Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said Thursday that his state would not participate if the next president decided to introduce a nationwide ban to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Although Reeves, a Republican, did not mention Joe Biden by name, he referred to comments from one of the president-elect’s coronavirus advisers who said earlier this week that a four to six-week nationwide ban could help control the spread of the virus.
“The fact is that we will try to work with the president, whoever he is, but we will not engage in a nationwide lockdown,” Reeves said during a virtual press conference. “This idea that one of his advisors has said that all we really need is a six-week nationwide lockdown and that we can slow the spread of this virus is completely and utterly unreasonable.
Although most major broadcasters declared Democratic Biden the winner of the national presidential campaign on November 7, President Donald Trump has not yet given up on the election. While Trump has resisted the idea of closing state economies throughout the pandemic and encouraged states that have closed to reopen quickly, Biden has adopted a rather cautious tone in his campaign for the presidency.
Biden said in August that he would consider a statewide lockdown if scientists recommended it, but he said later that he believed there was a sure way to keep the economy running without introducing additional closures. The president-elect said earlier this week that his administration plans to “follow science” in deciding how to respond to the pandemic, and will adjust this response as infection rates rise or fall.
By Thursday, November 12, health authorities reported a total of more than 10.5 million COVID-19 infections in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a data tracker from Johns Hopkins University. More than 130,000 of these cases have been reported in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Health.
The U.S. began a record increase in new COVID-19 infections last week, with more than 1 million new infections reported in just 10 days between late October and early November. The Reeves confirmed the nationwide increase in new infections and said the situation in Mississippi is also “significantly more than what we are used to.
Although Reeves encouraged Mississippi residents to wear masks and practice social distancing, he said responsibility for enforcing virus-related restrictions should remain with local and state governments.
As a point of reference, Reeves cited the 1988 Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which outlines how the federal government can assist federal and state governments in dealing with natural disasters.
“Under the Stafford Act, in emergencies-and this is clearly one of the longest-running emergencies in American history-these emergencies must be managed by the states, executed locally and supported by the federal government,” the governor said. I don’t think there is any constitutional or legal authority for a president to shut down the Mississippi economy,” the governor said. We will certainly fight this if it becomes necessary.
Rather than complete economic foreclosure, Reeves said Mississippi would continue its current strategy of slowing the spread of the virus in counties with high infection rates.
“People in Mississippi can’t just go home, close their small businesses, close their restaurants and eateries, close their gyms and other small businesses for six weeks and just think you can come back in six weeks, flip a switch and everything will be fine,” Reeves said. “That’s not the way the economy works.”
Washington Newsday asked Biden’s transition team for a comment but did not receive a response in time for release.