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ERDC soldiers serve in the fight against COVID-19



Capt. Patrick M. Border assists the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division in identifying potential locations for alternate care facilities in the fight against COVID-19. Border is assigned to the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory in Vicksburg. (Photo courtesy ERDC)

Although the vast majority of employees with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center are Department of Defense civilians, the select few U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the ERDC are making a significant impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, Soldiers from across the ERDC have deployed around the country to aid in the fight against the disease, many mobilizing to “hot spots” to confront the unique challenges of fighting an unseen enemy.

“It was important for ERDC’s soldiers to be given the opportunity to help their nation,” said Col. Teresa A. Schlosser, ERDC commander. “So, we immediately began sending them out to help the affected USACE districts and divisions when we saw the need.”

The U.S. Army defines leadership as the activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. An ideal Army leader serves as a role model through strong intellect, physical presence, professional competence and moral character. During the COVID-19 crisis, the men and women assigned to the ERDC undeniably demonstrated these qualities.

First Lt. Eoghan M. Matthews had just begun his assignment at the ERDC’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire, when the pandemic broke. He was immediately sent to New York City to assist the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District with construction of several alternate care facilities, or ACFs.

“USACE teamwork has been incredible,” he said. “I arrived to a team that was already decisively engaged and was able to rapidly put me to use. Not being familiar with a conventional district, I got a crash course in the way that they operate.”

During his deployment, Matthews contributed to the successful delivery of four facilities that served health care professionals and more than a thousand patients in the New York Metropolitan Region.

“Working in a crisis like this is incredibly exhilarating,” Matthews said. “The urgency and the drive is fantastic — it’s great being part of the solution. Going into a situation like this and making things safer for the country is exactly what I signed up for.”

ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois, had two Soldiers deploy to assist the USACE Great Lakes and Ohio River Division and the Chicago District.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Corey K. Hill, a CERL associate technical director, served as project integrator and planner for the McCormick Place ACF project in Chicago. The effort included coordinating construction support with state and city officials, McCormick Place staff, medical professionals and construction teams to outline requirements and finalize the project’s design, which was completed well under the estimated cost. The undertaking was LRD’s top priority, and Hill was recognized by USACE senior leaders for his achievements.

CERL’s Capt. Carolyn N. Ortiz-Merced recently served as the battle captain in the Emergency Operations Center with the Chicago District. Her job consisted of managing operations, gathering information from each of the five district projects for daily reporting and facilitating the district commander’s daily command meetings. Her efforts directly contributed to the information LRD provided to USACE leadership, as well as the updates given to federal, state and local partners.

Although ERDC’s Financial Management Officer Capt. Taylor D. Traversa stayed close to home by deploying with the USACE Mississippi Valley Division, headquartered in Vicksburg, Mississippi, he experienced the nationwide impact of USACE firsthand.

“USACE responded so quickly to the emerging threat of COVID-19 — which is unlike anything the nation has ever dealt with,” he said. “I am amazed at their ability to balance a pandemic response, while still handling flooding throughout the Mississippi Valley.”

“When I joined the Army, I never imagined I would be working in an emergency operations center responding to a pandemic,” said Traversa. “This experience has taught me that USACE is filled with incredibly selfless individuals who sacrifice greatly to help protect the nation from all manner of threats.”

For the ERDC’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory’s Capt. Patrick M. Border, working with the USACE South Pacific Division had its own challenges. “USACE South Pacific Division supported the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and tribal governments in the fight against COVID-19,” said Border. “Our site assessments identified potential locations for care facilities, and we constructed the best candidates. Most of our sites focused on high densities of COVID-19 patients or on very remote areas with limited hospital coverage.”

“Despite this being a ‘new’ type of disaster as opposed to extreme weather events, the emergency processes stood up well,” he said. “The dedication and expertise of our military and civilian teammates really stands out after weeks of extended hours with no days off. I’d absolutely want to work for USACE and be part of emergency responses after my active duty service.”


Mayor to hold news conference Friday on COVID-19



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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Bethune-Cookman cancels all sports due to COVID-19



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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Mississippi adds another 970 new COVID-19 cases Thursday



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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