Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi on Sunday downplayed his state’s high Covid death rate, calling it an inadequate benchmark to measure the pandemic’s toll in the state.
The state is among the top three in the nation for Covid-19 deaths per capita, behind only Florida and Alabama, according to The New York Times database.
Just 42 percent of Mississippi’s residents are vaccinated, well below the national average of 54 percent, according to The New York Times database. The number of deaths increased by 18 percent in the last 14 days, bringing its total to more than 9,200 reported fatalities.
“Unfortunately, fatalities are a lagging indicator when it comes to the virus,” Mr. Reeves said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Timing has as much to do with that statistic as anything else.”
Mr. Reeves attributed the deaths to the presence of the more-contagious Delta variant, suggesting that current conditions in the state are temporary. He also noted that new cases in Mississippi have been falling recently.
Despite continued probing, Mr. Reeves refused to answer whether his state would take any additional measures. Mr. Reeves, who is vaccinated, said that vaccination is “the best thing Americans can do to protect themselves against the virus.”
The governor critiqued the Biden administration’s plans to enforce a vaccine mandate for two-thirds of American workers.
“This is an attack by the president on hard working Americans, and hard working Mississippians, who he wants to choose between getting a jab in their arm — and their ability to feed their families,” Mr. Reeves said.
In addition to challenging the proposed mandate’s constitutionality, Mr. Reeves, who is vaccinated, voiced concerns over the legal precedent it would set.
“This should scare Democrats just as much as it scares Republicans,” he said. “The fact is, if we give unilateral authority by one individual to do anything that he wants to do — whether it’s a jab in the arm or something else — then this country is in deep, deep trouble. That’s not something that I am going to stand by and let him do.”