A spokeswoman for Gov. Tate Reeves says Christmas parties planned for the Governor’s Mansion will be “conducted safely” and follow Reeves’ COVID-19 executive orders restricting gatherings across much of the state.

Reeves is hosting several Christmas parties at the Governor’s Mansion, despite warnings from state health experts against such gatherings and the governor’s own orders limiting the number of people allowed at such events.

“The Governor and First Lady have cancelled or delayed many mansion events this year including the 1st Friday Christmas Candlelighters event and their daughter’s 16th birthday party, and have only continued with those events that can be conducted safely — following the governor’s executive orders,” spokeswoman Bailey Martin said in a written statement. “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.”

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.

Reeves has separate parties planned at the mansion for the 52-member Senate and 122-member state House, and for statewide and districtwide elected officials. He also has Christmas receptions planned for “a small group of the governor’s friends and biggest supporters,” Martin said.

This follows a fundraiser held by a hospital executive at his home on the Coast last week for Reeves for more than 20 people.

Reeves has caught some public criticism for planning such events and for being photographed at Republican events in Washington, D.C.,  and North Carolina not wearing a mask while Mississippi was under mask-wearing and crowd limit mandates per his executive orders.

READ MORE: Gov. Tate Reeves plans Christmas parties despite his own orders and record COVID-19 numbers.

Reeves, along with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, is listed as a headliner for a fundraiser scheduled for Monday at the Westin hotel in Jackson for state Sen. Briggs Hopson of Vicksburg. But a spokeswoman for Hosemann said he is not planning to attend — Reeves might not, either — and Hopson said Tuesday that it might be cancelled.

Gov. Tate Reeves and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann are the listed headliners for a December fundraiser for state Sen. Briggs Hopson.

Hopson said he had “planned the event and sent invitations prior to any recommendations that may have affected gatherings.” He said he is “looking at options on what to do.”

Martin said that Reeves “’hosts’ or ‘headlines’ fundraising efforts for upstanding legislators, of which Senator Hopson certainly tops that list.”

“The Governor does not always or even routinely attend but his involvement on the invite is typically a sign that he supports the work of the person in question, rather than an RSVP to be there.”

The invitation for Hopson’s fundraiser says, “Please join Governor Tate Reeves and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann for a reception honoring Senator Briggs Hopson,” with attendance costing from $200 to $2,500, depending on sponsorship levels.

READ MORE: CEO of major Mississippi hospital hosts in-person fundraiser for Gov. Tate Reeves.

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.