Republican Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Gov. Tate Reeves announced Thursday that he will reverse course and not carry out plans to terminate the state of emergency he declared on March 14, 2020, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reeves had previously said in June that he would let the emergency order expire on Aug. 15. Back in June, the number of coronavirus cases significantly decreased. Today, the spread of COVID-19 in Mississippi is out of control, and medical professionals are warning the state’s hospital system could fail in a matter of days.

In a Thursday morning interview with Gulf Coast television station WLOX, the first-term Republican governor said the state of emergency will stay in place.

“It is a very different situation than two months ago,” Reeves said of when he had announced plans to terminate the state of emergency.

Reeves cited several reasons to extend the order. He mentioned the need to leave in place the COVID-19 System of Care Plan created in part through the emergency order that allows a coordinated effort by Mississippi health care leaders to direct patients to open hospital beds throughout the state. In addition, Reeves said the state of emergency makes it easier for Mississippi to work with other states and entities to garner needed resources to fight the coronavirus, including additional nurses.

READ MORE: Leaders fear what could happen if Reeves ends state of emergency on Sunday as planned

Reeves said the biggest issue facing the state continues to be the need for more health care professionals.

“Our biggest challenge in the health care system is not beds, but staffing,” he said.

The emergency order also allows local school boards to provide paid leave to teachers and other staff for issues related to the pandemic. State agencies are given the same authority through the state of emergency order.

When the governor was asked by WLOX about his recent social medial post complaining about the “angry rhetoric” from many who were questioning his leadership of the crisis, he said, “I really don’t think it alienates people.”

READ MORE: Mississippi lives are at risk. Our governor is hiding, avoiding the tough politics.

He added, “In times of an emergency, we have to remain calm… and make sure our leaders are making good quality decisions.”

Reeves has refused to impose a statewide mask mandate for public schools even as the number of cases among students has surged. He said he believes local school boards are in the best position to make those decisions.

Reeves said the coronavirus was turning “into a pandemic of the unvaccinated” and expressed optimism that the number of Mississippians getting the shot is on the uptick. Throughout the process Mississippi has been among the lowest vaccinated states in the nation and Reeves has been criticized for not taking a strong enough stand on the importance of the vaccination.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 4,412 new cases Thursday — by far the highest number of cases for a single day.

READ MORE: Other governors use bully pulpits, incentives to urge vaccination. Where’s Gov. Reeves?

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.

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.