Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) defended his decision not to issue a statewide mask order in an interview on Sunday, arguing that a mandate is not the most effective way to urge residents to wear face coverings to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s not about the words you write on the page. [It’s] not about words like mandate,” Reeves said on CNN’s “State of the Union. “How do you get the majority of your citizens to actually adhere to doing what's right?”
Reeves signed an order earlier this month requiring face masks in 13 counties across the state, but did not go so far as to issue an order across the whole of Mississippi.
He said Sunday that compliance in those 13 counties is “better today” than it was a week ago, and said compliance in the other 69 counties is also better.
He argued that urging residents to wear masks during daily press conferences has led to increased compliance.
CNN host Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperYarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Fauci on FDA advisers' booster recommendations: 'I don't think they made a mistake' Mississippi governor: Biden vaccine mandates an 'attack' on 'hard-working Americans' MORE pressed Reeves on his decision, noting that more than half the governors across the country have imposed mandatory mask orders including in some “deep red states” such as Alabama.
Gov. Tate Reeves on why Mississippi does not have a statewide mask mandate despite science that says masks could save lives: "If I believed that was the best way to save lives in my state, I would have done it a long time ago" https://t.co/ahkyTW3jmp #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/1PBtpJmL9j— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) July 19, 2020
“If it saves lives why not do it?” Tapper asked.
“Well look and that's the point, Jake, in fact there’s a statewide mask mandate in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama, they're all around me. If I believe that was the best way to save lives in my state I would’ve done it a long time ago,” Reeves responded.
“But yes I do believe that wearing masks and maintaining social distance is a strategy that is worth implementing,” he added.
The governor also said that health experts, including the World Health Organization, have issued “mixed messages” because they previously recommended the public not wear masks.
Tapper pointed out that was a “long time ago.” Many health experts have defended the earlier recommendations, noting that guidance changed as more information was learned about the coronavirus.
“Of course it was a while ago, but people were paying attention then,” Reeves responded. “There are lot of people in my state who said, ‘well these central planners, these people who want to tell us what to do, they said six months ago that this is what we should do and now they’ve completely changed their mind.’ And so it’s a complicated process.”
Mississippi’s health department reported 1,017 new coronavirus cases and 14 new deaths as of Friday, bringing the state’s total to 41,846 cases and 1,346 deaths.