JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday (Aug. 30) that he stands by remarks he made at a political fundraising event last week — that he believes Christians are “a little less scared” of COVID-19 because of their belief in eternal life.
“In our state and in our nation right now, there are certainly necessary precautions that we can take with respect to COVID. But I believe very strongly in my faith,” Reeves said in response to a question from the Associated Press during a news conference Monday.
“I believe very strongly in what the Bible says, and the Bible’s very clear that ‘Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life,’” Reeves said. “And, that is my worldview, it’s how I believe, it’s what drives me every single day, and I think it’s what drives a large number of Mississippians. We should take necessary precautions with respect to COVID, but we also understand that we do have everlasting life if we believe in Jesus, if we believe in God the father, and I certainly do.”
Mississippi has the highest per-capita rate of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States, followed by Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Louisiana. The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 case tracker shows seven-day rolling averages. Numbers posted by the tracker Monday show that during the week that ended Saturday, Mississippi had 102.3 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and nearly 1.4 new coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents.
Reeves has declined to set school mask mandates or business restrictions to try to slow the spread of the virus the past few months, saying he is relying on people to take personal responsibility. Several local school boards are requiring students to wear masks indoors.
Reeves, who is up for reelection in 2023, spoke about the pandemic Thursday during a fundraising event at a home in Eads, Tennessee, just outside Memphis, the Daily Memphian reported.
“I’m often asked by some of my friends on the other side of the aisle about COVID … and why does it seem like folks in Mississippi and maybe in the Mid-South are a little less scared, shall we say,” Reeves said. “When you believe in eternal life — when you believe that living on this earth is but a blip on the screen, then you don’t have to be so scared of things.”
Reeves also said: “Now, God also tells us to take necessary precautions. And we all have opportunities and abilities to do that and we should all do that. I encourage everyone to do so.”
People attending the event were asked to donate to the Tate for Governor committee, starting at $500 a couple. The Daily Memphian reported that Shelby County Election Commission Chairman Brent Taylor owns the house where the Reeves fundraiser was held. Taylor, who grew up in Mississippi, had his house built as mostly a replica of the Greek Revival-style Mississippi Governor’s Mansion.
Mississippi reported nearly 8,000 new COVID-19 cases during the weekend, the state Health Department said Monday. The department said all of its COVID-19 testing sites and vaccination sites were closed Monday and those in the central and southern parts of the state will remain closed Tuesday as the remnants of what was Hurricane Ida push through the state. Many private testing and vaccination sites remained open.
Mississippi has nearly 3 million residents. The Health Department said the state has had 435,611 confirmed coronavirus cases and 8,361 deaths from the virus since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020.