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Flaggs: Bankruptcy is not an option for Vicksburg

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in a May 15, 2020 interview with the Vicksburg Daily News. (Photo via video screen grab. Video by David Day)

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. sat down with David Day of the Vicksburg Daily News Friday for a wide-ranging interview.

Among the subjects they spoke about is reopening the economy during the COVID-19 crisis. Of all the businesses and places that have yet to open, Flaggs mentioned that he was most reluctant to open the city’s senior center.

“These are your most vulnerable populations, and why should we put vulnerable populations in that close proximity?” he asked.

When the city reopens the center, Flaggs said he will mandate that temperatures be checked at the door.

The city’s budget dominated the interview. Flaggs has been advocating to everyone who will listen that the state government should allocate relief funds to municipalities to offset revenue losses. The $1.25 billion in federal relief funds allocated to Mississippi do not allow money to go to municipalities for revenue losses; however, the state has a rainy-day fund and other reserve accounts that could be used for that purpose, he said. Those accounts hold about $1.3 billion according to a report from the Legislative Budget Committee.

For Vicksburg, the drop in revenue because of loss of sales taxes in tourism could amount to as much as $3.5 million by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The mayor said his drop-dead deadline on getting relief is June 15, and while the relief could come through, he wants to be prepared if it doesn’t.

“If we don’t have the revenue made up in some kind of way … we’re going to have to do some drastic cuts, and it’s going to be devastating,” he said.

Among the cuts he is looking at are to city employees, always one of the largest expenses. Flaggs mentioned furloughs as an option as well as layoffs and terminations. He is also looking at moving people around to eliminate positions that are not necessary, moves he can make because of prior cross-training efforts.

“I believe we’re going to have to make some minimal reductions in order to save the city,” he said.

Raises are off the table for the moment, but salary reductions may be an option, including for himself and the aldermen. Flaggs said he would be the first to get a reduction in salary if the city decided to go that way.

“We’re not going to enhance your salary. We’re going to save your job,” he said.

Flaggs mentioned that Chapter 9 reorganization bankruptcy could be an option for some cities that don’t expect to regain their revenue streams any time soon, but not for Vicksburg, and he indicated his comments to The Clarion Ledger on the subject have been taken out of context.

“I believe there are a lot of other options” for Vicksburg, he said, adding, “I promise you, you’d have to put a gun to my head before I use it.”

Flaggs also said one of the city’s goals now is to get people back to spending money locally as businesses reopen.

“Let’s help each other,” he said, instead of spending money online or in other cities.

The mayor said he would put Vicksburg’s process of closing down and reopening up against any other city in Mississippi, and he believes about 98% of the people in Vicksburg support his decisions.

Watch the entire interview on Facebook.

COVID-19

Vicksburg Warren School District reports 14 new COVID-19 cases and 46 quarantined

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The Vicksburg Warren School District reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 last week (Nov. 16 through Nov. 20) among students and staff, and 46 individuals newly quarantined due to possible exposure in the same time period.

Cases and quarantines in individual schools:

Beechwood Elementary School 

  • 1 new positive case – staff
  • 1 new positive case – student
  • 6 quarantined – students

Dana Road Elementary

  • 1 new positive case – staff
  • 1 new positive case – student
  • 1 quarantined – staff

Sherman Avenue Elementary

  • 1 new positive case – student
  • 5 quarantined – students

South Park Elementary

  • 1 new positive case – student
  • 8 quarantined – students

Vicksburg High School

  • 3 new positive cases – students

Vicksburg Intermediate School

  • 1 new case – student
  • 8 quarantined – students

Vicksburg Junior High School

  • 2 new cases – staff
  • 2 quarantined – staff

Warren Central Intermediate School

  • 2 new cases – staff
  • 5 quarantined – staff
  • 16 quarantined – students
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COVID-19

U.S. tops 13 million cumulative COVID-19 cases Saturday

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The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in the United States officially went over 13 million as of Saturday morning, with more than 205,000 new cases reported Friday and 1,412 deaths. Hospitalizations continue to climb, with nearly 90,000 patients straining the health care system to the breaking point in many areas.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported another day of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, the 14th time this month. The cumulative number of cases in the state is just under 150,000.

In Warren County, MSDH reported 15 new COVID-19 case Saturday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,768, and the county’s death toll is 57. Although the county continues to have almost no deaths reported this month, its 14-day average of new cases has risen from about five cases per day at the beginning of the month to 8.5 cases. The seven-day average is 8.7.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,553 new COVID-19 cases Saturday bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 149,940. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,077 per day, about 292 cases higher than the seven-day average a month ago, when the state’s numbers were already on the rise. The current averages are 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 Saturday that 10 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,779. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.5%. This rate has dropped 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 10 deaths MSDH reported Saturday occurred between Nov.22 and Nov. 27 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Saturday
Benton 1
Covington 1
Hinds 1
Itawamba 1
Lafayette 2
Lauderdale 2
Leake 1
Rankin 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27. 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 81.1% of the cumulative 149,940 cases reported as of Saturday, Nov. 28.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Nov. 7, was 1,614, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,557, or about 88.1% of the 1,768 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Nov. 28. The county has an estimated 154 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 16.5% Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 9.4%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 203 Saturday, an increase of 10 since Friday. About 38%, or 1,436, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 7,586, about 5.1% 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. 15.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Crime

Governor’s sign-language interpreter arrested

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(Photo source: WAPT)

Gregory Goldman, 52, was arrested Sunday in Madison County for aggravated domestic violence, WAPT reports.

Goldman, who frequently provides sign language interpretation for Gov. Tate Reeves during his news conferences, has also signed for Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. during major press events.

Goldman is employed by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.

There are few details available about the allegations that led to his arrest. Goldman was released on $1,000 bond Monday.

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