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Griffis defeats Westbrooks for Mississippi Supreme Court seat

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Judge Kenny Griffis (photo courtesy MSSC)

Central District Justice Kenny Griffis, an appointee of former Gov. Phil Bryant, has won a full eight-year term on the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The Central District Supreme Court contest pitting Griffis against Court of Appeals Judge Latrice Westbrooks was the last uncalled result from the Nov. 3 general election. But with certified results being reported to the office of Secretary of State Michael Watson from the 22 counties that compose the Central District, Griffis has 202,530 votes or 51.5% compared to 190,455 votes for Westbrooks.

The results are unofficial, but based on the certified results compiled by the counties. Those county results can be found on the Secretary of State’s web site.

While the contest was close, part of the delay in calling the election is attributable to the method of counting votes in Mississippi. Unlike many other states were counties report unofficial totals as they count votes to the secretary of state’s office, which then maintains a cumulative tally, the only entity gathering statewide vote totals on election night in Mississippi is The Associated Press, a media outlet.

The Secretary of State’s office does not gather and release final results until all 82 counties independently certify their results. Last Friday was the deadline for counties to report certified results to the Secretary of State, but about 12 counties reportedly missed that deadline. By Wednesday, all the counties had completed their work.

The Secretary of State now has until Dec. 3 to tally the votes from the individual counties for all the contests on the Nov. 3 ballot, though it is expected to finish the process before then.

Because of the relatively narrow margins in the race and the fact that Hinds — the largest county in the district — was the last to report certified results, the Associated Press never made a call in the Supreme Court race.

The Associated Press called the other Mississippi contests on election night.

Griffis is winning a full-eight year term on the Supreme Court after being appointed by Bryant in 2019 to finish the term of former Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who retired in late 2018 and eventually launched an unsuccessful campaign for governor. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court, Griffis, a Meridian native, was serving as chief judge for the Court of Appeals.

Westbrooks is in her first term on the Court of Appeals, representing District 2, which consists of Jackson and a large slice of west Mississippi. She was vying to be the first African American woman to serve on the state’s highest court and only the fifth Black member. The nine-member court has never had two African American members on it at the same time in modern history and has only had two women members for a short time in 2016.

The Supreme Court currently consists of one woman, Dawn Beam of the Southern District, and one Black member, Leslie King of the Central District. The other seven justices are white men.

While Westbrooks lost the Supreme Court race, she will remain on the Court of Appeals. Her term does not end until January 2025.


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

Events

‘Miracle on Swing Street’ comes to Vicksburg

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Fabulous Equinox Orchestra (photo source https://equinoxorchestra.com/)

The Vicksburg Convention Center (VCC) and VenuWorks of Vicksburg are excited to announce a holiday jazz brunch event in partnership with Beyond Walls Ministry and River City Rescue Mission.

The Fabulous Equinox All-Stars is bringing “Miracle on Swing Street, A Holiday Soiree,” their holiday tour, to the VCC Sunday, Dec. 13, at 12:30 p.m. The event includes a classic brunch and jazz orchestra performing some swinging holiday tunes. Due to social distancing protocol, space is limited.

Tickets go on sale Monday, Nov. 23, at 10 a.m. Tickets for the brunch are $150 for a table of 6 or $30 a person. Each brunch ticket holder is asked to donate an unwrapped toy or gift (age range from infant to 18 years of age) or make a special monetary donation to Beyond Walls Ministry or the River City Rescue Mission. The donations will be dispersed to children of incarcerated parents and needy children in Vicksburg and Warren County. Tickets can be purchased at the VCC box office, ticketmaster.com or call 601-630-2929 for more info.

To donate to this important cause before the event, the VCC will be collecting new unwrapped toys and gifts and checks for Beyond Walls Ministry and/or the River City Rescue Mission during normal business hours (Mon-Fri, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the VCC has updated and enhanced many of its cleaning and safety protocols to help ensure the safety and security of everyone who walks through the doors. They have configured seating to allow for social distancing and will be conducting temperature checks at entry points. Masks will be required for all attendees and staff.

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Mississippi COVID-19 cases top 140,000 Friday with more than 1,600 new cases reported

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Mississippi’s cumulative number of COVID-19 cases topped 140,000 Friday.

The state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases continues to climb toward numbers seen in this summer’s surge. Friday, the average topped 1,200 as the Mississippi State Department of Health reported more than 1,600 new cases. A steep rise in hospitalizations is accompanying the rise in new cases, threatening once again to overwhelm the state’s health care system.

Across the U.S., the daily average of new cases is quickly approaching 200,000 per day as cases are rising in 47 states. Hospitalizations are soaring as well, with more than 80,000 patients. COVID-19 is now the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed, behind heart disease and cancer.

In Warren County, MSDH reported 10 new COVID-19 cases Friday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,691, and the county’s death toll is 56.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,638 new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 140,429. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,208 per day, about 439 cases higher than the seven-day average a month ago, and on par with numbers 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 Friday that 23 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,642. 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 was 67 reported Aug. 25.

Of the 23 deaths MSDH reported Friday, 17 occurred between Nov. 14 and Nov. 19 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Friday
Attala 3
Copiah 1
DeSoto 2
Hinds 4
Jackson 1
Madison 2
Oktibbehah 1
Pontotoc 1
Rankin 1
Tishomingo 1

Six COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
DeSoto 2
Harrison 1
Marshall 2
Sharkey 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19. 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. Wednesday, Nov. 18, was 948, nearly 80% of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 824 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 102 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 222 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 103 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 116,683 through Sunday, Nov. 15. It represents about 83.1% of the cumulative 140,429 cases reported as of Friday, Nov. 20.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Friday, Oct. 30, was 1,571, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,515, or about 89.6% of the 1,691 cumulative cases reported as of Friday, Nov. 20. The county has an estimated 120 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. 14, is 1,165,593 or about 39.2% 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 rate was 19.7% Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 10%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 170 Friday, an increase of 1 since Thursday. About 38.4%, or 1,397, 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 by provider here. The latest data available is for the week ending Nov. 6.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Power line repair delays traffic on I-20

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Photo by Thomas Parker

Entergy is replacing a power line that crosses Interstate 20 near the Flowers exit. Expect delays in both directions as closures could occur intermittently until around 10:30 a.m Friday.

Photo by Thomas Parker

The Mississippi Highway Patrol is on scene controlling traffic.

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