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Corps commanding general: ‘… it’s time to make something happen’ with Yazoo Backwater pumps

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Sen Cindy Hyde-Smith during a subcommittee hearing March 11 2020. (Photo courtesy Sen. Hyde-Smith)

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) prompted strong commitments on Wednesday from the leadership of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “push this process through” to complete the Yazoo Backwater Area flood control pumps.

Hyde-Smith received strong pledges from, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) R.D. James and Commanding General and Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite to move forward with a long-sought pump station that would help protect the South Mississippi Delta from “perpetual flooding.”

“We simply cannot sustain this flooding. Instead of carrying out a long-term solution specifically authorized by Congress, we continue to spend tax dollars on damages and repairs, which could have otherwise been prevented,” Hyde-Smith told James and Semonite.

“Assistant Secretary James and Lieutenant General Semonite, would you agree that flood control projects are not fully effective until they are complete?” Hyde-Smith asked at the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Wednesday afternoon.

James, familiar with the region through his previous work with the Mississippi River Commission, responded, “Absolutely, I’ll agree with it because they’re not effective and yet when we do finally get around to complete them, they cost us four to five times more than they should. And all that time the people that need that flood control project are suffering.”

Semonite responded with unequivocal support for completing the Yazoo Backwater Area pumps.

“The bottom line here is we are going to push this process through, so NEPA should be good to go. We are using our Work Plan money. The Corps’ position is these pumps are absolutely essential. It might be a good time that you, the head of the EPA, Secretary James and I get in a room and say ‘how do we move forward,’ because we have been dealing with this problem way too long, and it’s time to make something happen,” Semonite said.

Hyde-Smith used the FY2021 budget review hearing to argue that Mississippians and the American taxpayers continue to be harmed by the failure of the federal government to complete all flood control components authorized under the Flood Control Act of 1941. The Yazoo Backwater pumps represent the last, unmet federal commitment to help protect a 630,000-acre region in the South Delta.

As part of a comprehensive review of past and current dire situations in Mississippi, the Senator expressed gratitude for recent efforts by the Army Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency to overcome a 2008 EPA decision that stopped completion of the Yazoo Backwater Project.

“A pumping station would not have completely prevented the effects of last year’s flood or prior years’ flooding, but the damages would have been drastically reduced. Thanks to your great leadership and your strong leadership under this administration, area residents now have hope,” Hyde-Smith said.

The hearing Wednesday will inform the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee as it prepares to craft an FY2021 funding bill for the Army Corps.

In February, Hyde-Smith announced an additional $46.5 million in FY2020 Army Corps “Work Plan” funding for work on 27 projects in Mississippi, including $7.5 million to advance efforts to address Yazoo Backwater Area flooding.

Watch the full video: Hyde-Smith Addresses Yazoo Backwater Flooding at Hearing.

Crime

Suspect in custody for fatal Madison Parish shooting

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A suspect is in custody following a fatal shooting in Madison Parish, Louisiana, Wednesday evening.

At around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Madison Parish deputies were dispatched to the area of North Walnut Street in Tallulah. When they arrived, deputies found a victim suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, according to Deputy Brandon Wilcher, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.

The Northeast Louisiana Ambulance Service transported the man to the Madison Parish Hospital Emergency Room where he died of his injuries. The victim’s name is being withheld while officials notify the family.

The suspect, Kevonta D. Everett, 23, had fled the scene, but investigators found he was in Delhi, Louisiana. Madison Parish deputies along with Delhi police took Everett into custody and transported him to the Madison Parish Jail. He is charged with second degree murder, Wilcher said, adding that while the investigation continues, he does not expect additional arrests.

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COVID-19

Thanksgiving offers a glimmer of hope even as COVID-19 cases and deaths are in record territory

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On Thanksgiving Day, the number of cumulative COVID-19 cases in the U.S. nears 13 million, and the people who have died from the virus number more than 260,000. Worldwide, a staggering 61 million cases and 1.4 million deaths have been reported. A total of 10 nations have reported cases of a million or more, but the U.S. has reported more cases and deaths than any other country for months.

The glimmer of hope is that the rate of increase for some U.S. states is slowing — particularly in the hard-hit Midwest — even if the reported cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to rise in record numbers in other regions of the country. California and Texas, the most populace states, continue to report record breaking numbers. Since the beginning of November in the U.S., the seven-day average for new cases has doubled, and more than 2,000 deaths were reported Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mississippi reported another day of more than 1,000 cases Thursday, the 12th this month, and 18 additional deaths. The seven-day average went up again to more than 1,200 per day. Hospitalizations are increasing with new cases, threatening the state’s health care system. The numbers of Mississippians hospitalized is nearing 90% of the surge this past summer.

In Warren County, MSDH reported 15 new COVID-19 case Thursday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,741, and the county’s death toll is 57.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,746 new COVID-19 cases Thursday bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 147,382. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,227 per day, about 488 cases higher than the seven-day average a month ago and on par with numbers seen in July.

At the beginning of the crises, the age group with the most COVID-19 cases were those over 65. Now, most new cases are seen in younger people who are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. In September, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi were 18 to 24 years old. That has shifted to a slightly older group. In November, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are from 25 to 39 years old followed by those 50 to 64 years old.

MSDH reported Thursday that 18 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,763. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.6%. This rate has dropped slightly as the number of cases are going up faster than the number of deaths at this time.

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 in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25.

The 18 deaths MSDH reported Thursday occurred between Nov. 17 and Nov. 25 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Thursday
Adams 1
Alcorn 1
Attala 1
Carroll 1
Covington 1
Desoto 2
Harrison 1
Hinds 1
Humphreys 1
Lauderdale 1
Lowndes 1
Neshoba 3
Oktibbeha 1
Rankin 2

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23. 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 tripled by late July.

Hospitalizations then steadily dropped through Oct. 3 when they began rising again along with increased cases. The last week in October, hospitalizations began levelling off; however, since Nov. 4 hospitals have seen a steady rise in COVID-19 patients once again.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24, was 1,039, about 87% of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 942 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 97 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 245 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 113 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 121,637 through Sunday, Nov. 22. It represents about 82.5% of the cumulative 147,382 cases reported as of Thursday, Nov. 26.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Thursday, Nov. 5, was 1,600, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,543, or about 88.6% of the 1,741 cumulative cases reported as of Thursday, Nov. 26. The county has an estimated 141 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, Nov. 21, is 1,237,802 or about 41.6% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. MSDH reports statewide test results once a week. Without daily updated numbers of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average); however, the estimated rate was 17% Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 9.5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 193 Thursday, an increase of 35 since Wednesday. About 38%, or 1,424, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities was 7,521 Wednesday, about 5.2% of the state’s total cases.

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 by provider here. The latest data available is for the week ending Nov. 8.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Unrestrained driver killed in Madison Parish crash

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(Photo courtesy Tallulah Fire Department)

A woman was killed in a two-vehicle crash in Madison Parish, Louisiana, Wednesday.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m., troopers from Louisiana State Police Troop F began investigating the crash on U.S. Highway 80 near Bear Lake Road. Yvonne Gardner, 55, of Tallulah, Louisiana, lost her life.

The initial investigation revealed a 2020 Chevrolet Malibu, driven by Gardner, was traveling westbound on Highway 80. For reasons still under investigation, Gardner drove her vehicle across the centerline into the eastbound travel lanes and collided with a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Gardner, who was unrestrained, sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead on the scene. A passenger in the Jeep, who was also unrestrained, sustained moderate injuries and was taken to a local hospital. The driver of the Jeep, who was properly restrained, was not injured in the crash. Toxicology samples were obtained and submitted for analysis. This crash remains under investigation.

While the cause of this crash remains under investigation, distracted and inattentive driving continues to be a leading cause of crashes in Louisiana. Louisiana State Police urges all motorists to stay alert while driving.

Buckling up is the most effective way to protect yourself during a vehicle crash. Failure to take a few seconds to buckle up can have devastating consequences. Louisiana law requires every person in a vehicle, regardless of seating position, to be properly restrained day or night.

In 2020, Troop F has investigated 46 fatal crashes resulting in 52 deaths.

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