/CEO of major Mississippi hospital hosts in-person fundraiser for Gov Tate Reeves

CEO of major Mississippi hospital hosts in-person fundraiser for Gov Tate Reeves

Kent Nicaud, CEO at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport hosted the fundraiser Wednesday night at his Pass Christian home. Nicaud spoke to Mississippi Today by phone on Thursday. He said that he and the attendees were conscious of social distancing. His home measures 11,000 square feet. “There was probably no more than 21-22 people at once. It was a safe event. The governor was already there for the chamber of commerce and tourism commission. It was a chance for people to speak to (Reeves), about specific topics. It was done safely.” In November, Reeves issued an executive order requiring that no group gatherings be held in Harrison County (where Nicaud lives) exceeding 10 people in one indoor space and 50 outdoors. Nicaud stated that the guests at the fundraiser were spread across multiple floors of his house, indoors and out. It is not clear whether more than 10 people were indoors at any given time during the fundraiser, which also included wait staff and bartenders. Nicaud stated that there was “a lot of distance” and that everyone wore masks. Frank Bordeaux, chairman, of the Mississippi Republican Party said that “between what Kent (Nicaud), brought and what the governor brought,” everyone could have taken a hand-sanitizer bath. Even though the protocol was in place, it directly contradicts the guidance of health experts. Mississippi has been experiencing record COVID-19 levels almost every day this week. The current 7-day average of COVID-19 cases is far higher than Mississippi’s summer peak. This makes it the worst pandemic point to date. Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs advised Mississippians not to attend “social events or parties” during the fundraiser. Dobbs, who wrote Wednesday that Mississippians should avoid social gatherings that include people outside their nuclear families or households, said this: MSDH recommends Mississippians not participate in school, work, or any other essential activity. Recently, health experts and leaders at large hospitals throughout the state warned of the state’s worsening COVID-19 peak period. They specifically highlighted a sharp drop in beds for patients with viruses. “As of 06:46 today, UMMC’s beds status is -31. This means that 31 people have been admitted and are waiting for a bed. On Wednesday, Dr. LouAnn Woodward (vice chancellor of University of Mississippi Medical Center), tweeted that “Who will be #32, #33, or #34?” “Nurses and doctors, respiratory therapists, as well as many other people are helping,” Woodward tweeted. It will take them a while to recover from the trauma they are currently living.” According to the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), Memorial Hospital at Gulfport had five beds available on the day of the fundraiser and one ICU bed. Nicaud was asked whether a hospital leader should host an event in person during the recent spike of cases. He said that he believes that putting people at danger is a problem and that it has not happened to him. “If I didn’t believe we could have achieved safety, we wouldn’t have (the fundraiser). There is no mandate to quarantine. Everyone has to find their comfort zone. “I think that’s going be our new norm.” Nicaud is a long-standing political ally of Reeves. He served on the governor’s campaign finance committee recently and gave at least $30,000 towards the governor’s 2019 campaign. Reeves appointed Nicaud to the Mississippi Coronavirus Task Force. Reeves has downplayed how serious the virus is spreading in recent days and said last week that he was not going to give in to the pressure of “so-called expert” who called for a mandatory statewide mask mandate. Leaders of the Mississippi Hospital Association and Dobbs and Woodward were among those calling for such an order last Wednesday. Reeves was joined by dozens of others at a conference he hosted – the 2020 Governor’s Conference on Tourism, held at the IP Casino ballroom in Biloxi. Parker Briden, Reeves deputy chief of staff, said that the conference and fundraiser were safe.