CNN’s Jake Tapper grilled Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) Sunday after he was singled out by President Joe Biden for his fierce resistance to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, even as his state records the highest numbers of deaths per capita in the country.
Tapper began the interview by asking Reeves why he and the Mississippi state legislature were willing to impose mandates for other vaccines but not for coronavirus.
In a speech Thursday, Biden had noted that Mississippi has strict requirements for children to be vaccinated against other diseases such as measles and polio. “I propose a requirement for COVID vaccines, and the governor of that state calls it, quote, ‘a tyrannical-type move,’” Biden said.
“It is unique to kids and their ability to go to our public schools. It’s not vaccines mandated in the workplace,” Reeves insisted. “This is an attack by the president on hardworking Americans and hardworking Mississippians who he wants to choose between getting a jab in their arm and their ability to feed their families.”
As part of his plan to increase vaccinations amid a major spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths driven by the delta variant of the virus, Biden earlier this month directed the Labor Department to require all business with 100 or more employees to require workers be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19.
As Reeves continued to insist Biden had overstepped his authority in doing so, Tapper pivoted to note that the virus was raging out of control under Reeves’ leadership.
“In fact, if Mississippi were its own country, you would be second in the world only to Peru in terms of deaths per capita,” Tapper said. “So with all due respect, governor, your way is failing. Are you going to try to change anything to change this horrible statistic from what you’re doing already?”
Reeves did not answer the question, but instead argued over the figures, insisting that fatalities was a “lagging indicator” and noting that new case numbers were falling.
After Tapper asked if he planned to make any changes to his strategy, Reeves told people to talk to their doctors about getting vaccinated, saying “we believe in personal responsibility.”
Just 42% of Mississippians are fully vaccinated, much lower than the national average.
“So you’re not going to change anything?” Tapper asked.
After several iterations of the question, Reeves again argued that deaths are a “lagging indicator.”
There have been more than 473,000 reported COVID-19 cases in Mississippi and over 9,200 deaths. New daily cases spiked last month, with nearly 5,000 new cases a day reported in mid-August. That number has since fallen, with the seven-day average of new daily cases sitting at just over 1,800 cases as of Sunday.