How many ways can someone come up with finding an excuse for not doing their job? The dog ate the homework, or it’s someone else’s job, or, hey, God will provide. It seems like the governor of Mississippi is a master of finding scapegoats.
Back in April of this year, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) blamed the lackluster vaccination situation in the Magnolia State on “a very large African American population” and “a lot of rural people.”
Currently, just under 38 percent of Mississippi is fully inoculated against COVID-19, making it the second least vaccinated state in the country, lagging only behind Alabama.
In just the past week, the Republican governor addressed the recent deadly surge in COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths in his state, telling a group of state Republicans on Thursday that there might be a more pointed reason why COVID rates are so high in Mississippi: the state is just too religious!
Mississippi is currently experiencing pandemic death rates on par with New York and New Jersey, early hotspots of the coronavirus as it first began to spread across the U.S. last year. In the past two weeks, Mississippi has risen to No. 1 in the U.S. for COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people — the state has confirmed 8,279 deaths since the start of the pandemic, meaning 279 deaths for every 100,000 residents, according to the New York Times and the Mississippi Free Press‘ calculations.
But people in the state are just not afraid of the virus due to their religious beliefs, according to Reeves, who said last week that the church-goers might play a role in the recent spike.
“I’m often asked by some of my friends on the other side of the aisle about COVID … and why does it seem like folks in Mississippi and maybe in the Mid-South are a little less scared, shall we say,” Reeves said on Thursday, according to multiple local reports.
“When you believe in eternal life — when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things,” he continued. “God also tells us to take necessary precautions. And we all have opportunities and abilities to do that and we should all do that. I encourage everyone to do so.”
The problem is, he’s barely encouraged the most basic COVID-19 mitigation measures. As one of the least vaccinated states in the country, he’s been criticized for his mousey messaging about the shot. By July, he finally encouraged Mississippians to get the vaccine, but with a crucial caveat:
“The best way to protect yourself is to become vaccinated. There are shots available and free. I just encourage Mississippians to protect themselves. And for those who don’t make that choice I respect your right to make that choice,” Reeves said. “… I am not an elected official who thinks I am automatically smarter than everyone else and can tell everybody what they can and cannot do with themselves.”
His unhelpfulness on COVID goes beyond being milquetoast about encouraging vaccination. Earlier this month, he told reporters he was opposed to vaccine mandates, especially for public entities. He’s taken similar stances against masking rules for public schools and even downplayed the severity of the virus’ impact on children to being “the sniffles” in most cases, despite at least six child COVID deaths in his state, according to the Mississippi Free Press.
And back in July, when the CDC announced new masking rules for the vaccinated, Reeves boiled the whole thing down to a political plot from the federal government.
“It reeks of political panic so as to appear they are in control,” Reeves said. “It has nothing — let me say that again — it has nothing to do with rational science. … In Mississippi, we believe in freedom.”
But yes, blame the church goers, Black people and rural folks, instead.
Unlike the governor of Florida, he’s not doing it for political gain or the prospect of running for president. It would appear that he’s just stupid.