective equipment, or PPEs.
“Every county (Emergency Management Agency) in Mississippi now has personal protective equipment from the state for first responders,” he said.
He then reiterated the guidelines for keeping safe during the crises.
“You must stay home as much as you can. Do not go out if you can possibly avoid it,” Reeves said. “Do not hoard supplies. We have assured you, as we have been reassured by the president and others, that the supply chain is working. The supply chain is delivering groceries every single day. Our amazing Mississippi truckers and our amazing truck drivers are working to ensure those stocks, those shelves get restocked. That is something that must continue.
“I have to tell you: Please, do not hoard. This is not a time for panic, this is a time for caution. Listen to the experts because I can tell you that is exactly what I am doing.”
“Do not gather in groups of 10 or more,” Reeves added. “Use good hygiene.
“Reserve our tests for the most vulnerable amongst us. … If you do not have symptoms, you do not need to be tested. If you don’t have fever in excess of 100.4, you probably do not need to be tested.”
Reeves also asked employers to allow people who can work from home to do so, and asked them to allow non-essential employees to go home.
On Tuesday, Reeves will sign an executive order to instruct Mississippians to avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 or more, that tells all restaurants and bars to suspend dine-in services, and instead use drive-thru, pick-up or delivery to get people food.
It will direct Mississippians not to visit hospitals, nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
It will direct businesses to direct every possible employee to work from home and it will ultimately define essential businesses that may be exempt from those rules.
“I have committed to transparency in this process,” Reeves said, “and I will continue to offer transparency.
“Understand that we are not at the end of this pandemic. In fact, we may still be at the beginning stages of this fight. The virus is new. We do not know what the future holds, but we do know that this virus is not to be taken lightly. We have emphasized that from day one, and as the data comes in, we will understand that even more.
Reeves indicated that the president’s “15 days to slow the spread” campaign may be working eight days in, but there’s not enough data, yet, to be sure.
“We also know that every action we have taken to date does have unintended consequences,” Reeves added. “Every action echoes through our community, affecting thousands of people’s ability to earn a living, affects thousands of families and affects thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives. These decisions are amongst the hardest of my career.
“I’m hopeful that we do not have to choose between the effects of this virus and the potential for abject poverty coming out of an economic disaster. Our health experts tell us this is not the case, and I trust them.
“I make you a solemn promise: I will take every action that our experts tell us will protect Mississippi’s most vulnerable citizens. That is my job. I will make hard decisions, and I will do what’s right for the people of Mississippi.”
He added, “All of us are in this together. … Be smart, because we do not know when this will end. But have hope, because we do know we will make it through.”
Following Reeves comments, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, state health officer, said that he expects “to see continued increases in cases over the next days and weeks, although we are doing everything we can to figure out how to stop the spread of this virus.”
He also emphasized social distancing, particularly in church and church-related events such as weddings and funerals.
“I know our faith is very important to us, but part of this is for our neighbors,” Dobbs said, “and if we really love our neighbors, we will make sure that we honor these best practices.