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Gov. Reeves says he has no plans for a statewide shutdown



Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves addressed the concerns of Mississippians about the state’s response to COVID-19 in a live Facebook event Monday. 

One of the most pressing concerns addressed was the possibility of a statewide shutdown. 

In neighboring Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards on Sunday announced a statewide “stay at home” order beginning Monday until April 12, requiring Louisiana residents to shelter in place unless going out for essential tasks, in hopes to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Louisiana has reported nearly 1,200 COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths.

Reeves ensured Mississippians that he is not contemplating the same action. 

“No one at the Department of Health has recommended, at this time, a statewide shutdown,” Reeves said. 

During a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence and the National Coronavirus task force, Reeves said he had the opportunity to ask their recommendation of a statewide shutdown and they advised the same actions the State Department of Health issued: stay in your home as much as possible, enforce social distancing, ensure no group meetings over 10 people, shut down public schools for four weeks, and urge and enforce good hand hygiene.

Reeves feels Mississippi has embraced the recommendations well. He said it is important to comply because even when you feel healthy you still have a chance to pass along the virus to others.

The governor said many people are asking why Mississippi hasn’t been shut down but said other people do not believe they could provide for their families during a shutdown. He made reference to a question he received from a single mom of four urging him not to issue a statewide shutdown because she will be unable to work and put food on the table for her four children. 

“Please understand we are doing everything in our power to listen to the experts,” Reeves said. “We aren’t going to make rash decisions simply because some other states decided to do things.” 

Reeves’ decision comes in the wake of 16 states issuing shelter in place orders. Among them is New York State, currently the epicenter of infections in the country with an infection rate of eight in 10,000 and some 23,000 reported cases. The next highest infection rate is in Washington State, with an infection rate of 2 in 10,000. Washington State is also under a shelter in place order.

So far, Mississippi has a total of 249 confirmed COVID-19 cases with one death, but Reeves said this number will rise as more testing becomes available around our state. 

“The fact that we are seeing an increase in cases over the last 10 days is not surprising,” he said. “As we bring more and more testing centers online, you’re going to see more and more positive cases, so we fully anticipate the number of positive cases in our state will continue to grow.”

The governor ensured listeners that Mississippi will get through this pandemic. 

“We will continue to make decisions to protect that single mom with four kids,” he said. “We will continue to protect every Mississippian by making wise decisions. … When we get through this, we will be in better shape to make Mississippi a better place to raise a family and an even better place to live.”


Mississippi to benefit from Home Depot settlement



(photo courtesy The Home Depot)

Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced Tuesday that Mississippi, along with the Attorneys General of 45 other states and the District of Columbia, has obtained a $17.5 million settlement against Georgia-based retailer, The Home Depot. This resolves a lengthy multistate investigation of a 2014 data breach, which exposed the payment card information of approximately 40 million Home Depot consumers nationwide. The State of Mississippi will collect $147,874.48 through this settlement.

“When companies fail to protect personal data, they leave millions of consumers vulnerable to identity theft and misuse of their personal information,” Fitch said in a statement. “This settlement highlights the importance of implementing procedures to protect consumers’ sensitive personal information and every business’ duty to do so.”

The breach occurred when hackers gained access to The Home Depot’s network and deployed malware on its self-checkout point-of-sale system. The malware allowed the hackers to obtain the payment card information of customers who used self-checkout lanes at The Home Depot stores throughout the U.S. between April 10, 2014, and Sept. 13, 2014.

In addition to the $17.5-million total payment to the states, The Home Depot has agreed to implement and maintain a series of data security practices designed to strengthen its information security program and safeguard the personal information of consumers. Specific security provisions agreed to in the settlement include:

  • Employing a duly qualified chief information security officer reporting to both the senior or c-level executives and board of directors regarding Home Depot’s security posture and security risks.
  • Providing resources necessary to fully implement the company’s information security program.
  • Providing appropriate security awareness and privacy training to all personnel who have access to the company’s network or responsibility for U.S. consumers’ personal information.
  • Employing specific security safeguards with respect to logging and monitoring, access controls, password management, two factor authentication, file integrity monitoring, firewalls, encryption, risk assessments, penetration testing, intrusion detection and vendor account management.
  • Consistent with previous state data-breach settlements, the company will undergo a post settlement information security assessment, which in part will evaluate its implementation of the agreed upon information security program.
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Chief of UMMC urges Gov. Reeves to re-issue statewide mask mandate



Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, at a press conference at UMMC. (photo courtesy UMMC)

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, who leads the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s only academic health center and largest hospital, directly called Monday for Gov. Tate Reeves to re-issue a statewide mask mandate.

Reeves became the first governor in America to rescind a statewide mask mandate on Sept. 30, and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have steadily climbed since that date. Since the statewide mandate expired, however, Reeves has issued more than a dozen county-by-county mask mandates — a piecemeal approach that has received some criticism from medical experts.

“We do very much believe we should have a statewide mask mandate,” Woodward said Monday at a press conference. “… I think we have reasonable evidence to believe the county-by-county approach is not working. It’s not doing what we need it to do. It is not turning these numbers around for us.

“With the governor being the highest level of state official, I think that sends a big signal for that position to say, ‘We are at a critical point, people. We need to have a statewide mask mandate.’ That sense of urgency is rapidly becoming much more intense and powerful. And what we have been doing hasn’t turned us around.”

Woodward was also vocal in the days leading up to the governor’s first statewide mask mandate in early August. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who leads the state’s health department, has recently posted to social media information about the effectiveness of mask mandates.

The rise in COVID-19 cases in Mississippi — a surge only topped by the record spread in July and August — has persisted for nearly two straight months. On Saturday, the state health department reported a single-day record of 1,972 new cases. The seven-day rolling average reached 1,294 over the weekend, which is the highest mark since July 31.

The state health department also reported close to 900 total hospitalizations for people with the virus. That mark is at its highest point since Aug. 26. Health officials on Friday warned the public about managing spread in the cold months and during the holiday season.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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MS high school students encouraged to compete in cyber-security games



(photo by councilcle from Pixabay)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced the state’s participation in CyberStart America Tuesday. CyberStart is an innovative, online cybersecurity talent search and competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and the SANS Institute.

Mississippi high school-aged students are encouraged to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science by participating in the program. Participants can win prizes, scholarships and recognition for their schools.

The CyberStart America program is a series of 100% online challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents, solving cybersecurity-related puzzles and exploring related topics such as code breaking, programming, networking and digital forensics. The program can be assigned as part of homework, can form the basis of an extracurricular club or students can just try it on their own.

Participating students and their teachers do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to take part. Everything they need can be learned in the game. The program is free for schools and students, and all Mississippi students in grades nine through 12 are invited to participate. Building on the success of last year’s Girls Go CyberStart program, this year’s CyberStart Game is open to all high school students. Anyone who reaches level 5 in the game will qualify for the national competition to win scholarships. To encourage participation of young women and JROTC cadets, specific communities have been established for those groups, offering additional support and community-specific awards within the overall scholarship competition.

The National Cyber Scholarship Foundation anticipates awarding scholarships worth $2 million for use at any accredited college to 600 high-scoring students across the nation who participate in the competition in 2021. Students compete for state-specific and community-specific prizes, as well as national championship status. There will also be incentives for Mississippi high schools to encourage more students to reach the qualifying level in the CyberStart game, including exclusive access to additional cybersecurity education resources and recognized cyber skills mastery badges for their students.

“The CyberStart America Program is an excellent and fun opportunity for students who think they may be interested in cybersecurity to determine if they have the passion and aptitude to pursue it as a career,” Reeves said in a statement. “Mississippi high schools have competed and placed well in this competition the last several years, and I cannot wait to see our students go even further.”

Find complete details about the program at High school students can register for the program and invite their friends to join them through Feb. 28, 2021. Students will be informed if they qualify for the CyberStart National Scholarship Challenge Round as soon as they have achieved sufficient progress, but they can continue playing and learning to build skills that will be useful to them in the Nationals. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit

“This program supports computer science education and its growing importance in our schools and our economy,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “I encourage all Mississippi high schools to share the CyberStart America opportunity with their students and to support their participation. There is no limit to what students can achieve when they are provided with challenging opportunities that give them the chance to excel.”

In a pilot test of CyberStart America targeted to young women during the last school year, 146 students from Mississippi high schools participated and seven succeeded in reaching the national finals. With CyberStart America now open to boys as well as girls, Mississippi hopes to triple the number of students participating and reaching the scholarship round.

“Cybersecurity is the new frontier for protecting infrastructure, personal information and financial data,” said Lora Hunter, interim director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security and state coordinator for the program. “The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security deals with these critical areas every day. Mississippi needs a pipeline of talented cybersecurity professionals to help protect our way of life.”

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