Gov. Tate Reeves and his family cut Spain trip short amid coronavirus outbreak

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

Tate Reeves speaks to media after voting during Election Day at Liberty Baptist Church in Flowood, Miss., Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

Gov. Tate Reeves and his family are cutting a trip to Europe short and will arrive back in Mississippi before President Donald Trump’s announced European travel restrictions take effect on Friday night.

Reeves and his family are in Barcelona, Spain, this week as one of his daughters is playing in a soccer tournament. The first family had traveled with the soccer teams to Paris earlier in the week before staying in Barcelona.

The family is flying back to New York earlier than planned as European countries including Spain tighten precautionary measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus and after Trump announced European travel restrictions for Americans on Wednesday night.

A private plane will pick the Reeves family up at a New York airport on Friday afternoon, Reeves’ staff said, and the family will fly directly back to Jackson.

“Gov. Reeves has been in constant touch with federal and state health officials about not just the greater situation in Mississippi but also his family’s trip,” Brad White, Reeves’ chief of staff, told Mississippi Today on Thursday. “None of his family have any signs or symptoms, but they’ll be closely monitored when they return.”

Trump, in a Wednesday evening Oval Office address, framed his announcement as a suspension of “all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.” But immediately afterward, his administration clarified that the ban will apply only to non-U.S. residents and not to American citizens who had been screened before entering the country.

White told Mississippi Today that Reeves and his family have not been directed by federal or state health officials to self-quarantine upon return. Coronavirus tests will not be administered to the family unless they become symptomatic, White said on Thursday.

[Read all of Mississippi Today’s coverage of the coronavirus in Mississippi.]

While Reeves is in Spain, Mississippi officials confirmed the state’s first case of the virus on Wednesday evening. Health officials briefed the press on the case and other precautions the state is taking in a Thursday morning news conference.

Two Jackson-based youth soccer teams have been playing in a tournament in Spain this week. One of Reeves’ daughters is on the team, which has been traveling around Europe for games and training this week, according to the team’s social media posts.

Meanwhile, Spanish authorities have canceled flights to certain counties and indefinitely closed all public schools and universities as confirmed coronavirus cases have skyrocketed into the thousands in recent days. Several large events in the country, including the Barcelona Marathon on March 15, have been canceled.

The Mississippi youth soccer teams attended a Barcelona FC soccer match on Saturday in the famous Camp Nou stadium. That was the final match that the professional football club allowed fans to attend before closing the stadium for future matches because of the outbreak.

Before Reeves left, he held a press conference and announced his upcoming trip. At that press conference, he established a multi-agency Mississippi task force, led by State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs, to address the spread of the virus. Reeves also re-iterated how state officials “are taking this coronavirus threat seriously.”

“I’m confident we had a good plan in place before Reeves’ trip, and he’s remained in close contact with Dr. Dobbs and others about the situation in Mississippi,” White said. “We got this plan into place because we knew it was a matter of when, not if, Mississippi would see positive cases. Everything is running exactly as we’ve planned.”