Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Sunday stood by his state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, despite having the highest number of deaths per capita from the virus and no statewide vaccine or masking mandate.
Asked by CNN ‘s Jake Tapper why his state mandates vaccinations for other diseases but does not approve of ordering or legislating a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for his state and whether he plans to change his approach, Reeves didn’t directly answer, instead pushing back on President Joe Biden’s stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff.
“It is unique to kids and their ability to go to our public schools, it’s not vaccines mandated in the workplace. But the question here is not about what we do in Mississippi, it’s what this President is trying to impose upon the American worker. The President very much wants you and everyone else to believe that this is a fight between politicians,” Reeves said on “State of The Union,” adding that he doesn’t believe Biden has the authority to establish a federal vaccine mandate and is using it as a political distraction.
Mississippi has the highest death toll per capita from Covid-19 in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University on Saturday. Nearly one out of every 320 people in Mississippi have died of coronavirus.
The state also has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the country with about 42% of all residents fully vaccinated, trailing the national average of around 54%, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden last week said Republican governors undermining the requirements in his new vaccine mandate were putting lives at risk and singled out the Mississippi Republican saying, “In Mississippi, children are required to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus and more. These are state requirements. But in the midst of a pandemic that has already taken over 660,000 lives, I propose a requirement for Covid vaccines and the governor of that state calls it ‘a tyrannical-type move’? A tyrannical-type move?” federal vaccine mandates without commenting on his state.”
Though the specific rules for the vaccine mandate have yet to be written, several Republican state officials oppose the requirements and have said they intend to challenge them.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Tuesday that the state is suing Biden and other administration officials on the grounds that the vaccine mandates are “unconstitutional.” South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem claimed the mandates are a “gross example of federal intrusion” and Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp called part of Biden’s plan a “blatantly unlawful overreach.”
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Tara Subramaniam, Aya Elamroussi and Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.