/Gov Tate Reeves increasingly avoids facing public during worsening COVID-19 crisis

Gov Tate Reeves increasingly avoids facing public during worsening COVID-19 crisis

Reeves is Mississippi’s chief executive and can only issue state protocols to stop the spread of the virus. He has been subject to increasing criticism from Mississippians. The governor held almost daily press conferences during the initial days of the pandemic, and the first COVID-19 epidemic in Mississippi. His staff organized these events, which were usually broadcast live on television stations throughout the state, to announce details about executive orders such as mask mandates or limits on gatherings. Reeves was also able to answer questions from Mississippians during the event. The governor was only available twice to the public in December, Mississippi’s worst month in terms of the pandemic. He announced this week a significant executive order that requires mask-wearing in 78 out of 82 counties. He announced it on Facebook and Twitter, rather than announcing it before cameras like he did throughout the year. Parker Briden, Reeves deputy chief of staff, stated in a text that “Governor Tate Reeves was more accessible to the press than any person in the media could dreamed.” Mississippi Today has done nothing except insult him at numerous press conferences. Most of the information he will present has been the exact same for months. Stay home if you can. Wash your hands. Take care. It’s absurd to suggest that he hasn’t been available for media. This is just another indication that your outlet wants nothing more than to attack Tate Reeves. It’s your only concern.” The numbers prove otherwise. Reeves hosted press conferences almost every weekday when officials confirmed that the virus had infected Mississippi. In April, Reeves hosted 21 press conferences. He held 19 press conferences in May. Reeves started scheduling press conferences every two days or more in June, July, and August. In June, Reeves hosted seven press conferences. 13 were held in July, and nine in August. Reeves has been making fewer public appearances since the COVID-19 spike. Reeves only held four COVID-19 press conferences in September. He held only two COVID-19 press conferences in October and November. So far, December has seen just two. (The story continues below the charts. Although press conferences are now off the agenda, Reeves’ office remains accessible to journalists this year, despite the numerous crises that the state has been in. Reeves also took COVID-19 questions from reporters during other events, such as Dec. 6, following a legislative budget hearing. The press conferences gave the public the opportunity to hear directly from Governor Reeves. They also provided a platform for health experts such as Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer, and Greg Michel, Director of the Emergency Management Agency to provide important advice and testing to Mississippians. Dobbs was called his “closest adviser” by Reeves and offered his time at the press conferences to state chief health officer Greg Michel. Dobbs started hosting his own pressers, usually one or two times per week, in place of the governor’s. Michel is still being treated for COVID-19. Reeves’ COVID-19 response has been met with wide criticism from all sides. He’s been criticised by both those who want stricter public health regulations as well as those who think government should be more hands-off. While he has decried the “heavy handed of government,” he has also claimed that he should have done more and sooner. However, he was able to issue enough pandemic orders to rile up his more libertarian base. He’s also insulted state medical leaders who he called “experts” recently. Reeves, at a November press conference, called mask mandates the latest pandemic buzzword. However, COVID-19 numbers are on the rise in recent weeks. Reeves has been issuing mask mandates county-by-county. Reeves has issued executive orders to Mississippians to wear masks and limited gatherings. However, he’s also shown up in groups not wearing masks and held Christmas parties and fundraisers. His last COVID-19 press conference was held on December 9. There were more than 90 questions about him hosting Christmas parties and his participation in fundraisers. He was also asked why he hadn’t renewed the statewide mandate for masks despite increased numbers. Reeves last appeared on December 20th in a live Facebook video. He prayed and read the Bible for 20 minutes that day, declaring it the “Mississippi Day of Prayer, Humility and Fasting.” Dobbs and other state experts warned that there is not enough bed space in many hospitals. On Wednesday, the state recorded its third highest daily total number new cases and Tuesday saw its deadliest day. Dobbs issued a dire warning in his own press conference Tuesday as the holidays near. He said, “It’s terrible, and it’s only going to get worse.”