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Reeves blames spike in COVID-19 cases on protests, contradicting health officials



governor tate reeves
Gov. Tate Reeves during a March 23 Facebook live event. (Photo via video screen grab)
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In an accusation contradicting health department officials, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves blamed the recent surge in COVID-19 cases on protests.

“Liberal media is trying to claim the increase of Coronavirus was just caused by family BBQ’s on Memorial Day,” he wrote on his Facebook page Sunday. “They completely ignore the fact that our uptick (and other states) began within days of massive protests all over—which they celebrated.”

‪State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has consistently stated that he has not seen evidence that the protests caused the spike in new COVID-19 cases.

“It would be hard to say,” Dobbs responded June 23 to a question about the protests and the increase in cases. “I will say of all the protesters, I saw a lot of masks. I was very heartened to see that, so kudos, but we are not sure. We haven’t seen anything attributed to that, but it is early. It takes a while. Outdoors are good. Masks are good. Crowds are bad. Remains to be seen.”

Protests over the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis began the following day when authorities delayed pressing charges against the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

From Minneapolis, protests against police brutality and for social justice have taken place in more than 140 cities across the nation. Some have become violent — people have died, and property has been destroyed — but the majority, including about a dozen in Mississippi, have been peaceful.

But the protests alone don’t account for the massive increases in cases, health officials say. At the same time the protests were happening, states were reopening businesses, restaurants and bars after several weeks of COVID-19 closures and restrictions that, in Mississippi, mainly affected small businesses. The closures, while effective in flattening the curve of hospitalizations, put millions of Americans out of work and plunged the nation’s economy into a recession.

The rapid reopening is seen as the main driver of the recent COVID-19 spikes, as many people stopped sheltering in place and resumed normal activities. In Mississippi, the recent increases are seen primarily in young people between 19 and 29 years old.

There has also been a movement to not adhere to the very things that kept the case rate from exploding earlier — wearing masks in public, observing social distancing and heightening hygiene. These actions have become highly politicized, and rumors and misinformation about their effectiveness are rampant. The Mississippi State Department of Health as well as officials nationwide continue to strongly advocate for these measures, including Reeves and Dobbs.

Meanwhile, cases continue to rise in record numbers across the U.S., especially in the South. Florida added more than 11,000 cases Saturday, and Texas more than 8,000.

While Mississippi hasn’t come close to those kinds of numbers, it had the biggest percentage increase in the nation in the two weeks ending July 4, with cases nearly tripling from the first weeks in June. For the week ending Saturday, the seven-day average number of new COVID-19 cases is 734 per day.

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