GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Record breaking COVID-19 case numbers released Friday came out mere minutes after a report surfaced linking a fundraiser for Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves two nights ago to the home of Memorial Hospital’s CEO.
Kent Nicaud is the Gulfport hospital’s chief executive officer. In a statement sent to WLOX News, Nicaud admits he hosted the Wednesday night gathering inside and outside his 11,000 square foot Harrison County home. He stresses just two dozen people were there, plus wait staff.
Nicaud’s description of the fundraiser is the guests were spread out on two floors of his home, and also outside on his property.
“We did due diligence to create a safe environment for our guests,” Nicaud wrote.
The fundraiser was the last stop Gov. Reeves made Wednesday in South Mississippi. One of his afternoon stops was at a tourism conference inside a Biloxi casino ballroom where dozens of people participated.
The evening fundraiser, according to Memorial’s CEO, was invitation only. Nicaud made sure there was “monitoring and distribution of masks upon entry (in the event guests did not already have one as requested prior to the event), availability of sanitizers, promotion of proper hand-hygiene and controlled food and beverage distribution.”
From what we understand, the governor spent 45 minutes mingling with people on the first floor of the home, and spent another 45 minutes talking with the invited guests on the second floor.
The gathering at Nicaud’s home was first reported by Mississippi Today. It noted Governor Reeves signed an executive order last month requiring masks, and limiting indoor social gathering in Harrison County to just 10 people. And as recently as yesterday, the state’s top medical experts used Twitter to urge Mississippians to avoid any non-essential social gatherings that include individuals outside of the nuclear family or household.
Nicaud’s statement about Wednesday’s fundraiser does address the appearance that the CEO of the state’s second largest hospital, and the governor of this state both seemed to ignore the order.
“I understand the importance of minimizing the spread of infection, and of not having large gatherings that fall outside the social distancing guidelines,” he wrote. “That is why I recently canceled multiple events that would exceed the recommended number for internal guests, and took every precaution at this event to ensure recommended social distancing protocols were followed.”
A spokesman for Gov. Reeves did not respond to a request for comment. In the Mississippi Today article, Reeves’ spokesman said both Wednesday events attended by the governor were conducted with a focus on safety, including masks and social distancing.