Gov. Tate Reeves has planned several Christmas parties at the Governor’s Mansion, despite warnings from state health experts against such gatherings amid the pandemic, and the governor’s own orders limiting the number of people allowed at such events in Hinds County.
This follows a fundraiser held by a hospital executive on the Coast last week for Reeves for more than 20 people, despite Reeves’ orders limiting gatherings in Harrison County because of record COVID-19 outbreaks.
Statewide and districtwide elected officials received an invite for a governor’s Christmas party for Wednesday evening, several officials told Mississippi Today. The governor has also invited lawmakers to separate parties for the House and Senate next week, several lawmakers said.
As COVID-19 statistics continue to set new records almost by the day, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and the health department have warned Mississippians to avoid holiday gatherings beyond closest family and to avoid any groups beyond school, work or “essential gatherings.” Dobbs called the holidays a “perfect storm” for “explosive outbreaks” of COVID-19 and warned, “We will see deaths, absolutely, around holiday gatherings.” Health officials warn that Mississippi hospitals are overloaded with patients as pandemic cases spike to record levels.
Reeves has in recent weeks issued executive orders for 54 of Mississippi’s 82 counties that require wearing of masks in public and limiting gatherings to no more than 10 indoors and no more than 50 outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
It is unclear how many people were invited to each party, but it would appear each would be more than 10 people. There are 122 members of the state House and 52 senators. It is also unclear whether the governor’s party plans at the Governor’s Mansion would allow for proper social distancing.
Reeves’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Christmas parties on Monday. If he plans to cancel them, several officials invited had not heard about cancellations.
On Monday afternoon, Reeves tweeted, “Christmas at the Governor’s Mansion is very different this year,” noting that large crowds would not be touring the mansion as is customary each year to see the first lady’s Christmas decorations.
House Speaker Philip Gunn on Monday said House members were invited to a Christmas party at the mansion next week, but he said he had a conflict and would not be attending. Other lawmakers declined comment on the parties.
At last week’s fundraiser, Memorial Hospital at Gulfport CEO Kent Nicaud, who hosted the event at his home, said that while there were more than 20 people there, his home is large and guests practiced social distancing and wore masks.
Reeves over the summer faced some criticism after he was photographed not wearing a mask in crowds at Republican events in Washington, D.C., and North Carolina while Mississippi was under mask-wearing and crowd limit mandates per his executive orders.
Mississippi Today reporter Bobby Harrison contributed to this report.