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Transcript: Governor Tate Reeves on "Face the Nation," August 16, 2020

Mississippi gov says state can handle in-person voting
Mississippi gov says state can handle in-pers... 07:19

The following is a transcript of an interview with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves that aired Sunday, August 16, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN:  Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We now go to the state of Mississippi. Joining us is the governor, Tate Reeves, who is in Jackson this morning. Good morning to you, Governor. According to Johns--

MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR TATE REEVES: Good morning, MARGARET, thanks for having me on today.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're glad to have you. According to Johns Hopkins, your state has a positivity rate of 23%, which is the highest in the nation when it comes to COVID infections. Where are you headed going into a fall that the CDC warns could be the worst ever?

GOV. REEVES: Well, I haven't seen that particular data, but what I can tell you is in our state, we peaked with a seven day average of one 1,391 cases on July 29. As of yesterday, we had brought that number down considerably to 728 cases per the state of Mississippi for a seven day trailing average. And so we've actually almost cut the total number of cases on a daily basis in half just over the last two and a half weeks. And what that shows us is that- that our mitigation measures are working. I will tell you what we've learned in these six months, which is critically important to the American people, is that if you will maintain social distancing and if you will wear a mask, you can really curb the amount of transmission in the community and you can actually maintain a relatively normal life.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But your state, I mean, I'm looking at a statement from your state health officer, it says that you have 11 hospitals with zero ICU beds currently available. That seems dangerous. Don't you need to take more stringent measures? I mean, you seem to be characterizing this as under control, but this looks like your medical system could be overwhelmed.

GOV. REEVES: Well, MARGARET, I think you may be looking at data that's two or three weeks old, but the reality is in our state--

MARGARET BRENNAN: No, this is from a briefing this week with your state health officer.

GOV. REEVES: Well, the reality is in our state that we've actually cut the total number of cases on a daily basis in half over the last two and a half weeks. We peaked at 1,391 as I mentioned earlier. We're down around 700 right now. Do we have hospital capacity issues? We do. But the reality is, MARGARET, in our state and virtually every other rural state across America, we have ICU bed issues and- and hospital capacity issues even when there's not COVID-19. And so we're certainly working through those. We have 150 ICU beds available throughout the state of Mississippi. We have over 450 ventilators available throughout the state of Mississippi. And so while we've got challenges, we're certainly dealing with it. The other thing I'll tell you is we also know very clearly that hospitalizations and fatalities are a lagging indicator--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

GOV. REEVES: --with the COVID-19. And so what we're seeing in hospitals is really what the transmission was three and four weeks ago.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You- with your schools, you have decided to send children, the majority of children in your state back to in-person learning. About 300,000 kids are back in the classroom. You've had about 109 cases of COVID. You've quarantined roughly 500 students due to some cases. Why not shut down the schools? And what is your thinking in deciding that? Like, at what point does it get to an infection spread that makes you not just quarantine, but shut down the school?

GOV. REEVES: Well, that's- that's a great question, and- and the reason is very simple, and it's really what Dr. Redfield with the CDC has said. When you're talking about opening schools, you're talking about mitigating risk and making a decision between public health with respect to the COVID-19 and public health with respect to kids having not been in school in this country for six months, almost, almost--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but- but what I'm asking you is,--

GOV. REEVES: --throughout the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --once a school is already open, as you have done it, and there is an infection in it, which you have, why don't you shut it down?

GOV. REEVES: Well, we- we have very objective measures in place to shut down schools if and when that becomes necessary, but keep- keep this in perspective. You said yourself that we have 300,000 kids in classrooms. We've had approximately 100 cases that have been confirmed positive. And what I'll tell you is we've yet to find one that actually the transmission occurred inside the school. In virtually every single one of those cases, it is these kids have gotten the virus outside in the community and brought it back into the- into the schools.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

GOV. REEVES: So the point is, no kid, whether they're in school or not, is completely immune from getting the virus. And so we've got to take measures to make sure that those kids have the opportunity to learn.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. You could shut down bars, for instance, to stop that community spread as the White House has asked some states to do. I do want to move on, though, because--

GOV. REEVES: We- we have significantly limited bars in Mississippi.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, they close at 11 p.m. In Mississippi you can request a ballot up to one day before an election. And your state was identified by the Postal Service as one where mail in voting could be delayed. Are you confident that all mail in ballots in the state of Mississippi will be counted in November?

GOV. REEVES: I am confident that the- the ballots that are legally cast in the state of Mississippi will be counted,--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean legally cast? 

GOV. REEVES: --and I'm also very confident that Donald J. Trump is going to win the state of  Mississippi and he's going to win it big. Every- every vote that is legally cast in the state of Mississippi will be counted in the November election, and I'm confident that once all of those votes are counted that Donald J. Trump is going to win Mississippi,--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

GOV. REEVES: --and many other states overwhelmingly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, I asked you what legally cast meant but- so your state doesn't currently allow for absentee ballots, for fear of getting COVID. Like if someone doesn't want it- doesn't feel safe going to a polling booth and wants to vote by mail, you don't allow for that right now. Why not?

GOV. REEVES: We- we do not allow mail in voting in the state of Mississippi. We think that- that our elections process, which has been in place for many, many years, is a- ensures that we have a fair process in which we have the opportunity to limit fraud. We still have fraudulent claims every single election. We've actually got many--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have a positivity rate of 23%. 

GOV. REEVES: --folks in our state that have had- Democrats that have had--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Aren't you worried about the health of your constituents?

GOV. REEVES: --Democrats that have gone to jail because of election fraud and it is just reality.

MARGARET BRENNAN: First of all that's- that's is not substantiated, but--

GOV. REEVES: The reality is that- that every legal ballot cast is going to get counted. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have a positivity rate of 23% in the state of Mississippi. Can you tell people that they can go to the voting booths and not get COVID? Why don't you offer the option for someone who's afraid of their health, someone with asthma, someone with diabetes, someone who's overweight to send in their ballot by mail?

GOV. REEVES: Well, we're not going to allow them to send in the ballot by mail unless they legally qualify for an absentee ballot,-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, which is what I'm asking--

GOV. REEVES: --which is certainly allowable under Mississippi state statute. If a--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --what I'm asking is why not allow them to qualify based on those comorbidities or those concerns, the fear of getting COVID. 

GOV. REEVES: That is not what Mississippi state statute allows for. We're going to have an election. We're going to have a huge turnout in November. In fact, MARGARET, I'll tell you, we've already had multiple elections in the last three months. We've had special elections throughout the state of Mississippi. We've had very good turnout in every single one of those elections. We've had fair elections, and we've had a winner and we've had a loser. We're going to do the same thing in November.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. No intention to change that. All right. Thank you, Governor. We will be right back with former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb. Stay with us.

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