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Mississippi Wildlife Federation denies flood victim a booth at its event



Randy and Victoria Darden

Flood victim and farmer Victoria Darden planned to put up a booth at next week’s Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s annual fundraiser to raise awareness of the historic Backwater Flood. She collected more than $3,000 in donations to print handouts. She had 16 people committed to work the booth and share information with those who would attend the annual MWF “Extravaganza” fundraiser in Jackson.

Friday, the MWF told Darden she would not have a booth at the event.

Bad blood between South Delta residents and the MWF began a few years ago when the MWF came out against completing the Yazoo Backwater pumps. Most flood victims feel those pumps could have prevented, or at least minimized, the impact of this year’s flood that inundated more than 550,000 acres across six Mississippi counties. Backwater flood victims have organized and are working to educate people while trying to influence lawmakers. U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican, has been the most vocal supporter of finishing the pumps, appearing at numerous events and giving real hope to those affected by the flooding. The MWF now says it will revisit its stance against the pumps.

US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks with flood victims at Valley Park, Miss., earlier this month.

Darden, who normally would be farming 1,100 Delta acres with her father, Randy, called the MWF earlier this week to ensure they processed her request for a booth. Her family’s acreage is among the more than 220,000 acres of prime cropland that won’t be planted this year. She received a response from MWF Executive Director Lindsey Lemmons that her request was received and under review. Darden moved forward with organizing the booth. Her goal was to make people aware of the impact of the flooding, especially on wildlife.

Hundreds of human lives have been impacted by the flood. The impact on wildlife has been devastating as well. Predator and prey were forced together onto small patches of land. Starving deer became a common sight, causing the state to approve unprecedented measures including emergency feeding of the stricken animals.

Darden received word Friday that the MWF would not welcome her efforts to educate the public..

Asked why, Lemmons told Darden that it was “… the discretion of the promoter of the event to make those selections.”

Darden challenged Lemmons. “When we talked Friday it seemed all I really had to do was pay my money and send in my application, and y’all only had a few booths left, and it wasn’t a big deal,” Darden recounted to the Vicksburg Daily News.  Tuesday morning, “all of a sudden you had a big wait list,” she said.


Randy and Victoria Darden

“You seemed to mislead me,” Darden said she told Lemmons. “We already raised over $3,000 dollars and (organized) people to come in there and work these shifts.”

In responding to Darden, Lemmons claimed 11 other people put in requests for booths that same day, and she apologized to Darden for making her feel like she was good to go. Lemmons also said she couldn’t sign any contract without approval from the board.

“I’m … highly disappointed that I was turned away. because I was trying to educate the public on the backwater flood affecting the wildlife and the people of the state,” Darden said. “I’m just not sure where Mississippi got so money-driven and political that we can’t stand up or speak out for what’s morally right any more.”

Calls to Lemmons for a response had not been returned at the time this story was published.

A previous, unedited version of this story was published in error.


Flaggs asks judges to assist in curbing crime



Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in a May 15, 2020 interview with the Vicksburg Daily News. (Photo via video screen grab. Video by David Day)

In a letter sent to Vicksburg and Warren County judges Monday, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. asked for help to curb crime in the River City.

Flaggs wrote that crime is “running rampant” in Vicksburg, and he “prayerfully and humbly” requested the judges consider adding two criteria to bails for anyone arrested on firearm-related offenses: GPS monitoring devices and a 7 p.m. curfew.

“I believe the only exceptions to the curfew should be for travel to or from work or to seek necessary medical treatment,” the mayor wrote. “These conditions of bail will help in protecting the public from future violence and assist our law enforcement officers in reducing and preventing crimes in our city.”

He added that he believes the measures are “imperative for the safety and future of our city.”

Read the entire letter below.

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



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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Vicksburg native TJ Taylor is a rising star in Mississippi political arena



If you aren’t familiar with the name TJ Taylor it is probably because he truly tries to fly under the radar. In spite of his low profile, he may be one of the most influential young people currently in Mississippi political circles.

Taylor serves as policy advisor and chief counsel to Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn. In this role, he is on the ground floor of decisions that will affect the state for decades to come. 

The 32-year-old Vicksburg native seems to relish the opportunity, saying “it gives me the chance to travel the state and hear the real concerns of the people.” 

Taylor grew up in Vicksburg attending school in the Vicksburg Warren School District before his parents moved to Utica, completing his education at Raymond High School. His father, Arnold, retired from the Corps of Engineers; his mother, Cynthia, retired from the postal service. Taylor is the youngest of four children and credits his parents with his love of politics and debate adding, “we were encouraged to discuss current events.”

Taylor moved on to the University of Southern Mississippi where he earned his political science degree in 2010. From there he entered the law program at Mississippi College. In the summer of 2013, he was afforded the opportunity to intern in Speaker Gunn’s office.

Following graduation in 2014,Taylor worked at a public policy think tank in Jackson for a year before returning to the Speaker’s office in 2015 and ascending to his current role.

Taylor was recently recognized as one of the top 50 influential leaders in the state. He served as Gunn’s appointee on the state flag commission. It was Taylor’s idea to fly the five finalists’ flags before narrowing the field to the final choice that will be voted on November 3.

When asked what it is like working for the first Republican Speaker of the Mississippi House, Taylor said, “It’s a really cool experience. Phillip Gunn is a man of integrity who is not afraid to make an unpopular decision.” He added that “the flag issue is one of the highlights of this experience but being involved with him on a daily basis gives me a unique insight on how committed he is to the state of Mississippi.”

Taylor is married to a former law school classmate, Colorado native Brittany Taylor, who practices as an associate attorney with Stephens Millirons P.C. They reside in Madison and have two sons.

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