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Insurance Commissioner advocates legislation to fund First Responders Trust Fund

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Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney

From Mike Chaney, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal:

When I consider some of the most important jobs a person can hold, firefighter quickly rises to the top of my mind. Firefighting, for some, is a profession: a noble one that requires time, physical strength and stamina. For others, it is a voluntary service to their community and neighbors, still strenuous and demanding. Police officers and other first responders hold equally important jobs in our communities.

In 2019, I proudly supported the passage of the Mississippi First Responders Health and Safety Act to care for first responders with occupational cancer and other diseases caused by their job. There are nearly 17,000 firefighters in Mississippi. Of those, around 13,000 are unpaid volunteers. It seems only right that we care for the men and women who have cared for us, risking their lives to save others. Now, nearly a year since its passage, we must consider how to fund this important program.

With Senate Bill 2302, I am proposing an amendment to existing law that would divert a portion of the surplus lines fees currently collected. Surplus lines fees are collected from non‐admitted insurance carriers in the state. Surplus lines fees generate between $12 and $14 million in revenue annually. Amending current law would guarantee money for firefighters through the Mississippi First Responders Health and Safety Trust Fund.

Benefits would be paid to fire and police officers who have 10 or more years on the job. The law allows for a $35,000 lump sum benefit if diagnosed with metastasized cancer or terminal cancer and a $6,250 lump sum benefit if diagnosed with non‐metastasized cancer.

I also propose diverting a portion of fees to fund the Rural Fire Truck Fund. Since the Rural Fire truck program’s inception in 1995, the State of Mississippi has paid out more than $47 million to help counties buy fire trucks. The program is estimated to have saved homeowners more than $1.6 billion since the program began. This program has put more money into consumer pockets than any tax cut ever will.

My proposal also calls for a portion of the surplus lines fee to fund fire prevention and education through the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Fire safety educators in my office visited more than 70 schools and educated more than 3,000 children and adults in 2019. I can only imagine the number of lives that would be impacted and saved by our educators if the proper funding was in place.

A portion of the diverted fees would also be paid to the Comprehensive Hurricane Damage Mitigation Program. I am particularly motivated to fund such a program after visiting with poultry farmers. Poultry is one of the leading industries in our state, valued at nearly $3 billion. There are more than 1,400 broiler farms and hundreds of layer farms – yet these farmers are paying increasingly high premiums for insurance on their chicken houses. Only a small number of insurance providers are willing to write coverage for poultry farms, largely because of the expensive replacement cost for destroyed or damaged poultry houses. The Mitigation Program would give farmers a better chance at a successful business by funding improvements to their poultry farms.

There is a common misconception that funds paid into the wind pool are assessed from policies only on the coast. That is incorrect. Approximately 60% of the fee is collected on policies written outside the coastal counties.

At this time, the wind pool has approximately $280 million in surplus, positioning it well to handle the next big storm. Moving a small percentage of the surplus lines fee funds would benefit everybody, from Desoto County to the Gulf Coast.

Senate Bill 2302 is making its way through the legislature now, and I urge lawmakers to pass this bill. My proposal would not take money from the general fund or adversely affect other programs. This takes politics out of the funding for fire protection, storm mitigation and caring for our heroes.

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Multiple vehicle wreck at Mission 66 and Indiana Avenue

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First responders were on the scene of a multiple vehicle accident at Mission 66 and Indiana Avenue in Vicksburg Saturday evening.

Police and rescue vehicles were called to the scene around 7 p.m.

First reports say there are multiple injuries in this accident.

The Vicksburg Daily News will provide additional details as they become available. Please avoid the area if you can.

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Mississippi sets new one-day COVID-19 case record Saturday with 1,972 reported

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Mississippi zoomed past the previous one-day record of new COVID-19 cases Saturday, with the Mississippi State Department of Health reporting 1,972. The previous record of 1,775 new cases was reported July 30.

Three weeks into November, the number of new cases reported is more than all the cases reported in October.

The state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases continues to climb toward the numbers seen in this summer’s surge. Saturday, the average neared 1,300 per day. 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 surge is gathering speed. Friday, at least 198,500 new cases were reported, another record, and the seven-day average of new cases is quickly approaching 200,000 per day. Cases are rising in 47 states. Hospitalizations are soaring as well, with more than 82,000 patients.

Friday, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it has submitted its application for emergency use of its vaccine to the Federal Food and Drug Administration. Approval is expected to take about three weeks. If approved, the vaccine could be available to high-risk groups such as health-care workers and the elderly before the end of the year.

In Warren County, MSDH reported 16 new COVID-19 cases Saturday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,707, and the county’s death toll is 56. Although the county has been spared the huge increases seen elsewhere, the 14-day average has risen from about five cases per day to nearly 7 cases in the past few weeks. No deaths have been reported in the county in November.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,972 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, the highest one-day increase since the crisis began, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 142,401. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,294 per day, about 536 cases and nearly 60% higher than the seven-day average a month ago. The average is 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 15 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,657. 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 in Mississippi was 67 reported Aug. 25.

The deaths MSDH reported Saturday occurred between Nov. 13 and Nov. 20 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Saturday
Holmes 1
Jackson 3
Jefferson Davis 1
Lafayette 1
Lee 1
Madison 1
Pearl River 1
Perry 1
Rankin 1
Tate 1
Walthall 1
Yazoo 1

Another 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. Friday, Nov. 20. 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 were 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. Thursday, Nov. 19, was 965, about 80% of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 863 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 102 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 225 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 99 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 81.9% of the cumulative 142,401 cases reported as of Saturday, Nov. 21.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Oct. 31, was 1,576, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,520, or about 89% of the 1,707 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Nov. 21. The county has an estimated 131 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% Friday, 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 173 Saturday, an increase of three since Friday. About 38.3%, or 1,400, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 7,384, about 5.2% 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. 6.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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COVID-19

CDC recommends people not travel for Thanksgiving

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people not travel to Thanksgiving celebrations this year.

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with, the agency writes on its website.

Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.

Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.

“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household,” said the CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz.

More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last seven days.

The CDC offers guidance having a safe Thanksgiving, including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing in addition to hygiene recommendations such as frequent hand-washing. Also recommended are alternatives to big gatherings such as sharing meals virtually and playing games at home with the family.

For more information, visit the CDC website.

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