Mississippi’s senior U.S. senator, Roger Wicker, has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced today.
”Senator Wicker tested positive this morning for the COVID-19 virus after immediately seeking a test due to mild symptoms,” his office’s statement said. “Senator Wicker is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, is in good health and is being treated by his Tupelo-based physician. He is isolating, and everyone with whom Senator Wicker has come in close contact recently has been notified.”
Though COVID-19 vaccines prevent most infections, vaccinated people account for about 2% of new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Mississippi in recent weeks, Mississippi State Department of Health data show. Still, vaccines prevent serious illness or death in the vast majority of cases.
Even as COVID-19 cases were already trending upward early last month due to the delta variant, Sen. Wicker pushed for an end to federal mask mandates for transportation. The pandemic, he claimed, was fading away.
“Americans who have recently set foot in an airport or a train station probably felt like they were stepping back in time. Although the pandemic is subsiding and masks are no longer required in most settings, those who wish to board a plane or a train are still being forced to wear masks—even if they are fully vaccinated,” the senator said in a statement on July 5.
In fact, the pandemic was not subsiding. In Mississippi, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations had already been rising for several weeks by that point. Last October, Wicker drew criticism after photos showed him on a plane with his mask hanging under his chin instead of covering his nose and mouth.
“Passengers are being instructed to keep their masks on even while eating and drinking—’between bites and sips’—as if doing so would actually stop the virus from spreading,” Wicker said in his July 5 statement. “Those who refuse to comply risk losing their seats, being denied service in the future, and even being fined. Americans are getting fed up with these overbearing rules that have no basis in scientific fact.”
Numerous studies have found that face masks, particularly N-95 or KN-95 masks, offer significant protection against COVID-19 transmission.
After vaccines became widely available, Wicker told a group of reporters in Washington, D.C., to “take those masks off,” CBS journalist Alan He tweeted in May. He also praised Gov. Tate Reeves that month for cutting off expanded unemployment benefits for Mississippians that were intended to help alleviate economic difficulties caused by the pandemic.
Federal policies are paying workers to stay at home.
— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) May 20, 2021
Sen. Wicker last spoke up against federal mask rules in a July 9 tweet.
“Americans are fed up with overbearing rules that have no basis in scientific fact. @CDCgov announced fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in public spaces in May, yet they kept strict rules in place for public transportation,” he tweeted. On that day, COVID-19 hospitalizations were up 71% since a week earlier.
When Wicker last spoke against federal mask mandates on July 9, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases was 267 per day. That figure has since risen to an all-time high of 3,582 daily cases—a 1,242% increase. Over the same period, the number of Mississippians hospitalized for COVID-19 cases has risen from 270 to an all-time high of 1,633.