Political

Mississippi governor plans holiday parties as COVID-19 cases surge

Ken Cedeno/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(JACKSON, Ms.) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves plans on holding holiday parties for other state leaders at the governor’s mansion next week despite the rise of coronavirus cases in the state.

Although Reeves’ office said the crowd size of parties will be scaled down to adhere to health guidelines, one state leader is expressing concern, especially since the statehouse was forced to shut down during the summer following an outbreak among legislators.

“These events – that tend to be smaller and never allow more than 10 participants indoors at a time to see the museum/decorations – are conducted similar to the limited public tours that are offered to the general public,” Bailey Martin, a spokeswoman for Reeves’ office, said in a statement to ABC News.

The Mississippi Health Department’s website includes an advisory that says residents “should avoid any social gathering that includes individuals outside of the immediate family or household.”

“MSDH recommends that Mississippians only participate in work, school or other absolutely essential activities, and avoid gatherings such as social events, sporting events, in-person church services, and weddings and funerals unless they involve only close family,” the advisory said.

The holiday parties are scheduled for both state government branches, the House of Representatives, which has 122 members, and the State Senate, which has 52 members. Martin did not respond to requests about how many members accepted the invitation to the parties.

State Rep. Chris Bell told ABC News affiliate WAPT that he declined an invitation because of the rise in coronavirus activity in the state.

There were 170,672 total cases, 4,041 deaths and 1,125 residents hospitalized in the state as of Wednesday, according to the Mississippi Health Department.

From Nov. 8 to Dec. 8, the state’s seven-day average of new cases increased from 804 to 1,931, according to state health data. State hospitalizations have increased by 507 patients during that time period, according to health data.

Bell noted that in July, the statehouse had to shut down for two weeks after 26 lawmakers and 10 public employees, including Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, contracted the virus.

“We didn’t follow what (State Health Officer) Dr. Thomas Dobbs and Dr. Fauci had recommended for us to do, which was socially distance, no gatherings of 50 or more individuals,” Bell told WAPT. “I have the same concerns today with respect to this Christmas party.”

Martin said Reeves has canceled, delayed, or adapted other holiday events as the COVID-19 cases rose, including the “1st Friday Christmas Candlelighters” event.

“Because of these unfortunate limitations caused by COVID, the first lady has done several online tours to give the opportunity to see the beautiful work done around the mansion to so many more of her fellow Mississippians,” Martin said in a statement.

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