Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday defended his practice of referring to the new coronavirus as the “China virus." Reeves has used the phrase several times, including in social media posts. Photo courtesy State of Mississippi
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday defended his practice of referring to the new coronavirus as the “China virus."
Reeves has used the phrase several times, including in social media posts. Reeves supports President Donald Trump, who has also used the phrase.
During a news conference Wednesday, Reeves was asked about his use of the phrase, including whether such language could be used to bully people of Asian descent.
“I don't condone anyone bullying them,” Reeves said. “I don't condone mask bullying, either.”
Reeves added: “Had this virus not escaped from — however it occurred — from the lab in China, I don't know that we'd be having the kind of conversations that we're having all day, every day. And that's just a fact."
Trump and some of his advisers have repeated the unsubstantiated theory about the virus originating in a virology lab in China.
“The reality is, the people who are from China who are in America are not our enemies," Reeves said. “The people of China are not our enemies. But there is no question that the Communist Party of China certainly is no friend or ally to the United States of America.”
Later Wednesday on Twitter, Reeves wrote: “Whether it was a Chinese wet market or lab as intel first said, the Chinese Communist Party needs to own the fact they unleashed this virus and lied about it. I'll never be sorry for assuming the worst about a government that works against the USA and commits ethnic cleansing.”
In other developments at the news conference Wednesday, the Mississippi state health officer said a “healthy child between 1 and 5” years old has died from COVID-19 and the child had multisystem inflammatory syndrome from the virus.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs would not release any identifying information, including the county where the child lived or the child's sex or race. He said it was the seventh case, and the second death, from the inflammatory syndrome in the state. He said the syndrome affects younger people.
The state Health Department said Wednesday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had at least 84,365 reported cases and at least 2,526 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening. That’s an increase of 781 confirmed cases and 33 deaths from numbers reported the day before; the figure included 12 deaths that occurred between Aug. 10 and Aug. 27, with information from death certificates arriving later.
The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most but can be more severe or fatal for some, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions.