Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccination mandate for federal workers is a tyrannical “attack on hardworking Americans”, Tate Reeves insisted on Sunday, even as the state he governs reeled under a death rate that if Mississippi were a country would make it the second worst-hit in the world, after Peru.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, the Republican said: “This is an attack by the president on hardworking Americans and hardworking Mississippians who he wants to choose between getting a jab in their arm and their ability to feed their families.”
According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 9,200 people have died of Covid-19 in Mississippi, out of a US death toll of more than 672,000.
Vaccination uptake has increased nationally as businesses and public authorities mandate shots but resistance remains strong in many Republican states.
Also on CNN on Sunday, Anthony Fauci, the chief White House medical adviser, was asked if a million might die in the US before Covid is contained. He said he “hoped not”, but avoiding such a grim total depended on widespread vaccination.
Mississippi has the highest death rate among US states, at 306 deaths per 100,000, or one in every 326 people. Only Peru has a higher death rate, at 612 per 100,000 people.
Reeves defended his state’s record on vaccinations and said it was seeing cases decline.
But Biden singled out Mississippi at the White House on Thursday, saying children there “are required to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus and more. [But] I propose a requirement for Covid vaccines and the governor of that state calls it a quote, ‘tyrannical-type move’?”
Reeves told CNN: “The president … knows he doesn’t have the authority to do this in my opinion, but he wants to change the political narrative away from Afghanistan and away from the other issues that are driving his poll numbers into the ground and focus on anything, particularly a political fight, other than those issues.”
Biden’s mandate is legally underpinned by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. Regardless, Republicans have claimed federal overreach or outright tyranny, ever a potent theme on the US right.
Reeves said that though “every single” Covid death in Mississippi “breaks my heart … if this president has the ability to mandate vaccines, what powers do we not grant this president, what does he not have the ability to do?
“… This should scare Democrats just as much as it scares Republicans because if we give unilateral authority by one individual to do anything he wants to do, whether it’s a jab in the arm or anything else, then this country is in deep, deep, deep trouble, and that’s not something that that I’m willing to stand by and allow him to do.”
Given Mississippi’s way of tackling Covid was evidently “failing”, host Jake Tapper said, would Reeves try to change anything?
Reeves said: “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.”
He also insisted Covid deaths were a “lagging indicator” of the situation in any state.