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Former Vicksburg YMCA among the priorities for $300,000 EPA assessment grant

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Junius Ward Johnson YMCA on Clay Street in Vicksburg. (Photo by David Day)

The former Junius Ward Johnson YMCA in Vicksburg is among the priority properties identified for assessment in a $300,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant.

The building, located at 821 Clay St., was dedicated in 1923 and abandoned around 2006. Grant funds will be used to develop a cleanup and reuse plan for the building, according to the city’s grant application.

The pool tile remains in incredibly good condition considering its age and wear. This pool was heated and considered therapeutic in its time. (Photo by David Day)

The City of Vicksburg is among 151 communities across the nation and four in Mississippi to receive grants from the EPA to assess, clean up and redevelop potential brownfield properties. Vicksburg’s assessment grant totals $300,000 out of $65.6 million allocated to communities across the nation. The funds will expand the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses.

“The City of Vicksburg is excited to continue our partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency with the award of this Brownfield Assessment Grant,” said Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in a statement. “With EPA grant assistance in 2016 and 2017, we successfully combined resources to remove the blight of the vacant Kuhn Memorial Hospital. Earlier this year, we approved the Kuhn site’s transformation into greenspace and walking trails. Building upon the foundation laid with our previous EPA Brownfield Grants, we hope to bring additional reinvestment and redevelopment to Vicksburg, setting a standard of Brownfield excellence for Mississippi and the Southeast for years to come.”

Brownfields are defined as former industrial or commercial sites where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. Most brownfields have little or no contamination, according to the mayor’s office, so an assessment can free up properties for redevelopment. The state of Mississippi also offers several tax credit and rebate incentives for brownfield cleanup.

“With this newest award from EPA, we turn our attention to addressing environmental concerns in our Downtown Riverfront areas as well as additional unfinished business along the Clay Street corridor leading into our vibrant downtown district,” the mayor added.

The City’s Historic and Riverfront District and the Clay Street corridor both include Qualified Opportunity Zones, which provide tax benefits for capital investments.

Other priority sites include the former Mercy Hospital, for which grant funds will be used to develop a cleanup plan. They also include the area near a former gas station, a former dry cleaner and a former body shop.

“Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfield Program provide communities and tribes across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets,”-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

The funds will also be used to develop and update a GIS-based site inventory, hold annual community meetings and conduct community outreach activities.

Total grant awards in Mississippi are $1,464,000. Other recipients include the City of Canton ($300,000), the Three Rivers Planning and Development District Inc. for work in New Albany, Pontiac and Tupelo ($600,000), and the West Point Consolidated School District for work in Cedar Bluff ($264,000).

Business

Vicksburg entrepreneurs got the basics of business ownership at boot camp

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Kendra Reed and Willie Johnson were among the dozen entrepreneurs attending the Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp. (photos submitted)

Last week participants graduated from the first Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp where 12 individuals received information to start or expand their own businesses.

Myra Harris, who recently started a company making masks, joined the boot camp shortly after her grandchildren informed her of the opportunity.

“They provided all the resources you would need to start your business, and they also made themselves available after class just in case you had any questions,” Harris said.

Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp participants. Top L to R: Marcus Dufour (Vicksburg Warren Partnership), Tim Sanford, Cathy Sanford, Olivia Foshee, Amy Warren, Patricia Anderson, Willie Johnson, Myra Harris, Ginger Donahue (Regions Bank) and Pablo Diaz (Vicksburg Warren Partnership). Bottom L to R: Gwen Green, Kendra Reed, Rob Burnham (Instructor), De’Jonae Curtis and Anthony Curtis. Not pictured William Wooten. (photo courtesy Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce)

Retired businessman Rob Burnham facilitated the class and helped the participants plan out their businesses, assisting with marketing, accounting and distribution. Marcus Dufour and Pablo Diaz from the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce hosted the class, bringing in successful entrepreneurs as speakers including Kevin Roberts who owns Fit Chef Catering in Vicksburg.

“Every speaker gave us the opportunity to ask questions, and it definitely gave me the information I need to open a business, and I would recommend the class 100%,” said participant Willie Johnson.

Johnson was born and raised in Vicksburg. He’s now retired from the military and looking to launch a consulting business, which is what led him to attending the boot camp.

By having capable individuals at the boot camp such as James Harper from the Small Business Development Center at Hinds Community College, the participants were able to learn about available grants and other resources for entrepreneurs.

Starting a business can be stressful for first time entrepreneurs, but the boot camp provided planning advice to the participants, breaking down the information that participants need to launch their businesses.

“In the business process of starting and running a business, owners get very busy running the day-to-day aspects,” said boot camp participant Kendra Reed. “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp gave me the chance to step back and plan through the whole process to prepare my new company to be successful.”

Reed is the owner of Delta Dirt Shirt, and she was proud to be a graduating member of the camp.

Now that the camp has ended, the participants are in competition for a $1,000 seed grant for the best business plan presentation. A winner will be announced Dec. 8.

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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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