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Mississippi court rules voters at risk for severe COVID-19 consequences may vote absentee

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(Image by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay)

In an early evening ruling Wednesday, the Hinds County Chancery Court held that voters with preexisting medical conditions that make them more likely to suffer severe consequences from COVID-19 may vote absentee in the Nov. 3 election. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Mississippi Center for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and the national ACLU Foundation regarding Mississippi’s absentee ballot law.

The decision by Chancery Court Denise Owens involves a provision of Mississippi’s absentee ballot law providing the option of absentee voting to “[a]ny person who has a temporary or permanent physical disability … whose attendance at the voting place could reasonably cause danger to himself or herself or others.” That provision has existed in Mississippi’s election law since 1986.

Four of the plaintiffs who brought this case have such conditions and Judge Owens held that they, and others like them, may vote absentee. Owens took note of public health guidance from the Mississippi Department of Health stating that people “with a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease” and people who otherwise are “in poor health” are at a higher risk for severe consequences from COVID-19 and should “stay home as much as possible.”

At the same time, the Judge rejected the contention of the Plaintiffs that public health guidance to avoid community events by itself entitles people to vote absentee under an additional provision passed this summer by the legislature extending absentee voting to those under a “physician imposed quarantine.” Judge Owens said this provision is limited to orders from the Mississippi Department of Health requiring people to isolate at home or recommendations from a voter’s own physician.

“The Court correctly concluded that Mississippi voters may vote absentee if they have medical conditions that will lead to particularly severe consequences if they contract COVID-19,” said Rob McDuff, director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative, Mississippi Center for Justice. “But we believe the right to vote extends even further and requires that absentee voting be available to all Mississippi voters who are following public health guidance and avoiding community events during this pandemic.”

The six voters who brought the case are Harriett Oppenheim, who has Lupus, has had a kidney transplant, and has chronic kidney disease; Mary Harwell, who has diabetes and lives in a household with her autistic child who has cerebral palsy and multiple auto-immune disorders and with her mother who is 77; Dave Miller, who previously had stage 3 malignant melanoma and had radiation treatment and surgery to remove the tumor and 80 nodes and more recently had spots identified on his lungs, but they were biopsied and were not found to be cancerous; Joy Parikh, who has severe asthma; Martin Clapton, who has no underlying conditions but who has been caring during the COVID-19 pandemic for his wife, who has serious medical conditions; and Michelle Colon, who has no specific underlying conditions but is trying to follow public health guidance just like the other Plaintiffs.

Judge Owens held that the four Plaintiffs with preexisting conditions could vote absentee. She held that Martin Clapton could invoke a provision allowing absentee voting for those who are caring for others who are under a physician-imposed quarantine if his wife’s doctor advises her to stay in place.

“This ruling means more Mississippians will not have to risk exposure to a deadly virus in order to vote,” said Theresa Lee, staff attorney, ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “The court should have extended this is all voters, and we are examining next steps to ensure everyone can protect their health and their vote.”

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said he would appeal the ruling to the state’s supreme court.

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Six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Warren County; 713 statewide

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New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in Mississippi as they have been doing for more than 10 days.

“I do think we are on the front end of something that could be bad,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs in a Zoom meeting Monday. “The last time we saw that was before the summer surge,” Dobbs added. “That doesn’t mean we can’t turn that around. It’s not that hard. We just have to have a little bit of patience.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,476, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 713 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 105,941. The seven-day average of new cases is 609, higher by 183 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Tuesday that 14 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,115. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.9%.

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.

MSDH reported Tuesday that 13 deaths occurred in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Tuesday
Amite 2
Hancock 1
Harrison 1
Lee 1
Lowndes 1
Marshall 1
Monroe 1
Rankin 1
Tishomingo 1
Washington 3

One COVID-19 related death occurred Sept. 25 in Adams County and was identified from a death certificate report.

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12. 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 nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations have been showing a definite rise since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 507 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 93 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 145 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 69 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 94,165 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 89% of the cumulative 105,941 cases reported Tuesday, Oct. 13.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Tuesday, Sept. 22, was 1,382, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,329, or about 90% of the 1,476 cumulative cases reported as of Tuesday, Oct. 11. The county has an estimated 87 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 Sunday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 128 Tuesday. About 40.6%, or 1,265, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Mississippi’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases remains over 600 Monday

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Sunday and Monday saw the expected weekend drop in reported new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Mississippi’s seven-day average remains above 600.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported three new COVID-19 cases Sunday in Warren County and no new cases Monday. No new deaths were reported either day. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,470, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 294 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 296 cases Monday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 105,228. The seven-day average of new cases is 646, higher by 197 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Sunday that five additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. No new deaths were reported Monday. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,101. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

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.

MSDH reported Sunday that five deaths occurred between Oct. 5 and Oct. 10 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Sunday
Lafayette 1
Leflore 1
Marion 1
Montgomery 1
Tate 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Oct. 11. 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 nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they began showing a definite rise last week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 491 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 136 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 59 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 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86% of the cumulative 105,228 cases reported Monday, Oct. 11.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Sept. 21, was 1,381, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,328, or about 90.3% of the 1,470 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Oct. 11. The county has an estimated 89 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 Sunday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 126 Monday. About 40.1%, or 1,258, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Third spike in COVID-19 cases reported Saturday; seven-day average over 600

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With another spike of new COVID-19 cases Saturday, the third in a week, Mississippi’s seven-day average was above 600 for the first time in over a month, further indicating the state may be seeing the beginning of a new surge in cases. Hospitalizations have also continued to rise throughout the week.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported eight new COVID-19 cases in Warren County Saturday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,467, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 957 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 104,638. The seven-day average of new cases is 638, higher by 180 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Saturday that 16 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,096. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

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.

MSDH reported Saturday that 10 deaths occurred between Sept. 23 and Oct. 9 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Saturday
Alcorn 1
George 1
Hancock 1
Montgomery 1
Panola 1
Stone 1
Tippah 1
Washington 2
Winston 1

Six COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified on death certificate reports
Desoto 1
Hinds 1
Lee 1
Madison 1
Panola 1
Scott 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. 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 nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they have shown a definite rise this week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 491 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 136 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 59 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 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86.6% of the cumulative 104,638 cases reported Saturday, Oct. 10.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Sept. 19, was 1,380, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,327, or about 90.5% of the 1,467 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Oct. 10. The county has an estimated 87 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, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 5.9% Friday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 4.9%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 126 Saturday. About 40.5%, or 1,254, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 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 here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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