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Tyson Foods warns food supplies are at risk with plant closures

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(photo via Tyson Foods website)

Tyson Foods is warning that the nation’s food supply could be threatened as processing plants are closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

In full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Sunday, Tyson board chairman John Tyson wrote that “the food supply chain is breaking,” saying farmers will be left without anywhere to sell livestock and “millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.”

“There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed,” he added.

Tyson closed facilities in Logansport, Ind., and Waterloo, Iowa, where 182 employees tested positive for the virus. In addition, Smithfield Foods has closed a facility in Sioux Falls, S.D., where at least one worker has died from the virus, a JBS facility in Worthington, Minn., and a facility in St. Charles, Ill. The Waterloo, Worthington and Sioux Falls facilities comprise about 15 percent of pork production in the U.S.

Gov. Tate Reeves mentioned the outbreaks in his news conference Monday, and State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said that no Mississippi food processing plants have been closed due to the outbreak. Dobbs added that the plants have been receptive and even innovative to ensure the safety of their employees.

Reeves said that some of the outbreaks have been linked more to communal housing of some employees than to conditions on the factory floors. Nonetheless, the governor indicated that the closures are becoming worrisome.

“We could find ourselves in America and across the country with inadequate food supply, particularly meat products,” Reeves said, adding, “We, as a country, have to be very cognizant of the fact that we cannot find ourselves in a situation in which livestock or other things that we depend on as part of the nation’s food supply are rotting while we are running out of food across the country. We’re not there, yet. But there are beginning to be people having those conversations and putting up warnings that we’ve got to be very, very careful in putting ourselves at risk.”

In a statement posted on its website, Tyson reiterated the points made in its ads.

“In small communities around the country where we employ over 100,000 hard-working men and women, we’re being forced to shutter our doors. This means one thing – the food supply chain is vulnerable,” the CEO wrote. “As pork, beef and chicken plants are being forced to close, even for short periods of time, millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain. As a result, there will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed.”

“In addition to meat shortages, this is a serious food waste issue. Farmers across the nation simply will not have anywhere to sell their livestock to be processed, when they could have fed the nation. Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking.

“We have a responsibility to feed our country. It is as essential as healthcare. This is a challenge that should not be ignored. Our plants must remain operational so that we can supply food to our families in America. This is a delicate balance because Tyson Foods places team member safety as our top priority.”

Read the entire statement.

COVID-19

Mississippi reports sixth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases

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Moderna, the second pharmaceutical company that announced success of its COVID-19 vaccine in early testing, expects to apply Monday for emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration. If all goes well and approval is granted, distribution could begin as early as Dec. 21 for health care workers, the elderly and other high-risk groups. The company says its vaccine has proven to be 94.1% effective in a test of more than 30,000 people.

Monday. the Mississippi State Department of Health reported the sixth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. The expected drop in weekend cases, which has been consistent due to fewer clinics reporting on weekends and holidays, did not materialize over the Thanksgiving holiday. The state’s seven-day average of new cases is over 1,300 per day.

During the month of November, the state added 33,110 new cases, the most reported in one month since the crises began. Cases are up 66.4% over October. The number of deaths reported statewide in November, 473, is up 77.1% over the previous month.

In Warren County, MSDH reported nine new COVID-19 case Sunday, 10 new cases Monday and no new deaths either day. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,787, and the county’s death toll is 57. Although the county continues to have almost no deaths reported this month, its 14-day average of new cases has risen from about five cases per day at the beginning of the month to 8.7 cases at the end of the month, nearly a 60% increase. The seven-day average is 9.4.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,845 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 1,485 cases Monday bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 153,270. The seven-day average of new cases is 1,341.6 per day, about 562 cases higher than the seven-day average a month ago, when the state’s numbers were already on the rise. The current averages are 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 that 27 more Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide Sunday and one more Monday. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,807. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.5%. This rate has dropped 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.

Of the 27 deaths MSDH reported Sunday, nine occurred between Nov.27 and Nov. 28 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Sunday
Jackson 1
Lafayette 1
Madison 1
Panola 1
Scott 1
Walthall 1
Washington 1
Winston 2

Another 18 COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Sept. 7 and Nov. 12 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Adams 1
George 1
Hancock 1
Harrison 1
Jackson 4
Leflore 1
Monroe 1
Panola 1
Pearl River 1
Pontotoc 1
Prentiss 1
Stone 1
Union 1
Yalobusha 1
Yazoo 1

The one death reported Monday occurred Nov. 28 in Panola County.

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, and Sunday, Nov. 29. 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. Friday, Nov. 27, was 1,058, about 88% of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 971 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 87 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 245 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 130 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 121,637 through Sunday, Nov. 22. It represents about 79.4% of the cumulative 153,270 cases reported as of Monday, Nov. 30.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Nov. 9, was 1,618, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,561, or about 87.4% of the 1,787 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Nov. 30. The county has an estimated 169 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. 28, is 1,315,279 or about 44.2% 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 estimated rate was 17.6% Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 9.6%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 199 Monday, a decrease of four since Saturday. About 38%, or 1,447, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities. The cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in LTC facilities is 7,709, about 5% 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. 15.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Mission collecting toys for children with an incarcerated parent

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(Image by candice_rose from Pixabay)

The annual Jamming for the Kids concert may have been canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns, but the need and the effort to collect cash and toys hasn’t stopped.

Organizers are still collecting cash and unwrapped new toys for the children of people who are incarcerated and for children in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Child Protective Services.

Boxes for toy collection have been placed at Toney’s Grill and Seafood Market at 710 U.S. Highway 61 North, at the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at 1000 Grove St. outside the main entrance, and at River City Rescue Mission at 3705 Washington St.

To make a cash donation, drop it off at the mission for Director Ernie Hall, or go online at RiverCityRescueMission.org.

Organizers are hopeful that the community will support this effort that has provided Christmas presents to area children for the past 22 years.

For more information call Ernie Hall at 601-636-6602.

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Final day for comments on Corps’ Yazoo Backwater Pumps statement

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U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith spoke with flood victims at Valley Park, Miss., in 2019. (Photo by David Day)

Monday, Nov. 30 is the final day to submit comments on the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement in support of finishing the Yazoo Backwater Pumps. State officials are urging Mississippians to weigh in.

“We’ve seen the devastation that the backwater flooding has caused to Mississippi agriculture, farmers, ranchers and wildlife for years now, unnecessarily. The solution is simple, we need to finish the Yazoo Pump Project, which would prevent flood damage to urban and agricultural areas throughout the state for years to come,” said Andy Gipson, commissioner of agriculture and commerce, in a statement.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently accepting comments from citizens through Monday, Nov. 30, on the Yazoo Area Pump Project, and I encourage all Mississippians to take a moment and submit a comment of support. We need to stand up for our friends in the Mississippi South Delta and help them in their time of need. It’s time to finish the pumps.”

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann tweeted a brief video Monday in support of the finishing the pumps.

Comments must be submitted by Monday, Nov. 30. Submit comments using one of the following methods:

  • Text PUMPS to 50457.
  • Send a voicemail or text message to 601-392-2237.
  • Go to https://www.forgottenbackwaterflood.com/ or https://finishthepumps.com/ to fill out an online form to send to the Corps.
  • Fill out a postcard available at sites around the state including Valley Park Elevator in Valley Park, Lo-Sto and Yore Convenience Store in Eagle Lake, Mississippi Ag Company and Chuck’s Dairy Bar in Rolling Fork, Mississippi Levee Board and Sherman’s Restaurant in Greenville, Toney’s Grill in Vicksburg and the Mississippi Delta Council in Stoneville.
  • Send an email to [email protected]
  • Write to the Corps at the following address:
    District Engineer
    S. Army Corps of Engineers
    Vicksburg District
    4155 Clay Street
    Vicksburg, MS 39183-3435
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