On Tuesday, Gov. Tate Reeves held one of his semi-regular coronavirus briefings. During the briefing, he announced an executive order that yet again makes us wonder whose interests he is serving.
Reeve’s executive order ended the statewide mask mandate, removed all restrictions on capacity at businesses and expanded occupancy at both indoor and outdoor events.
The Governor justified his decision by noting the steep declines in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since January, when both cases and hospitalizations were at their peak. That data, along with the growing availability of vaccines, led to his decision.
We, too, are encouraged. Yet we are also mindful that now is not the time to become too lax in our precautions. We should view that data as proof that our precautions are working, not that they are no longer necessary. We have seen twice before what happens when we let our guard down — dramatic spikes in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
After a year of the pandemic, there’s some evidence that we have become desensitized to the terrible toll the pandemic has inflicted on our country. The cases and deaths have almost become little more than numbers on a chart – 29.8 million and 516,000, respectfully.
Each number represents a human life — almost 30 million people infected and more than a half-million dead. Almost all of us know someone who is one of those numbers on a chart.
That is why attempts to rationalize easing all restrictions — something the CDC and our own state health director regard as premature and dangerous — on the grounds of “virus fatigue” — borders on the obscene.
We urge local governments to maintain their restrictions despite the Governor’s order. Occupy the moral high ground. Stay the course.
Throughout the pandemic, Reeves has vacillated between acting on the basis of expert medical opinion and political pressure.
Reeves said he still recommends people wear masks and maintain social distancing, which suggests he is at least aware of the consequences of complacency. Yet he will no longer mandate those precautions even though he has that authority.
We question that posture in the same manner we would question a parent who “recommends” his child not play in traffic.
At some point, vaccines will have achieved their purpose and the pandemic will end. But our health experts say we are nowhere close to that moment. In the meantime, the costs of wearing masks are minimal and the benefits are great.
We will say yet again: During a pandemic, we should value medical advice over political posturing.
We fear more Mississippians will become ill and more will die as a result of Gov. Reeves’ order.