JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA/AP) — Governor Tate Reeves seems resigned to the likelihood that the Legislature will take control over how more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus money will be spent.
"I was angry. I was mad. But now, I'm way beyond that. I've got too much other work to do. I've got too much stuff that I have to get done," said Reeves during the state coronavirus news conference Tuesday.
According to the governor, he has yet to receive the bill passed Friday that gives state lawmakers spending authority over that cash. Based on that vote, however, it appears they could easily override any veto by Reeves.
The governor, a Republican, has called that bill a power grab by the GOP-majority Legislature, saying he's best positioned to spend the federal money as needs arise.
He also said Vice President Pence told him this week the Trump administration intended for governors to decide how that money should be spent.
But longtime Senator Hob Bryan, a Democrat from Amory, said the issue is not with the governor. The issue is making sure the money is spent properly.
"No one individual, not even me, should be in charge of $1.25 billion with no oversight," said Bryan during a live interview on WTVA 9 News at 5:00.
Discussion about the dispute came on the same day the state health department said Mississippi — with a population of about 3 million — had at least 8,207 confirmed cases and 342 deaths from the coronavirus as of Monday evening. That was an increase of 330 cases and 32 deaths from the previous day.
It was Mississippi's largest single-day increase in virus death numbers. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said 18 of the deaths happened earlier but were included in the Monday statistics because that's when the health department received information from death certificates.
The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
The Department of Health said Tuesday that more than 80,300 coronavirus tests had been done in Mississippi as of Monday. The department said at least 965 cases of the virus had been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 125 deaths from it in those facilities.
The governor’s “safer at home” order started April 27, replacing a stricter stay-at-home order that was in place for more than three weeks. The new order remains in effect until Monday morning and has allowed some to reopen with limits on how many customers may be present. Barbershops, salons, tattoo parlors and entertainment venues such as movie theaters remain closed.
Reeves is easing some restrictions on restaurants and outdoor gatherings, beginning Thursday. Restaurants will be allowed to open indoor dining rooms and outdoor seating areas with masks on servers and limits on the number of customers. Outdoor gatherings such as youth sports practices may have up to 20 people, an increase from the current limit of 10.
Reeves said Tuesday that even though larger gatherings are allowed, those still might be bad for some people.
“There is no government replacement for your personal responsibility and wisdom,” said Reeves. “Please take our warnings seriously. Please do not go back to normal. Please do not give up.”