If Mississippi were a country, it'd have reported the world's 2nd-most COVID-19 deaths per capita, but Gov. Tate Reeves won't say how he plans to fix it

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If Mississippi were a country, it'd have reported the world's 2nd-most COVID-19 deaths per capita, but Gov. Tate Reeves won't say how he plans to fix it
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves delivers a televised address prior to signing a bill retiring the last state flag with the Confederate battle emblem during a ceremony at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 30, 2020. ROGELIO V. SOLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • One in 320 Mississippians is known to have died from COVID-19, the highest rate in the US.
  • Gov. Tate Reeves dodged the CNN host Jake Tapper's questions on whether he had ideas to address it.
  • Reeves said the state had already seen reported cases dropping recently.

Gov. Tate Reeves downplayed Mississippi's COVID-19 death toll Sunday and dodged a question on how or whether he would change course.

In an interview, CNN'S Jake Tapper pressed Reeves on the state's high COVID-19 death toll, saying that if Mississippi were a country, it would have reported the second-most COVID-19 deaths in the world per capita, fewer than only Peru.

"That's a horrible, horrible, heartbreaking statistic," Tapper said. "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?"

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Reeves responded: "Yeah, well, obviously in Mississippi our legislature is a part-time legislature. Sometimes, I wonder if in America, if our Congress was part time, we wouldn't be in a better position."

"Better position than what?" Tapper cut in. "Your state is second-worst in the world."

Roughly one in 320 Mississippians has died from COVID-19, the highest rate in the country, the Associated Press reported.

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As of Thursday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told the AP the state was still recording more than 2,500 cases a day. "A lot of that's going to translate into the tragedy," Dobbs said.

In response to Tapper, Reeves said the number of deaths was a "lagging indicator" and had Tapper asked the question at any other time, the statistic would be different. He said his state was experiencing only a "quick" spike in cases that had trickled down.

"Now you want to talk about a lagging indicator, which is sad and horrible and my heart breaks for all 9,000 Mississippians that have passed away," Reeves told Tapper.

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Reeves then blamed the transmissibility of the Delta virus variant and told Tapper: "If you want to talk about rising cases, look at Kentucky or West Virginia." Tapper responded: "I'm talking to you about your state, governor."

The governor then said Tapper did not want to talk about high COVID-19 case numbers in other states because they're led by Democrats.

As The New York Times noted, however, most states reporting the highest number of cases in recent days are led by Republican governors.

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Reeves criticized President Joe Biden for suggesting a federal vaccine mandate, which he said wasn't meant to save lives but to show his power by taking "unilateral" action.

Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US, with only about 42% of all residents fully vaccinated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reeves has repeatedly refused to issue mask mandates as well.

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