JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – As Mississippi continues to experience a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant, Governor Tate Reeves held a news conference on Thursday to address the state’s response.

Gov. Reeves said he would not issue a statewide mask mandate or a mask mandate for schools. “I do not give a damn about any political agenda,” Reeves stated.

According to the governor, the state received 150 ventilators from the national stockpile. On Thursday, the Emergency Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) reported experiencing a backlog of patients who need to be placed in emergency beds.

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported 4,807 new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Mississippi, along with 21 additional deaths on Thursday.

Reeves once again encouraged Mississippians to talk to their doctors about getting the vaccine. The governor said vaccination rates in the state are up despite the surge in cases.

When it comes to schools, the governor said he wants to do everything he can to keep schools open this year. He believes closing schools in 2020 was a mistake and said there will be more outbreaks because that’s just a consequence of an airborne virus.

On Thursday, the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted to allow school districts to use hybrid scheduling if needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Reeves also said he has no plans for a special session at this time. House Democratic Minority Leader Robert Johnson III released the following statement on Twitter:

Governor, a lack of an adequate number of hospital beds and nursing staff, doctors and other healthcare personnel is directly related to resources that could be remedied by expanding Medicaid and accepting billions of dollars in federal funds to keep hospitals opened and staffed!

In the immediate short term, accessing $1.8 billion in federal funds to pay nurses and other essential workers more, so they will stay here instead of leaving is not a Stafford Act issue it is a lack of leadership issue.

Governor not issuing a Statewide mandate for schools is the most political thing you have done! Finally why are we sitting on $1.8 billion that is not the state’s money but funds sent by President Biden to help Mississippians which you refuse to do!

Rep. Robert Johnson III, House Democratic Minority Leader