Mississippi Edition

8/3/2020

8/3/20 - Long Term Care Facility Outbreaks | Unemployment Benefits | School Challenges

Long-term care facilities face outbreak risks as state battles the worst period of community transmission.Then, additional unemployment benefits made possible through the CARES Act have expired. We examine what it means for Mississippi’s recipients.Plus, education professionals continue to navigate the ever-changing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.Segment 1:Health experts say there have been astounding outbreaks of the Coronavirus in Mississippi's long term care facilities.LTCs, which include nursing homes, care for Mississippians who are the most at risk for COVID-19. In May, the health department tested every resident and worker in these facilities. The early results were promising - with the number of outbreaks shrinking below 75.But now, the virus is once again threatening the state's most at-risk population.Mississippi has over 170 facilities with outbreaks of the virus - after reaching a record high of 203 outbreaks last week.Tony Hamrick, President of the Mississippi Healthcare Association, shares more on the recent rise of outbreaks with our Kobee Vance.Segment 2:Mississippians collecting unemployment benefits will have to begin providing work searchesaccording to the state department of employment security. More than 430,000 Mississippians have filed for unemployment benefits over the past three months.Executive Director Jackie Turner says the governor’s executive order, which waived job searches because of the coronavirus pandemic is about to expire. Eddie McCurdy of Ridgeland wants to work. He says he was laid off in March at a theatre,brought back to work last month and then laid off again. The 26-year old tells our Desare Frazier the federal supplement has helped during difficult times.Segment 3:When the calendar turns to August, it usually means students and teachers are priming for the return to school.But, in the environment of a lingering pandemic, the questions of how and if students go to school is ever-changing. Governor Tate Reeves, who has been advocating for in-person learning, acknowledges school leaders are in a tough spot. So far, one school district has returned to on-campus learning.In Corinth, teachers and students returned to the classroom last Tuesday.By Friday, the district was reporting it's first positive case of COVID-19. Erica Jones is with the Mississippi Association of Educators.She tells our Ashley Norwood education professionals are facing a number of challenges during this pandemic
7/31/2020

7/31/20 - Education and Economy | Hospitals Near Crisis | New MS Dem Party Chair

Education and the economy take center stage as Mississippi’s worst month of the coronavirus pandemic comes to a close.Then, with a steady trend of high cases, the state’s hospital system remains strained.Plus, how the new chair of the Mississippi Democratic Party plans to broaden its coalition.Segment 1:School districts are submitting their plans for reopening to the Department of Education for review. Districts were provided with three options for reopening, including classroom instruction, online instruction, or a hybrid of the two. Because of rising coronavirus numbers, some school districts are now delaying their reopening, or opting to go online only.The state is also currently operating without an passed education budget bill.Governor Tate Reeves assures money has been transferred into the MAEP ahead of school openings, but says he will not call a special session of the legislature - citing safety concerns. While unwilling to call the legislature until it is completely safe, Reeves continues to advocate for in-person learning as school districts hit the deadline for restart plans.Reeves says just as there are risks associated with on-campus learning, there are also risks associated with keeping kids out of school.Some advocates for traditional school cite the struggling economy as a reason to get kids back in the classroom.The nation experienced a sharp drop in the GDP during the second quarter as unemployment continues at a high rates.Corey Miller with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning tells our Desare Frazier how Mississippi compares to the rest of the nation during a time of economic insecurity.Segment 2:Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Mississippi, and hospitals are preparing for more COVID-19 positive patients. Medical experts, like Dr. Jonathan Wilson, say these impending cases could overwhelm the healthcare system.Wilson is the Incident Manager and Chief Administrative Officer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.He tells our Kobee Vance if coroanvirus hospitalizations increase beyond what the hospital can handle, it will be difficult to maintain the standard of care Mississippians expect.Segment 3:A retired judge is taking the helm of the Mississippi Democratic Party with the goal of diversifying its ranks. New Mississippi Democratic Party Chair, Retired Judge Tyree Irving says the party must be more racially diverse to prevail in the state.Irving, who has served in leadership roles in the party at the county level, tells our Desare Frazier he wants dismantle the narrative that the Democratic Party caters to one race.
7/30/2020

7/30/20 - School Restart Concerns | Center for Medically Fragile Children | Book Club: The River

Schools near the deadline to submit their plans for a safe returnThen, how a state agency with a director arrested for embezzlement got tangled up in a project involving the former First Lady.Plus, in today’s book club,two friends take a wilderness canoe trip and find themselves tested by fire, white water and violence.Segment 1:Mississippi school districts have one more day to submit their reopening plans for the fall as rates of the coronavirus remain high.Governor Tate Reeves, who has been echoing the White House message for students to return to in-person learning, says his team is in the process of reviewing the restart plans of the state's public school districts.As schools prepare for the restart, education advocates worry about the number of challenges administrators and teachers face to accommodate guidelines during period of high community transmission. We talk to Ronnie McGehee, Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of School Administrators, and Nancy Loome of the Parents Campaign.Segment 2:The Mississippi Center for Medically Fragile Children was a passion project for Deborah Bryant.The center, presented as the first pediatric skilled nursing facility in the state of Mississippi, ceremoniously broke ground in December - with Bryant in attendance. Now the former first lady is cutting formal ties with the long-planned home as a non-profit affiliated with the project is quietly dissolving.Jack Bolonga is an investigative reporter with the Clarion Ledger.He shares more with our Karen Brown about the center, a church, and a dream derailed.Segment 3:A longtime contributor to NPR and bestselling author, Peter Heller writes “The River.”In it is a canoe trip, a woman who vanishes, white water, violence and a friendship tested.As Heller tells us, the impetus for the book came from a conversation he had many years ago with someone he’d just met.
7/29/2020

7/29/20 - COVID in Communities & Broadband Program | Remembering John Lewis | Southern Remedy Health Minute | Flag Commission

State officials continue to weigh options to fight transmission of the coronavirus, and a new broadband program is introduced.Then, Congressman John Lewis returns to Georgia today ahead of his funeral. We speak with two Mississippi Civil Rights veterans on Lewis’ contributions and legacy.Plus, after a Southern Remedy Health Minute, the flag commission hears from a vexillologist as it prepares to submit a new design to the Legislature.Segment 1:With cases, hospitalizations, and ICU utilization at their sustained highest levels, Mississippi is experiencing it's most severe month of the coronavirus pandemic.Governor Tate Reeves has issued mask mandates in 29 counties, and placed other restrictions on bars and social gatherings.Reeves says its important for residents to understand the virus spares no community. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says while levels of transmission have stabilized, the hard truth is family interaction is still driving the spread.With more communities considering virtual options, the question of internet access has peculated.Reeves introduced a new program to addressed those growing concerns. Mississippi is using federal CARES Act funds and partnerships with electrical Co-Ops to invest more than $150 million dollars to bring broadband internet to un-served and under-served homes and businesses. Sally Doty, Executive Director of the Mississippi Public Utilities Staff, says the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how important internet access is.Segment 2:Civil Rights icon and "conscience of the Congress" Representative John Lewis will return to Georgia today, to lie in state in the Georgia state capitol ahead of his funeral tomorrow.Lewis was in instrumental figure in the fight for civil rights, helping lead Mississippi's Freedom Summer in 1964.Retired Methodist Reverend and activist Ed King was with Lewis that summer.He recalls what made Lewis a prominent leader during turbulent times. Hezekiah Watkins was a mere teenager when he became a foot-soldier in the fight for civil rights.He tells us how he became acquainted with John Lewis after both men spent time in Parchman State Penitentiary.Segment 3:Southern Remedy Health MinuteSegment 4:The team appointed to select a new flag design for the November ballot is sorting through over 1,000 public submissions.The commission, formed via the statute to retire the 1894 flag, met for the second time yesterday at the Two Mississippi Museums. Vexillologist Clay Moss was in attendance yesterday, providing guidelines for effective flag design.One of his guidelines: No words or seals.He says the requirement to include "In God We Trust" does present a small challenge.
7/28/2020

7/28/20 - School Restarts | Mask Mandates | National Parks

As school districts across the state make plans to reopen, a new survey shows less than 20 percent of Mississippi Educators-- want to return to a traditional class room in the fall--- amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.And as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state, more Mississippi counties are expected to be added to the Governor's mask mandate order--but no statewide order.Then a historic conservation and public lands bill passes Congress--providing billions of dollars to help repair the nation's crumbling national parks.Segment 1:In the next few days and weeks, school districts across the state will begin opening their doors for the start of the fall school year. A new survey released by the Mississippi Association of Educators shows just 18 point 2 percent of those responding want to return to a traditional in-person school setting. Educators say they are fearful for their health and the health of their students during the coronavirus pandemic. All 138 school districts in the state have to submit their plans for how they will educate students in the fall by the end of this week.Governor Tate Reeves says he will review them and will overrule any district by issuing an executive order---if he feels they are not acting in the best interest of students.The Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Mississippi State Medical Association issued a statement over the weekend-- calling for schools to delay reopening---as least until September first to allow time for reduced COVID 19 transmission.They are also calling for mandatory masks in school buildings and that all children be given the option of virtual learning.Dr. John Gaudet is a pediatrician in Hattiesburg. He says they are not only concerned about the health of children--but that of teachers, staff and coaches.Segment 2:Mississippi is still battling the deadly coronavirus. The number of cases in the state has passed52 thousand---and more than 15 hundred people have died from the virus since March.29 of Mississippi's 82 counties are mandated to wear a mask while in public gatherings. Governor Tate Reeves is expected to add 9 more counties to the order this week.He says these counties are having surges in new coronavirus cases. The Mississippi State MedicalAssociation continues to call for a statewide mask mandate to reduce the virus transmission.ButGovernor Reeves says he's taking a more surgical approach.Segment 3:President Donald Trump is expected to sign a bill that would provide billions of dollars to fix the aging infrastructure of the National Park Service, Forest Service and Land and Water Conservation Fund.It's being called one of the most important environmental proposals in decades. In Mississippi, there are about 8 national parks.And the Natchez Trace Parkway alone needs about 290 million dollars for infrastructure repairs. Theresa Pierno is with the National Parks Conservation Association.
7/27/2020

7/27/20 - New Executive Orders | SWAC Suspends Football | Census Response Rate

The Governor introduces new restrictive measures to slow the growing rate of COVID transmission, and ease the strain on an overwhelmed hospital system.Then, Mississippi's three public HBCUs will not be playing football this fall.We check in with their athletic department about the SWAC's decision to suspend fall sports.Plus, the Census response rate in Mississippi is below the national average.We examine why it's important to get counted.Segment 1:Governor Tate Reeves is taking more restrictive measures to slow what has been the worst month of COVID-19 transmission since the pandemic reached Mississippi in mid-March.Last week, Reeves announced three new additions to existing measures, beginning with the addition of six new counties under his mask mandate.Reeves added Calhoun, Holmes, Lamar, Montgomery, Winston, and Yalabusha counties to the existing list of 23 under the current order.Reeves did not remove any counties from the existing list. Reeves also placed further state-wide restrictions on social gatherings. The third added measure by Reeves restricts operations in bars.Reeves says bars should look and work more like restaurants - with spaced seating - and cited the growing number of cases in 18 - 39 year olds as a motivating factor behind the order. Reeves hopes the measures will help reduce the strain on the state's hospital system.Segment 2:After causing the cancellation of winter championships and spring seasons, the coronavirus pandemic is now threatening football and other fall sports.The Ivy League said earlier this month that it is canceling all fall sports, toppling the first in what appears to be a string of dominoes.This week, the SouthwesterN Athletic Conference announced it will suspend it's football and fall sports until the spring - making it the first major conference with ties to Mississippi to take such action. Mississippi's three public HBCU's- Jackson State University, Alcorn State University, and Mississippi Valley State University - are all members of the SWAC. Our Michael Guidry discusses with ASU's Derek Horne and JSU's Dennis Driscoll.Segment 3:The U.S. Census Bureau is continuing to count every person living in the country for the 2020 Census. But the self-report rates in Mississippi are falling below the national average - 57% in-state compared to 62% nationally.Response is even slower in the capital city, dropping to a 56% rate.Marilyn Stephens is an Assistant Regional Census Manager.She says census workers are back in the field to ensure those who have yet to self-report, get counted.
7/24/2020

7/24/20 - COVID Strains Health Care System | School Start Delays | REFORM Alliance

State officials continue to express concerns over a hospital system on the brink of crisis as the state faces it’s worst month of the pandemic.Then, the unceasing trend of high cases and hospitalizations has some school administrators and lawmakers going against the grain.Plus, a national prison reform group has its eyes on Mississippi following the Governor’s veto of a comprehensive reform bill.Segment 1:Mississippi's hospitals remain on the brink of crisis as the steady trend of high cases usher in the worst month of the pandemic in the state.After reporting 27,900 between March 11th and June 30th, the state has added over 20,000 in July, shooting the cumulative total to over 48,053 cases.18 - 29 year olds represent the most infected demographic, with a growing number of cases in those even younger.Governor Tate Reeves says that while cases in this age range are less likely to result in death, they can serve as transmitters to those who are more vulnerable.Widespread transmission also continues to put a strain on the Mississippi's health care system.Dr. Thomas Dobbs is the state's health officer. He says there are holes in the narrative that cases are up because testing has increased.He affirms cases are up because residents are sick.He says in addition to the hard data, there is anecdotal evidence in the parking lots of urgent care centers.Segment 2:As the new school year approaches, school communities in Mississippi are getting similar messages from national and state-wide leaders - children need to be in the classroom.But that message is getting more resistance has the state, and much of the country, faces its worst period of COVID transmission to date.Representative Tom Miles, a Democrat from Forest, recently requested the Mississippi Department of Education delay all instruction until after Labor Day.He tells our Desare Frazier he is hearing concerns from constituents. At least one school district is electing to wait until after the Labor Day holiday to resume.Madison County Schools announced earlier this week it will not resume classes until September 3rd.We talk to MCS Superintendent Charlotte Seals.Segment 3:Mississippi's prison system was a top priority heading into the new legislative session in January.Earlier this month, after a months-long hiatus due to the pandemic, lawmakers passed what they hoped would be a comprehensive prison reform bill.That bill was vetoed by Governor Tate Reeves.Now, REFORM Alliance, a national prison reform group associated with hip-hop artist Jay-Z, is speaking out.Jessica Jackson is their Chief Advocacy Officer.
7/23/2020

7/23/20 - Hospital System Under Stress | JPS Superintendent | Book Club: "Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe"

The continuing trend of high cases and hospitalizations keeps Mississippi’s health care system under stress.Then, how the state’s second largest school system is preparing for the new school year.Plus, in today’s Book Club, a real ghost town in Mississippi is the setting for “Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe.”Segment 1:Governor Tate Reeves is calling on hospitals to implement surge plans, to make room for coronavirus patients in their facilities.For the second consecutive day, the Mississippi Department of Health reported over 1,500 new cases of the coronavirus.High hospitalizations rates associated with the virus also continue to press the health care system.Governor Tate Reeves says the central region of the state only has two ICU beds available, which creates a real danger for anyone in need of critical medical care.As the state inches closer to crisis state, Health Officer Dr. Dobbs is transparent about what will happen to the level of care if hospitals are pushed to that extent.Segment 2:Reaching every corner of the capital city, Jackson Public Schools is the state's second-largest school district.With over fifty school sites and nearly 24,000 scholars, the district has many factors to consider when preparing for the new school year.Superintendent Dr. Errick Greene says his team's plan is based on feedback from the community, and the health safety guidelines of public officials.Segment 3:About 40 miles north of Meridian is a ghost town called Electric Mills.There’s not much left except some overgrown sidewalks and pillars. In today’s Book Club, author, Jo Watson Hackl, takes readers to a fictionalized version of Electric Mills in her adventure, “Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe.”
7/22/2020

7/22/20 - Mask Mandate Enforcement | School Reopening Plans | Southern Remedy Health Minute | High School Athletics

Mask mandates are in place for 23 Mississippi counties, but who’s enforcing them. We talk to local authorities.And, what school districts are doing to prepare for the resumption of classes in the midst of a pandemic.Then, after a Southern Remedy Health Minute, how the governing body of high school athletics and activities is adapting their fall seasons.Segment 1:Residents in nearly 30% of Mississippi counties are required to wear masks in public, as recently ordered by the governor.The executive order signed by Governor Tate Reeves this week, indicates that all law enforcement "may" enforce the mask requirement and limitation on social gatherings. The governor tightened restrictions in 23 out of the state's 82 counties where coronavirus cases are spiking. But how are county sheriffs and local police departments handling the new mandate? We talk to local sheriffs and police chiefs.Segment 2:In the next days and weeks, public schools in Mississippi will begin reopening for the fall. MPB’s Desare Frazier takes a look at how several school districts plan to educate students while keeping everyone involved safe in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.Segment 3:Southern Remedy Health MinuteSegment 4:As the beginning of the fall semester nears, questions loom about what high school and college athletics will look like in the world of COVID.Pro sports around have globe have resumed their seasons in "bubbles" - with teams quarantined and stands empty.Some collegiate conferences, like the SWAC - home to Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi Valley State - have suspended their fall sports altogether.For the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the governing body of high school athletics, the situation remains fluid.Officials are delaying the start of the fall seasons by two weeks, but currently plan on having sports in the fall.Don Hinton is the Executive Director of the MHSAA.He explains the association's process.