How is it possible that Mississippi, 31st in population of American states, became the United States’ number three in the total number of COVID deaths per thousand residents?
Incompetent political leadership in the state is the most obvious answer. However, there are other factors, all related to poor leadership, that contribute to this shocking fact.
Low vaccination rates and failure to wear masks
Low vaccination rates are the next most obvious factor.
Just 36.1% of Mississippians are fully vaccinated against COVID; only Alabama is slightly worse at $35.7%. Ignorance and gullibility are plentiful characteristics in our state. Too many Mississippians have paid attention to the “anti-vaxers,” and “anti-maskers,” who greatly profit from spreading anti-scientific drivel on “social media.”
Governor Tate Reeves flaunts his personal refusal to wear a mask, and gleefully associates with others of his ilk (Reeves carries on an infamous “bromance” with Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, who actually outpaces Reeves in pure buffoonery.)
Wimpish Tate refuses to order rational mask and vaccine mandates for Mississippi residents and state employees.
Mississippians are generally unhealthy
Year after year, Mississippian are the unhealthiest people in America. Obesity, cigarette smoking, poor diet, poverty, and the highest infant mortality rate in the U.S. are factors. Look around you next time you are at a large retail store in our state: observe how many people – including relatively young people — are riding around on electrified carts because they are simply too fat to walk.
Hostility to rational public health policy by state leaders
The fact that former Governor Phil Bryant (hereinafter “Goober One”) and Governor Tate Reeves (hereinafter “Goober Two”) have consistently fought improvements to health care in Mississippi is the most damning factor of all, the most obvious reason Mississippi is a national leader in COVID deaths.
Governor Goober One, committed one of the most egregious attacks on public health in Mississippi early in his first term in 2012. Bryant deliberately and maliciously killed an initiative by his immediate predecessor that would have made better health care available to tens of thousands of Mississippians.
Before he left office, Governor Haley Barbour, then and now a major powerhouse in the national Republican Party, asked Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney to set up a Mississippi exchange for state residents to enroll for insurance under the national Affordable Care Act. Chaney did it. He had a Mississippi exchange ready to go, with a ribbon tied around it, when Governor Goober One came into office.
Goober One, for no other apparent reason than petty contempt for the health of Mississippians, especially poor Mississippians, killed it aborning. There is an essential difference between former Governors Barbour and Bryant. Barbour, while a rock-ribbed Republican is a practical and rational man, one not bound by glib and shallow ideology. Barbour is a “make it happen” guy, who did not let vindictive right-wing ideology stand in the way of what was good for Mississippi.
Bryant, on the other hand, is a slave to the notion that anything done to help poor people is a bad idea. In his favor, it must be said that Goober One has nice hair.
Both Goober One and Goober Two and the state legislators they dominate, have amazingly, flying in the face of all that is practical and sensible, opposed the expansion of Medicaid in the state. The result is that tens of thousands of poor Mississippians do not have access to health care. The Governors Goober and their allies claim the state cannot afford to expand Medicaid, that it would cost too much.
They have blindly refused to count the cost in real dollars of their failure to make quality health care available to Mississippians.
During the last ten years, because Medicaid has not been expanded, many hospitals – including several in northeast Mississippi – have either ceased to exist or are barely keeping their doors open with radically reduced services.
The hostility of Goober One and Goober Two to the needs of poor Mississippians was dramatically demonstrated by their diversion of tens of millions of dollars of federal money, intended for the poorest people in the state, to phony charities and “educational” projects headed by their friend and political supporter Nancy New.
New and several others were indicted for their felonies during the first few weeks of Goober Two’s term. The bogus welfare scams New operated were directly and actively overseen by Goober One’s office in the state capital.
Goober Two, during his campaign for governor, ran a television spot, claiming his support for public education, which was actually filmed on the campus of one of New’s private schools.
New and others were first indicted by a Hinds County grand jury early in 2020. Federal indictments have since been brought against New and one of her sons.
One wonders if a new U.S. Attorney for the Southern District will dig deeper and discover more about the involvement of Goobers One and Two in that scandal. Here’s hoping.
Mississippi holding on to third place, shooting for second
Today, August 18, Mississippi reported another 36 COVID deaths, which brings us a little closer to New York, which is now in the number two spot in COVID deaths per thousand residents.
The headlines right now in national news media report the shocking 158 COVID deaths today in Texas. However, the Lone Star State is second in the nation in population with 29,145,505 people, about ten times the population of Mississippi.
To equal Mississippi’s COVID death rate per thousand residents, Texas would need to report 1,580 deaths in a single day.