MEMPHIS, Tenn.– One Mid-South governor is going on the attack against those who’ve criticized his state’s high COVID death toll, which is currently the highest in the nation and the second highest in the world.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves admits any COVID death is tragic, but he said what his state is doing to save lives is working while other states are seeing a rise in cases.

A week after being questioned on national TV about Mississippi’s soaring COVID death toll, Reeves is going on the defensive.

“It’s no doubt that you and many others want us to shut down the state, you want lockdowns, you want us to have mandates whether it’s vaccines or otherwise and we believe one of the reasons that our economy is because we didn’t do that in Mississippi,” Reeves said.

Reeves said COVID case numbers are rising in other states but decreasing in Mississippi. He added that the state is doing its best to protect its citizens.

“Our goal in COVID has been the same since the beginning and that is we want to protect the lives of Mississippians while also protecting their livelihoods,” Reeves said.

As for the more than 9,500 Mississippians who’ve lost their lives to COVID, Reeves called it tragic.

“Now every single death that has occurred because of COVID is a tragedy, and it breaks my heart that that’s occurred, and that’s a fact,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,098 news cases of COVID-19 and 50 new deaths.  

The state had 3,650 cases on a seven-day moving average about seven weeks ago. Today, that number is well below 1,500 cases, officials said.

Since the pandemic began, DeSoto County, for example, has had 30,954 cases and 369 deaths.

The governor said that there is progress also being made in hospitalizations.

“Our total number of hospitalizations reached 1,667 during the summer. As of the day before yesterday, that number was below 600. We are down almost 70 percent,” he said.

Reeves also said that all options are still on the table as to whether to use COVID relief money for hospitals to keep more healthcare workers on the job in Mississippi.

“I had to go hire over a thousand medical professionals to meet the demands of our hospitals over the last couple of months. It’s not something I ever anticipated I’d ever have to do and not something quite frankly I think I should have had to do,” he said.

Governor Reeves says he’s still evaluating whether a special session is needed to address COVID.