Amid rising COVID-19 cases in the region, Dr. Deborah Birx, the Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was in Mississippi to meet with Governor Tate Reeves and state health officials.
During today’s press briefing, Governor Reeves highlighted the key points of their discussion, including a continued emphasis on mask use.
“Dr. Birx reiterated the Trump administration’s firm conclusion that masks work, and masks can help prevent further economic shutdowns. We know that further economic shutdowns is a pain in many of our communities that is not sustainable and that it contributes to our people giving up on our mission,” Governor Reeves explained.
Currently, mask mandates are in effect in 13 Mississippi counties. The governor remains firmly opposed to issuing a statewide mandate, and he was asked about it again today.
“I believe by targeting these 13 counties now, which we may add to or take away, will lead to better compliance than if I just simply signed an order that said ‘statewide, everything is bad, wear a mask.’ At the end of the day, me signing an order doesn’t do a dadgum thing to slow the spread of the virus. What slows the spread of the virus. What slows the spread of the virus is you in your community wearing a mask and staying socially distanced,” the governor stated.
Dr. Birx expressed to the governor and those in attendance that bars have shown to be a source of transmission due to an inability to socially distance. The governor went on to say that they are having conversations about an order that could close certain bars following a “strong recommendation” from Dr. Birx.
“It is a definite possibility,” he said. “The conversations are being had. It is not in my DNA to shut down private businesses, so this is something we’re having a lot of conversations about. I will tell you that there seem to be distinctions between those that are outdoor vs. those that are indoor, so there’s a lot of nuances there that we’re trying to work through, but I am concerned as to potential transmission in bars.”
Governor Reeves referenced similar orders that have taken effect in Texas and Florida to limit the spread of the virus in bars.
State Health Officer Dr. Dobbs explained that Dr. Birx stressed the fact that asymptotic spread is driving the increase of cases.
“Part of that is we’ve got to assume that everyone’s got it. We can’t let symptoms be the way that we cull out our social gatherings because so much of the spread is asymptotic or minimally-symptomatic,” Dr. Dobbs said.
The state’s top health official added that he was encouraged to hear that there will be increased investment in Mississippi’s long-term care system with access to rapid testing as a focus.
Below, you can watch the full briefing: