Governor Tate Reeves was blunt in his assessment of how things are going in Mississippi right now: citizens must wear a mask to avoid shutdown of schools and work because health officials fear the virus has mutated and is now more contagious and more powerful.
“Today, we have stricter measures going into effect in 13 counties as we face down the threat of COVID-19. We have suspended elective procedures in our hospitals, to prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. I’ve pushed back in the past months when people claimed an increase in cases was a spike in Mississippi. Make no mistake: we are in the middle of a spike.
I hope that, throughout this, people have been able to see me as an honest broker. I have avoided hyperbole at all times. I have never said anything in an attempt to scare people—only to plainly state what we are seeing. There are plenty of people who have said we have not gone far enough. Others have said we are going too far. I’ve always tried to show restraint. I’ve also taken steps I never imagined.
I only say all that in the hopes that people will trust me when I tell you this: this is the worst that it has ever been for case spread in Mississippi. It is the most stressed our hospital system has been.
Right now, there is a backlash against coronavirus mitigation. It’s understandable. The “sky is falling” predictions of the spring were not realized. That is partly because there were some who spun themselves up and could not control their rhetoric. It is mostly because back then, just a few weeks ago, we all took this at least somewhat seriously. Some took extraordinary measures to protect themselves and their loved ones. But everyone did something.
Right now, it seems like there is a good number of people who have resigned themselves to spreading the virus. Or they believe that it is not real. I hear that all the time. I’m telling you: It is very, very real. You can see it in our death toll. We are in the thick of things.
The best way that we know to avoid the shutdowns of schools, sports, and work right now is to wear a mask. I know that some people have trouble believing that. There was a concerted push at the beginning of this pandemic to discourage mask use—from the highest levels of the health community down. It makes guys like me, who are already skeptical by nature, have a hard time believing this time around.
I am telling you that I have directly asked every hard question you’ve wondered about. Why the change in tone? Are they really effective? We’ve looked at every tool. I promise you: This is the best weapon we have. It’s not fun, but it’s a hell of a lot better than widespread shut downs. And that’s the trajectory we’re on.
The President is wearing a mask. I’m wearing a mask. We’re all doing it. It’s got to happen, or we’re going to find ourselves in a place as bad as we can imagine.
Scientists have gotten things wrong. Models have been flawed. Experts and pundits have been overly confident and overly dramatic at different times. That whiplash is confusing. I get it. It’s been confusing for me too. But I’m telling you: this is not a hypothetical. We don’t know the effects of this virus from experiments or other states. We’re seeing it right here, right now.
It is deadly. It is spreading. In fact, our experts believe that we are witnessing a more contagious strain tear through our state right now. It’s above my level of expertise, but they’ve analyzed it. They believe that the virus is mutating and getting more powerful.
This is Mississippi’s moment. This is our time to fight. I believe it’s coming for every corner of this country at different times. We are in the middle of ours. Stay calm, but stay in control. Don’t panic, but persevere. We can beat this thing together, and save lives. That is what you are doing every time you wear a mask. Every smart move you make. Every sacrifice. Every little action. You are saving lives.
We can do this. We have to do this. We will come through together.”