The First Lady is on a tour across the south, along with other members of President Joe Biden’s administration, to promote vaccine awareness and outreach. Photo courtesy Cameron Smith/White House
First Lady Jill Biden is in Jackson today as part of a national tour to promote COVID-19 vaccine outreach and awareness. For her stop in Jackson, Biden plans to visit vaccination sites including Jackson State University, which has itself held events to address lingering vaccine hesitancy in Mississippi.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson will accompany Biden on her tour of JSU’s vaccination site. Biden’s next stop will take her to Nashville, TN where she will join country music singer Brad Paisley at vaccination sites.
The trip is part of a wider reaching effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to encourage stronger vaccination rates across the country, and in the south especially. Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to travel across southern states as well, while Biden himself will make an appearance in North Carolina this Thursday.
Vaccination rates in Mississippi have declined almost every week since April, from a high of 132,000 shots in one week to just under 25,000 last week. Only 32% of the state is fully vaccinated, compared to some states which have topped 60% vaccination rates.
The federal effort comes days after House Speaker Philip Gunn sent a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves on June 16, requesting an end to Mississippi’s State of Emergency due to COVID-19.
“It is our firm belief that any state of emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic no longer exists,” Gunn said. “Even so, the State of Mississippi continues to be under a state of emergency that you declared last year. We are not aware of any reason why the declared state of emergency should continue to exist,” he said.
In a June 18 reply, Reeves announced August 15 as the date to end the State of Emergency due to COVID-19, as well as July 15 as the end of the state’s use of the Mississippi National Guard to assist vaccination efforts.
“I want to thank all Mississippians for their sacrifices over the past 15 months,” Reeves said. “Your actions resulted in a significant decline of COVID-19 cases and allowed our state to effectively manage the impacts of the virus. I’m also extremely proud of the way our Mississippi National Guard, Mississippi Department of Health, MEMA, and other state agencies have capably handled this pandemic. With their help, we’ve administered nearly 2 million COVID-19 vaccinations.”
“While a State of Emergency should no longer be necessary after August 15, all Mississippians should remain vigilant, get vaccinated, and follow public health guidance,” Reeves said.
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].