JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - At a press conference Wednesday, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced new restrictions on social gatherings, and new rules requiring face coverings for students at schools statewide. Additional counties were also added to the governor’s mask mandate.
The following counties are now all under the mandate:
Adams, Alcorn, Amite, Attala, Bolivar, Calhoun, Carroll, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Clarke, Clay, Coahoma, Copiah, Covington, De Soto, Forrest, Franklin, Grenada, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Itawamba, Jackson, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Kemper, Lafayette, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Leflore, Lincoln, Lowndes, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Montgomery, Neshoba, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Panola, Pearl River, Perry, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Stone, Tate, Tippah, Tishomingo, Union, Washington, Webster, Winston, Yalobusha and Yazoo Counties.
At the same time, Reeves, a Republican, criticized President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to slow the spread of COVID-19, saying that they would have little impact on efforts.
He went on to say that Biden would have no authority to tell Mississippians to wear masks, and would only have the authority to require masks on federal properties and for activities that require interstate commerce.
“The president doesn’t have any authority to tell a Mississippian to do what they can or cannot do,” he said, adding that Biden’s plans to curb the virus during his first 100 days in office “are going to have zero impact on the virus and where we find ourselves.”
On Wednesday, NBC News reported that Biden promised to “oversee the injection of 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots within his first 100 days as president” and would ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to help slow the spread.
Reeves, though, questioned Biden’s legitimacy as president-elect, and said the vaccines would be distributed with or without him as chief executive in the White House.
“If we don’t have a president of the United States for four months, we’re going to distribute, as Americans, at least 100 millions vaccines,” he said. “He’s going to have no impact on the virus.”
The Governor’s Office later stated that Reeves’ comments were “hypothetical” and “off-the-cuff” and not “a serious suggestion that we may not have a president.”
The governor went on to say that even the executive orders put in place by governors have little impact, saying that the virus would “fluctuate.”
“I do not believe the policies handed down from state executives has the ability to move mountains,” he said. “We’re going to see the spread of COVID-19 and it’s going to fluctuate, whatever words we write on the pages of an executive order.
“If you don’t believe me, you can see states that have been exceptionally restrictive and their COVID-19 numbers are going up. You can find states that have done very little in terms of restrictions and their COVID-19 numbers are going up,” Reeves said. “It’s going to fluctuate.”
Reeves also handed down new rules for indoor sporting events, limiting attendance to indoor venues for K-12 events to “the lesser of four spectators per student participant or 25 ticketed spectators in total.”
“We are also going to add, for other indoor arenas, a limit of the lesser of 10 percent of seating capacity of the arena or 1,000 attendees.”
The governor said he is concerned that the virus will spread more easily at indoor events like high basketball games, especially when compared to football games, which are played outside. However, he doesn’t want to cancel winter sports, citing their importance to students.
“I’ve always been a defender of the fact that it is necessary for these kids to have access to the structure and the opportunity of athletics,” he said. “I firmly believe that for these kids around our state, playing ball is the primary reason they work so hard to keep their math grade up.”
New regulations on social gatherings are also being put in place. “Social gatherings where social distancing is not possible will be limited to no more than 10 people in a single space indoors, and no more than 50 in close proximity outdoors,” he said. “That will apply in all 82 counties.”
The executive order comes amid the holiday season and as people are planning Christmas get-togethers and holiday parties. It also comes as the governor is expected to host a party at the Governor’s Mansion Wednesday night. Reeves said his party would comply with his new executive mandates.
Today, an additional 2,746 cases were reported, along with 24 deaths, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.
Dobbs also spoke on the coronavirus vaccine, reiterating that the state should have its first supply of doses next week. He went on to say that people can’t get the virus from the vaccine, saying that it does not include the COVID virus. Rather, he said it includes RNA that teaches the body how to fight the virus.
In other news, Reeves announced that Col. Gregory Michel, the executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, could not be at the conference because he had tested positive for the virus.