MSDH: ‘No evidence’ protests caused spike in Mississippi’s COVID-19 cases

3OYS analysis reveals sharp increase came almost three weeks after Jackson demonstration

Gov. claims protests cause pike in Coronavirus cases

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Gov. Tate Reeves continues to stand behind his claim over the weekend that recent increases in coronavirus cases here are tied to protests that happened here, and he says the same is true nationally as well.

However, his own state health department says there is no evidence to support that claim in the Magnolia State.

Reeves clarified on Monday his recent social media posts criticized national media for their coverage of COVID-19 and recent protests -- not local news outlets -- even though Sunday’s post specifically referenced Mississippi.

The governor did not, however, roll back his claim blaming protests for a spike in coronavirus cases, when he said that reporters “completely ignore the fact that our uptick (and other states) began within days of massive protests all over.”

Mississippi’s state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, debunked this claim days before the governor’s tweet.

“We don’t have any evidence to that effect. Our investigations have not revealed any specific links to protests,” Dobbs said July 1 at a press conference with Reeves in attendance.

On Monday, to an audience of thousands on Facebook Live, Reeves doubled down on his protest theory.

“There are those in the national media who would have you believe that that had absolutely no impact in the rising number of cases. I would submit to you that common sense says otherwise, and I think as we look back, we’ll be proven that that’s the case,” Reeves said.

3 On Your Side reached out to the Mississippi State Department of Health to ask if the governor was using any of the agency’s data to make that claim.

The agency’s communications director, Liz Sharlot, did not directly answer that question, but echoed Dobbs’ analysis from last week.

“At this time, there is no evidence linking an increase in cases to the protests that occurred a few weeks ago. Our uptick has been in college age kids and young adults completely ignoring guidelines and spreading the infection in their nearby communities,” Sharlot said in a statement.

Reeves said it appeared national press did not adequately warn people of the inherent dangers associated with protests, yet condemned other gatherings.

“It’s also very frustrating to me that those in the national media, particularly, completely write off the fact that late in the month of May, early in the month of June, approximately 10 to 14 days before we started having such a huge increase in cases, we literally had thousands and thousands and thousands of individuals marching in protest in virtually every city in that country,” Reeves said.

In Mississippi’s case, though, that’s not true.

Our biggest spike came nearly three weeks -- 19 days -- after the protest in Jackson.

3 On Your Side also analyzed county-specific data to see if there were abrupt spikes in Hinds and Oktibbeha counties that would have correlated to protests there, but found none that would have corresponded to the protests on June 6.

Last week, Dobbs agreed with that assessment.

The governor’s recent claim also isn’t the first time he has said something contrary to data provided to him by the state’s department of health; in May, the governor said Mississippi’s new coronavirus cases were relatively flat despite the fact that they had been trending upward for several weeks.

Neither Reeves nor his communications staff responded to requests for comment.

He also took no questions from the press or the public during his 15-minute video.

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