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Mississippi State Health Officer says he hasn’t pushed for statewide mask mandates “in a long, long time”

By: Frank Corder - September 3, 2021

Media, Left have excoriated Governor Tate Reeves for not mandating masks amid COVID spike.

Over the past several weeks, the media and those on the political left in Mississippi have attempted to publicly excoriate Governor Tate Reeves over not issuing statewide mask mandates as the Delta variant of COVID-19 has spiked causing most hospitals in the state to be overwhelmed.

At one press conference alone, legacy media reporters asked the Governor seven times about imposing a mask mandate. Each time Reeves said he would not be issuing such an order, echoing what he has said since May 2021. That exchange led the Governor to open the next press conference directly exposing the politics behind such questioning.

“There are those on the right who would like me to make masks and the vaccines into a political battle. There are those on the left, including most of the reporters in this room, who really want to make political hay and grow their Twitter platform because I will not issue a mandate after mandate after mandate,” Governor Reeves said. “Let me be clear: I do not give a damn about any political agenda.”

Democrat Congressman Bennie Thompson sought to make hay on the issue, writing a letter and an Op-Ed chiding Governor Reeves on not issuing a mask mandate. “I implore you, as governor, to do more to address this dire situation,” Thompson wrote.

Even the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, Tyree Irving, got on the train, issuing a press statement that said “the science and data are clear” on masking, and urging the Mississippi Republican Party to join him in asking Governor Reeves to mandate masks. The MSGOP has not joined the call.

Yet, through it all, Reeves has maintained that he will not be issuing statewide or targeted mask mandates, such as in schools, at this point, choosing instead to allow local officials to make those determinations as they deem prudent, much to their chagrin. This means local school or municipal officials cannot pass the blame up the chain to the Governor and must bear the weight of their decisions with their constituents should mandates be enacted.

The Governor has repeatedly advocated for Mississippians to talk to their doctor and get the vaccine, just as he and his family have done, but he has also been critical of the CDC and the Biden White House for pushing continued masking as Americans get vaccinated, a reversal from months earlier when their narrative was get vaccinated to stop wearing masks.

“The change in the CDC’s mask guidance is foolish and harmful and it reeks of political panic to appear that they are in control,” Governor Reeves told the crowd at the Neshoba County Fair. “It has nothing to do with rational science.”

Those comments coupled with Reeves’ reluctance to order another round of mask mandates, similar to what was done at the beginning of the pandemic in Spring 2020, has led critics to believe he is not listening to public health leaders, namely the State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs with the Mississippi State Department of Health.

But that has now been proven false.

In an interview with Y’all Politics this week, Dr. Dobbs directly addressed mask mandates and his latest thoughts on masking.

“We haven’t really pushed for statewide public mask mandates in a long, long time,” Dobbs said. “It made sense to do stuff early on before we had other options but there are other things that are far more important than that.”

Governor Reeves did enact mask requirements “early on,” as Dobbs references, but the factors have changed. Officials now know more on the cause of transmission, as well as what is best practice, in a world with a COVID vaccine that did not exist last year.

Dobbs said mask mandates get people “really stirred up,” adding that there is marginal benefit for universal mask mandates. Being outdoors and limiting indoor social gatherings are more important. Dobbs said context matters.

“We see that people who wear masks in public catch COVID at home or at work or other places,” Dobbs said. “You’re not likely to catch COVID walking through a grocery store when you’re having a three second passing somebody in three feet. There’s not going to be that much exposure.”

But Dobbs says masking in settings where people are around others for extending periods of time, such as work or schools, makes sense. He says masks are part of a layered approach for COVID prevention.

“So legit concern I think about, you know, what is a true impact of a mask mandate. Is it marginally useful? Yeah, it might help some but it’s not going to be a panacea under any circumstance,” Dobbs said.

You can watch the full Y’all Politics interview with Dr. Dobbs below.

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications such as the Daily Caller. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank:
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