/Gov Tate Reeves defends handling of the COVID-19 crisis; talks Medicaid expansion, Trump and his controversial Spain trip

Gov Tate Reeves defends handling of the COVID-19 crisis; talks Medicaid expansion, Trump and his controversial Spain trip

Reeves answered 45 minutes of questions regarding his decisions as the virus spreads in Mississippi. He also discussed how prepared Mississippi is for the worst case scenario. He also talked about how politics played into the criticisms he received. Finally, he spoke out to discuss whether or not the crisis has changed his view on Medicaid expansion. Below is the complete transcript of the interview. You can stream the podcast episode right here or use your favorite podcast app. Mississippi Today: This week, we’re in the Governor’s Mansion. We are in a conference area that you have mentioned several times in the past week. You were the state treasurer when Hurricane Katrina was 15 years ago. You have pointed out the irony of how things have changed 15 years later. This is your third month of governorship. What have you thought about this for the last few weeks? Gov. Tate Reeves says it has been difficult. That’s undisputed. This is a pandemic that has never been seen in America since more than 100 years ago. It’s unlikely that anyone in America has ever seen what we went through during the late teens of last century. It has been quite a challenge. Ironically, we were sheltered at the Mississippi State Capitol just a few blocks away from Hurricane Katrina. We lost power. We had to do many things to ensure that our machines worked properly because we were responsible for the state’s finances. However, we also had to take extreme measures in order to pay our debt service and other such things. I spent a lot of time in the conference room with Gov. (Haley Barbour) Barbour’s staff prepared them and worked with them in the special session to address Hurricane Katrina. It’s important to recall that Katrina was not only the worst natural disaster in American History, but it was also five times more than the previous largest natural catastrophe in American History, at least in terms total losses. Although there have been other disasters that have exceeded that, it was something we frequently said that you cannot plan for anything five times greater than what has already happened. It is beyond your abilities to imagine or comprehend. In that it is extremely complicated, this particular event is very similar. We had a plan for a pandemic prepared by Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer, and his team at State Department of Health. Although it was over 440 pages, it contained many important elements. That plan has been used by us. We’ve been far more aggressive than we ever imagined when it comes to the actions we’ve taken so far. We also know we are not done yet. There is still much to be done, the number of cases will likely increase, and things are going to get worse before getting better. Mississippi Today: Much has been written and debated at the federal and state levels about when officials realized how dire this situation could be for our country. What was the worst thing that could happen to Mississippi? Tate Reeves, I believe that Mississippi wasn’t able to get its first case until fifteen days ago. It’s safe to say that many of us didn’t anticipate that we would move so quickly, even though we have approximately 500 cases. There are currently approximately 100,000 cases in America. Mississippi has approximately 1% of the American population and just a half of 1% of all cases. This is not going to change. We are seeing that the cycle is so different in different states and in different countries, it’s not necessarily going to continue. I believe and hope that New York will be a little more advanced in its cycle than other states, especially those with more rural areas. However, I will also say that the corrective actions that we took were more advanced in Mississippi’s cycle overall than any other states. This is relative to when they began taking these measures in their own cycle. Again, I don’t think anyone today realizes how dire it can or will get in Mississippi. All of us have models. We look at the data, try to predict the worst and then plan accordingly. This is what I spent the entire day doing today. However, we must also recognize that these things are always approached with the intention of preparing for the worst and praying for the best. We can expect something in the middle. This is where we will most likely end up. Mississippi Today: The first confirmed case was 15 days ago. When the first confirmed case was confirmed, you were actually in Europe. It was a family trip that was planned weeks ahead. But I was curious: Did you ever consider not going to that trip as you watched the unfolding? Perhaps you came back earlier once you arrived? What were the next steps in managing this crisis? Tate Reeves, Tate and I actually spoke about the possible pandemic in February. The exact date is not clear to me. Before I went to Europe, we also signed an order and activated the task force. Dr. Dobbs was the leader. It was a family trip. Due to 2019 being an election year, many of us in our family worked hard last year. We didn’t take any family vacations or trips. We didn’t have a lot of time together. My daughter is a rising soccer player. She was selected for the national soccer team. We wanted to give her the opportunity to travel to Europe with some of our friends to play soccer. As I recall, in Spain there were only 500 cases at the time we left. It was around the time that (cases in) Italy collapsed, and it was also around that time that we began seeing additional cases in Spain. Since then, the number of cases has increased significantly. After my first case was confirmed, Dr. Dobbs and my staff called me. I was able to board a plane back to America within 24 hours. We have worked hard to get there and made the right decision to live on the Governor’s Mansion grounds. The other night, I was speaking to Jackson’s mayor and said that I had never imagined spending 14 consecutive days in one block of downtown Jackson. Now, if you want to spend 14 days in any block of downtown Jackson for 14 days, this is the place to do it. We chose to isolate ourselves for many reasons, but there is no doubt about that. It’s right, and we also wanted to use that opportunity to show Mississippians the seriousness of the situation. We have seen an increase in daily cases in the past five to six days, which was about 15 days ago. And by the way, I believe that you need to know how many state tests are being run before you can compare numbers between states.