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COVID-19

Businesses and operations defined as essential exempt a huge swath of Mississippians from COVID-19 social distancing

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First responders such as Vicksburg Police are exempt from COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. (photo by David Day)

The governor’s latest executive order during the COVID-19 crises ordered all Mississippians to avoid social gathering of more than 10 people.

The order went on to say that certain operations and businesses were exempt from the order, including “airports, medical and health-care facilities, retail shopping including grocery and department stores, offices, factories and other manufacturing facilities or any Essential Business or Operation.”

So exactly what is an essential business or operation? As it turns out, that designation is very broad and includes everything from grocery stores, Uber drivers, lawyers and accountants to first responders and oil rig workers.

Here is how the executive order defined them:

  • Essential Government functions including public safety and first responders, law enforcement, fire prevention and response, courts and court personnel, military, emergency management personnel, corrections, probation and parole, child protection, child welfare, EMTs, 911 call center employees, all workers and vendors that support law enforcement and emergency management operations and services;
  • Essential healthcare operations including hospitals/clinics, research and laboratory operations, nursing homes, residential health care facilities, congregate care facilities, assisted living facilities, elder care, medical wholesale and distribution, home health workers and aides, medical supply and equipment manufacturers and providers, medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, other ancillary healthcare services;
  • Essential infrastructure including utilities including power generation, nuclear facilities, utility poles and components, fuel and transmission, petroleum producers, suppliers and distributors, supply chain companies, telecommunications, electronic security and life safety services, wireless communication, communications sales and customer support, telecommunication and data centers, cybersecurity operations, flood control, operation of dams, aviation, airports, ports, roads and highways, mass transit, automotive sales and repair, vehicle rental services, taxi and network providers (such as Uber and Lyft), freight and passenger rail, pipelines, transportation infrastructure, public water and waste water, hazardous waste disposal, hotels and commercial lodging services;
  • Manufacturing including food processing and production, pharmaceuticals, food additives, medical equipment, medical devices and supplies, technology, biotechnology, chemical products, telecommunications products, automotive production and suppliers, healthcare, energy, steel and steel products, fuel and petroleum exploration and production, lubricants, greases and engine oils, mining, national defense, sanitary and cleaning products, household products, personal care products, products used by any other Essential Business or Operation;
  • Agriculture and farms including food cultivation, livestock, cattle, poultry and seafood operations, livestock auctions, feedlots, dealers and brokers of livestock, livestock transporters, farmer’s markets, feed stores, repair of agricultural equipment, gas, diesel and petroleum suppliers, aquaculture, horticulture, chemicals including pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer, producers and distributors, forest products businesses, including those involved in forestry operations, logging, manufacture of lumber and paper products, meat processing facilities, rendering facilities and transporters, feed processing facilities, veterinary services;
  • Essential retail including all supermarkets, food and beverage stores, food providers, convenience stores, pharmacies, hardware and building materials, gas stations, restaurants or bars (but only to the extent that (1) not more than 10 people are gathered in such restaurants or bars in a single space at the same time where individuals are in seated or otherwise in close proximity to each other or (2) for curb side pick-up, carryout or delivery);
  • Essential services including trash collection, mail and shipping services, home repair, automotive sales and repair, warehouse, distribution and fulfillment centers, laundromats/laundry service;
  • Media including newspapers, digital news sites, television, radio and other media services;
  • Education including educators supporting public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities, educational institutions, for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research or other essential functions including public schools preparing and transporting free and reduced meals to eligible students within their respective districts (this Executive Order is consistent with and does not amend or supersede Executive Order No. 1460 regarding public schools);
  • Financial services including banks and related financial institutions, insurance, payroll, accounting, processing financial transactions, services related to financial markets;
  • Professional services including legal services, accounting services, insurance services, real estate services (including appraisal and title services);
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations including businesses, religious and secular non-profit organizations, food banks, foster care, homeless shelters and congregate care facilities;
  • Construction and construction related services including building and construction, lumber, building materials and hardware, electricians, plumbers, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial, HV ACR and water heating industry, painting, moving and relocating services, other skilled trades, and other related construction firms and professionals for maintaining essential infrastructure;
  • Essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences and essential businesses and essential business operations, including law enforcement, fire prevention and response, firearm and ammunition manufacturers and retailers, building code enforcement, security, emergency management and response, building cleaning including disinfection, automotive sales and repair, mortuaries and cemeteries;
  • Defense Industrial Base including employers and personnel who support the essential products and services required to meet national security commitments to the Federal Government and the U. S. Military, including personnel working for companies and their subcontractors, who perform under contract to the Department of Defense providing materials and services to the Department of Defense and government-owned/contractor operated and government-owned/government-operated facilities.
  • Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care programs and services, medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, services needed to ensure the continuing operation of Essential Business or Operation, operation of government agencies, and to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public;
  • Religious entities including religious and faith-based facilities, entities and groups, religious gatherings provided that they adhere to the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health recommendations and guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  • Categories of workers and related industries identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its “Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response” https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19 as it may be amended,
  • Other categories as may be identified and deemed essential by the Mississippi Department of Health, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and/or other appropriate agency of the State of Mississippi.

COVID-19

Mayor to hold news conference Friday on COVID-19

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. at a news conference Oct. 8. (photo via video screen grab/Video by Thomas Parker)

 Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. will hold a news conference Friday at 2:30 p.m. in the Robert M. Walker Building Board Room regarding COVID-19.

The current proclamation expires Monday, Nov. 2 at 8 a.m.

Look for updated information and plan to watch the news conference live on the Vicksburg Daily News Facebook page.

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COVID-19

Bethune-Cookman cancels all sports due to COVID-19

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Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (photo courtesy BCU Athletics)

Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona, Florida, has opted out of all sports for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year including football and basketball due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The university has ceased all student athletic activities until further notice out of an abundance of caution.

“In the face of a surging COVID-19 spike across much of the country and the State of Florida, we have concluded that the risks are too great for our student-athletes and staff to travel and compete at this time,” university President E. LaBrent Chrite said in a Thursday press release. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, as well as our coaches, staff and fans will always be our top priority.”

Bethune-Cookman is in its final year playing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and will be joining the SWAC conference in July 2021.

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COVID-19

Mississippi adds another 970 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

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With 970 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Mississippi Thursday, the state’s seven day average continues to creep upward toward 800. The Magnolia State is among the majority of U.S. states with rising case counts. Nationally, 81,457 cases were reported Wednesday, with the seven-day average rising 41% in the last two weeks. Deaths rose by 9% over the same period, with 1,016 deaths reported Wednesday.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported five new COVID-19 cases Thursday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,566, and the county’s death toll is 56.

Statewide, MSDH reported 970 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 118,587. The seven-day average of new cases is 787, higher by 270 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Thursday that eight additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,310. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.8%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

The deaths MSDH reported Thursday occurred between Oct. 23 and Oct. 27 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Thursday
Benton 1
Chickasaw 1
George 1
Hinds 1
Itawamba 1
Marion 1
Newton 1
Panola 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They dropped again through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations began rising since then. They have leveled off this week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, is 666, more than half of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 577 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 89 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 157 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 62 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 101,385 through Sunday, Oct. 25. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 85.5% of the cumulative 118,587 cases reported as of Thursday, Oct. 29.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Thursday, Oct. 8, was 1,452, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,396, or about 89.1% of the 1,566 cumulative cases reported as of Thursday, Oct. 29. The county has an estimated 114 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Oct. 17 (the latest testing results reported by MSDH), is 949,085 or about 31.9% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. Without an updated number of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average), however, the rate was 13.8% Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 6.3%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 134 Thursday. About 39.8%, or 1,317, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 26 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Oct. 11.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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