TUPELO • Mayor Jason Shelton on Tuesday continued to criticize Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ response to the spread of the novel coronavirus in a series of social media posts. Shelton has repeatedly asked the governor to issue statewide safety mandates.
Reeves, a first term Republican governor, issued an executive order on Tuesday mandating that citizens in Lauderdale County shelter in place, or stay at home unless conducting essential tasks or traveling to a job that has been deemed essential.
This is the first shelter in place order the governor has issued since he first declared on March 14 that a state of emergency exists in the Mississippi because of the spread of the pandemic. This shelter in place order for the county is part of Reeves and the state health department’s strategy of “identify and isolate,” where state officials could possibly increase testing and order residents to shelter in place in a certain region or county.
“The businesses in Lauderdale County are simply losing customers to surrounding counties and BTW covid doesn’t stop at the county line ... the hodgepodge approach is baffling,” Shelton tweeted during a press conference where Reeves discussed his latest executive order.
A reporter from the Clarion Ledger asked Reeves at a press conference what his response was to the tweet. Reeves told members of the press that he does not believe residents in Lauderdale County will travel to other countries of the state now that the shelter in place order is in effect.
“I will tell you that I actually went to my office yesterday and stood on the 19th floor of the Sillers building and looked out over the city of Jackson,” Reeves said at the press conference. “And while there were obviously automobiles moving from point A to point B, I couldn’t find one individual out walking the streets.”
Shelton then made another social media post in a sarcastic manner that was directed at Reeves, even though he did not mention Reeves specifically.
“Things look good from the 19th floor of the Sillers building... #covid19,” Shelton tweeted.
Shelton, a second-term Democratic mayor, later told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview that his tweets were only meant to mirror his previous calls for the governor and other state officials to address uniform measures regarding businesses.
“People are dying across the state, and people are dying here in Tupelo,” Shelton said. “To say things look great from the 19th floor of the Sillers building, so we don’t need to do more is incomprehensible.”
According to the most recent data from the Mississippi State Department of Health, 937 people are presumed to have tested positive from the virus and 20 people have died from complications related to the virus. In Lee County, 24 people are presumed to have tested positive for the virus and one person has died with issues related to the virus.
Despite Reeves issuing an executive order and a supplemental clarifying order last week that set minimum guidelines for Mississippians and local governments to follow, Shelton still believes the state should take more uniform action that details guidelines for all businesses to adhere to. Shelton referenced the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, issuing an executive order closing all non-essential businesses in the state as a possible example.
In Reeves’ order issued last week, he did not mandate all non-essential businesses close, but he did issue a definition for what is considered an essential business. This order also stated that local governing bodies could not adopt a more narrow definition of essential businesses.
Shelton said instead of individual cities and counties making decisions about closing certain businesses, he would like to see the governor issue an executive order closing all non-essential businesses.
Communications officials for the governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions regarding this article, but Reeves has said numerous times that he is following the advice of state health officials to determine what safety measures should be adopted in the state.
Shelton said his criticism of Reeves is not partisan in nature and believes that several state and federal Republican officials such as Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, House Speaker Philip Gunn, U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker are doing a good job responding to the virus.
“There’s people who are saying it’s partisan and it’s not,” Shelton said. “It’s just absolutely not.”
The city of Tupelo and Mississippi both have executive orders addressing the virus in place that are set to run through April 17.