Gov. Tate Reeves says Mississippi will continue to reopen, though it does not meet the White House-mandated standards for doing so, which require 14 days of decline in new COVID-19 cases. Screenshot courtesy Fox News.
UPDATE: As of Thursday, May 7, Mississippians can again dine in at the state’s restaurants, gather in groups of up to 20 for outdoor sports, and visit parks and other outside recreational areas. Gov. Tate Reeves today released an executive order relaxing the restrictions in the remainder of his shelter-at-home order, which is scheduled to expire in one week on May 11.
Restaurants planning to open dine-in services must provide masks for all servers, screen all customers and allow a maximum of 50% service capacity. “Carry-out and drive-thru are great, if you have a drive-thru window. Most family-owned restaurants are not so lucky, and their staff have been amongst the hardest hit,” Reeves said at this press briefing today.
The move to further reopen Mississippi came immediately after the Mississippi State Department of Health announced 327 new cases of COVID-19, the second-highest increase in single-day reports so far. The highest-ever increase came last Friday, May 1, with 397 new reports of coronavirus disease. Reeves had referred to Friday’s high caseload as a “data dump” from a number of out-of-state labs: the interceding two days showed a slump in new cases, down to a recent low of 109 on Sunday.
Reeves suggested today that excessive reliance on the number of cases on any given day was “selective use of data,” saying that new cases may have more to do with increased testing than with increased spread. “We have averaged over the last four days somewhere between 250 and 270 cases. That has been pretty consistent over the last 10 days or so, in terms of the total number of cases,” Reeves said.
The steady reopening of Mississippi will continue today, at odds with White House gating criteria and the concerns of many health experts in Mississippi and abroad. Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Twitter this morning that “Today at 2:30, we will announce some additional steps to continue reopening Mississippi safely,” acknowledging the state would not be returning to “100%” immediately.
The tweet follows a weekend appearance on Fox News Sunday, where Reeves defended his plans to continue relaxing restrictions on Mississippians even after Friday’s record-breaking 397 new detections. “We got a large number of tests that came in from out-of-state private labs,” Reeves said, calling the huge spike Friday morning a “one-day blip.”
Wallace asked the governor if Mississippi should open in spite of the White House’s proposed gating criteria, which require a 14-day downward trajectory of both influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like illnesses, as well as a 14-day downward trajectory of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. Mississippi’s COVID-19 trajectory is mostly steady, showing a daily growth of over 200 cases through much of the last few weeks.
Reeves suggested Mississippi is not like other states. “You have to understand that Mississippi is different from New York, and Mississippi is different from New Jersey,” Reeves said. “What we have seen is for the last 35 to 40 days, we’ve been between 200 and 300 cases without a spike. Our hospital system is not stressed. We have less than 100 people in our state on ventilators.”
LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, tweeted today that “[t]he numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, hospitalizations, and deaths are increasing. We have not hit our peak. We are not on the other side of this.” Her words challenge earlier claims from Reeves and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs that Mississippi was in the “plateau” of its peak.
As of press time, the Mississippi State Department of Health has yet to provide today’s new reports of COVID-19 detections. This article will be updated when the numbers are public. New cases slumped over the weekend, with Sunday bringing only 109 new reports of coronavirus disease, though deaths have remained steady about roughly 10 per day.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Read about announced closings and delays in Mississippi here. Read MEMA’s advice for a COVID-19 preparedness kit here.
Email information about closings and other vital related logistical details to [email protected].
Email state reporter Nick Judin, who is covering COVID-19 in Mississippi, at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @nickjudin. Seyma Bayram is covering the outbreak inside the capital city and in the criminal-justice system. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @seymabayram0.