Mississippi State Department of Health

Columbus sisters get marijuana dispensary

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$40k in fees, land surveyors, and a lot of research: How Columbus sisters finally got their cannabis dispensary approved

COLUMBUS – Denisha and Amber Glenn saw a whole future inside an abandoned Tuesday Morning.

The shuttered retail store was the perfect home for the sisters’ business venture: Holistika. In their vision, Holistika would be one of Mississippi’s first dispensaries. 

The sisters already had success as founders of their own small human resources company. With , they did their homework. 

“We started the planning process back in 2020,” said Amber Glenn. “We were looking at properties, putting together a business plan. With us being Black women, we knew there’d be challenges… so we have – since day one – done everything correctly and by the books.” 

They visited out-of-state expos, toured leading dispensaries, and studied the state’s Medical Cannabis Act, which outlined the burgeoning program. They met early with a city inspector, ensuring their shop’s architect plan accounted for every plumbing and electrical requirement. 

They were two self-made business women, regular Mississippians, navigating an industry largely dominated by white men and deep-pocket partnerships. A 2017 survey from Marijuana Business Daily found that less than 20% of marijuana business owners are minorities. 

“We’d want to meet with companies – white men – and they would talk to us on the phone, but when they saw us in person, they’d totally disappear,” Denisha Glenn said. 

The snags kept coming. 

When they couldn’t find a local land surveyor to take them as a client, they tracked down one willing to travel from two hours away. They were meticulous, desiring a bullet-proof application ready to upload the moment the state opened the online portal. 

None of it was enough. A competitor down the street uploaded their application materials faster. And in the battle for dispensary licenses across Mississippi, speed took precedence. 

The first wave of licenses went to some of the budding market’s biggest spenders – an attorney who teamed up with an industry insider from leading cannabis state Colorado; a man who owns a private plane charter company; people who have invested millions already on cultivation sites and to launch their own empires, applying for several dispensaries at once. 

The Glenn sisters said they were only aware of one other Black woman in Mississippi working to get a dispensary license. There’s likely a small number overall, but the state’s public list of licensed dispensaries doesn’t specify an owner’s race. 

Losing out on the license stung. But it was the months of application limbo and unanswered questions that really hurt, the sisters said. They expected a swift rejection so they could move on and apply for another location. Instead, they say, it took months for Holistika to get a formal rejection and its $40,000 in fees returned so they could try for a new location. 

“No matter the position in life, the public will like you more if they have access to you,” said Denisha Glenn, reflecting on more than two months it took to get Holistika’s first application rejected so she and her sister could apply for another store. “But it just seems like it’s a lack of personnel and a lack of training.” 

In a statement to Mississippi Today, the Mississippi Department of Revenue said it responds “timely to all inquiries, including those from the personal and legal representatives” – including Holistika –  “usually within one business day.” 

The Mississippi Department of Revenue has issued 139 dispensary licenses since it began accepting applications at the beginning of July. The department says it processes the applications in the order they were received.

 “The application portal licensing software time stamped the receipt of each application out to the 100th millisecond,” MDOR spokespersonwoman Lexus Burns said in a statement. 

Milliseconds counted when applications first flooded into MDOR’s portal. With Mississippi’s law dictating no dispensary could be within 1,500 feet of each other, staking territory was vital. 

Using the first-come-first serve system is normal within the industry, said Jackson-based cannabis attorney Slates Veazey. 

“I struggle to figure out a more fair way,” he said. 

But the law also says applicants should be issued licenses within 30 days of receiving an application. The same, in theory, goes for those being rejected. 

“That’s important information to have,” Veazey said. “If you are getting rejected you need to look for other properties. You know you can move on. And the law gives applicants a short time period to challenge a license determination.” 

Denisha and Amber Glenn said they lost valuable time that could have meant the difference between nailing down another property before a dispensary competitor edged them out for a second time. 

Tucked next to her existing bakery, Nicole Huff has a roughly 1,200-square-foot space she’s working to open as Wildflower dispensary. It’s about 1,300 feet down the street from where the Glenn sisters hoped to open inside the old Tuesday Morning space. 

“July 5, 8 o’clock, I was here,” Huff said from the desk in her bakery’s office, “dragging and dropping everything into (the portal).” 

Thirteen days later, Huff was told her application was approved. But first there was a formatting issue with her land survey; she had 24 hours to have it redone. She wound up among the first people in the state to be issued a dispensary license. 

“I’m so proud of the State Department of Revenue,” Huff said. “They’re crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i.’”

She said she cashed out her 401(k) and sold her stocks to fund her dispensary business. While her contractor filed construction permits, Amber and Denisha Glenn scoured Columbus for an alternative location. 

“We wanted a back-up for the back-up,” Denisha Glenn said. 

They spent $8,500 on land surveys to determine that any hopeful locations were the right distances from churches, schools, daycares and Wildflower.

But landing on the right new spot still didn’t solve their problems. Their first application was still at a standstill. 

Denisha Glenn said it was an October call to the media spokesperson at the state Department of Health – which handles the licenses for cultivation, doctors, and patients – that finally got her in touch with the right people, including Cannabis Program Director Kris Jones Adcock. 

“Once we got connected to the right people who could make those decisions, they were very kind and very helpful,” she said. 

If an applicant’s bid for a license is denied because another dispensary was approved for license in their zone in the period after they applied, they are able to get the $40,000 in application fees returned. 

“The understands the complexities and challenges of starting this type of program,” said spokesperson Liz Sharlot, who assisted the Glenn sisters. “We are gratified for all of the support and cooperation of the Department of Revenue. The Agency is happy to assist applicants of all types to ensure a smooth process for everyone.” 

With their fees returned, on Oct. 14, the sisters applied for a new license. It also meant letting go of the Tuesday Morning spot. They ended their lease. 

The new spot is closer to where they grew up in Columbus. 

“I think our new location is a godsend,” Denisha Glenn said. “It puts us closer to our community.”

In late October, the sisters got the : Their new location was approved.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

EPA opens civil rights investigation into state’s role over Jackson water system

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EPA opens civil rights investigation into state’s role over Jackson water system

The Environmental Protection Agency wrote in a letter Thursday that it is opening a investigation into the state of Mississippi’s role in the breakdown of Jackson’s water system.

The letter is in response to a complaint the NAACP filed on Sept. 27 under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint alleges Mississippi has discriminated against the city on the basis of race, and that the state has “deprived” Jackson of federal funds intended for maintaining safe drinking water systems.

Mississippi, which has no Black statewide elected officials, is 38% Black and 59% white. Jackson is 83% Black and 16% white.

The EPA specified in the letter that it will investigate whether the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the discriminated against Jackson in their funding of water programs. It will also investigate whether the two state agencies have safeguards and policies to protect against discrimination as required by Title VI.

“The Mississippi State Department of Health is a regulatory agency that ensures compliance, offers education and guidance, and protects the public health safety of all Mississippians,” Liz Sharlot, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said in a statement. “The Agency also works with all eligible public water systems needing funds to improve their plants through the State Revolving Loan Fund. Extensive information can be found on our website.”

MDEQ didn’t respond to requests for comment by the time this story published.

READ MORE: Lumumba, Reeves continue to point fingers as Congress calls for probe of Jackson water spending

The Health Department oversees Mississippi’s drinking water revolving loan fund, a program that lends municipalities federal money to make water infrastructure upgrades. But the agency, NAACP argued in its complaint, has limited the benefits of those loans by capping loan forgiveness at $500,000 and enforcing a stricter repayment period than what Congress allows for.

The letter says that the EPA’s Office of External Civil Rights Compliance (OECRC) will contact MSDH and MDEQ in the next 10 days to explain the investigation and potential resolutions.

The NAACP also requested that the EPA include the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration in the investigation, but the federal agency declined.

Today’s letter comes days after U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney announced their own investigation into the state’s spending, in which they’ve asked Gov. Tate Reeves to provide information on the state’s allotment of recent historic federal infrastructure funding.

Reeves’ office did not yet have a comment on the EPA’s letter when this story published.

Earlier on Thursday, Jackson announced it released its own request for proposals (RFP) for a contractor to operate the city’s water plants, tanks, and well system. On Monday, Reeves accused Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba of withdrawing from the state’s unified effort to fix the Jackson water system because the mayor wouldn’t participate in the state’s contract procurement. Lumumba responded that city should have the final say on the RFP before it’s published.

While the state’s request “accurately reflects the scope of work,” the city said in a statement, Jackson’s request includes “specific terms” from the EPA that weren’t in the state’s request.

READ MORE: Mayor Lumumba says ‘paternalistic, racist’ Legislature failed to help Jackson despite having extra billions

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mississippi medical marijuana regulation ‘stuck in constipation mode’

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Mississippi medical marijuana regulation ‘stuck in constipation mode’

Dozens of licensed cultivators have about 80,000 marijuana plants growing. Around 1,100 patients have signed up for , and 96 doctors or nurse practitioners are working to certify them. Small growers are complaining a large one has been allowed to skirt the rules.

But the has zero investigators — and only three staffers — overseeing Mississippi’s new medical marijuana program.

So far only one testing facility has been licensed and is only partially ready to test products. Plus, the health department’s program director still has another job — running the department’s Office Against Interpersonal Violence.

Health Department officials told the Board of Health on Wednesday that the agency is in a four-month “provisional” period with licensed marijuana businesses. As it finds problems or violations, it’s typically just issuing “corrective actions,” giving marijuana businesses a chance to straighten up without hitting them with fines or sanctions or calling in law enforcement.

The Health Department in a meeting with its board Wednesday pledged transparency in its oversight of medical marijuana, shortly before going into a closed door session to brief the board on specific active marijuana program investigations. During its public meeting, some board members’ questions were deferred to the upcoming executive session.

Some of the Board of Health questions Wednesday for the Health Department on marijuana were prompted by a Mississippi Today article last week about Mockingbird LLC, the largest marijuana grower licensed so far in Mississippi. Health Department documents and photos obtained by Mississippi Today showed the company did not follow state growing regulations.

And the department’s response so far — to write Mockingbird Cannabis LLC a letter listing “corrective actions” and not answer questions — has competitors crying foul. They said Mockingbird was allowed to grow and harvest a crop improperly and on the cheap in plastic- and cloth-covered greenhouses that will allow them to beat others growing in buildings to market as the state’s medical marijuana program gets rolling. 

READ MORE: Weed war: Medical marijuana competitors cry foul over Health Department’s response to company breaking rules

During board questions Wednesday, Mockingbird was not mentioned by name, but Health Board member Jim Perry said, “There has to be consequences for not following the law … If we send signals you are going to be economically rewarded by trying to jump over the line, that will provide incentive for others to do the same … If there’s an active investigation we can’t talk about it specifically yet.

” … But if actors are doing things clearly not allowed — outdoor growing is clearly not allowed, you’re not supposed to see it growing from a public area, and you’re supposed to have security, locks, solid doors and walls — that is flaunting and it will create a culture for others, if somebody’s able, to economically benefit from that. If we’re not ready to enforce, then we shouldn’t have let them start growing.”

State Health Officer Daniel Edney, head of the Health Department, responded to Perry, “I wholly disagree we are allowing anybody to get away with breaking the law.”

“If you know what I know, they are not going to economically benefit,” Edney said.

“My attitude is to be very strong as a regulator, but we are not ready — we do not even have investigators,” Edney said. “Right now, if we investigated everybody the majority would fail, primarily the smaller growers … The provisional work is predicated on if there is no evidence of diversion or harm to the public. If there is, there will be forceful action. In the interim, if there is an opportunity to bring people into compliance, we will work with them.”

The Health Department is trying to fill 25 positions for its medical marijuana program, and has three investigators scheduled to start by Nov. 1. But Edney said the agency, along with others in state government, is facing a long lag time of several months in getting new hires “onboarded,” officially hired and on payroll. This is a problem for all positions, including nurses, and not just for medical marijuana, Health Department officials said. Edney said the agency is operating with a 47% job vacancy rate.

Perry earlier in the board meeting said the state Personnel Board is “constipated” in getting new hires in. Later, Edney said of the marijuana program, “I am struggling with a very immature program. It is now stuck in that constipation mode.”

Other cultivators had complained that Mockingbird Cannabis was being allowed to grow, in greenhouses and a plastic covered “hoop house” at a secondary site, 12 miles from its main operations on Springridge Road near Raymond. Other cultivators said they were told they had to limit their cultivation to one site, and that they were not allowed to grow in greenhouses.

On Wednesday, Cannabis Program Director Kris Adcock told board members that Mockingbird has a “tier VI” cultivation license that provides for unlimited growing, or canopy, space. She said this means the company can grow at multiple locations, unlike those with smaller more limited licenses.

Health Department inspectors on Sept. 14, after receiving complaints likely from competitors, found that a Mockingbird grow site was out of compliance with several state growing regulations. Among the department’s findings at the site: Mockingbird was growing plants in greenhouses with tarp or clear plastic walls (some rolled up and some with large holes in them) and lax security that included a loosely chained back fence gate with a padlock. 

State regulations say “all cultivation activities must take place in indoor, enclosed, locked and secure facilities” that have a “complete roof enclosure supported by connecting permanent walls, constructed of solid materials extending from the ground to the roof.” The regulations also specify a long list of stringent security requirements including “commercial grade locks on all external doors.”

Health Department inspectors, records show, also found that Mockingbird was growing plants without the required state “seed-to-sale” tracking tags attached.

Mockingbird representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comments after the Wednesday board meeting. But in a lengthy interview last week, the company’s CEO said it had corrected problems the Health Department pointed out and it plans to have marijuana product available soon — likely the first for the new program.

But Adcock told board members Wednesday that numerous recent reports about marijuana being available to patients soon is probably overly optimistic, in part because there will be a “bottleneck” from lack of testing companies and state investigators.

Adcock was asked by the board about the state’s “seed-to-sale” tracking system, whether it truly tracks every plant grown.

“If they tagged it and put it in the system,” Adcock said.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Delta receives $8.6 million for flood and infrastructure needs

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Delta receives $8.6 million for flood and infrastructure needs

The Delta Regional Authority announced a $8.6 million investment on Thursday to fund flood control and infrastructure improvements across the Mississippi Delta.

“Accessible roads, reliable water and sewer services, and secure flood protection are essential in order to maintain existing businesses, attract new industries, and keep a community healthy and thriving,” said Corey Wiggins, the federal co-chairman of the DRA.

The DRA spends federal appropriations across eight states, including Mississippi, to help support transportation, infrastructure and other economic needs in the region.

The $8.6 million will go towards 13 projects. The announcement also mentioned another $1.8 million in matching funds.

The largest project investment is $3.2 million that will go towards economic development in Clarksdale, specifically to improve a levee and roadway. That project projects to create 56 jobs. A press release said this will attract an additional $12 million capital investment.

In total, about $2.9 million will go towards wastewater and sewer projects in Piney Woods, Charleston, Glendora, and Tunica County.

Earlier this year, the EPA listed Charleston as in “significant noncompliance” with the Clean Water Act due to reporting issues, which followed pollutant violations from the city’s wastewater system. The agency also notes recent pollution violations from the wastewater systems at the Piney Woods School as well as in Glendora.

Roughly $2.2 million will go to drinking water system improvements in Metcalfe, Greenville, and Charleston. In 2020, the EPA listed Metcalf, which serves water to about 1,000 people, as “enforcement priority” over drinking water violations, ranging from monitoring issues to contaminants in the water.

And then another $2.2 million is set to go towards drainage and storm water projects that will help Belzoni, Coldwater, Rolling Fork, Coahoma, and Tutwiler deal with . The largest of those projects is $516,896 going to Belzoni.

Rolling Fork is located in the South Delta, which regularly faces backwater flooding. The city hosted a meeting in August to discuss the Yazoo Pumps, a proposed flood control project.

Below are full descriptions of the Mississippi projects from the Delta Regional Authority’s press release:

  1. Piney Woods School Infrastructure Improvement Program | Piney Woods: The Piney Woods School will use DRA funds to improve the wastewater treatment facility and rebuild a loop road leading to the facility. This investment is projected to affect 30 families.
    • DRA Investment: $1,347,127
    • Total Investment: $1,497,127 
  2. City of Charleston Wastewater Improvements | Charleston: The City of Charleston will use DRA funds to improve the sewer collection system by cleaning CCTV gravity lines, installing a cured-in-place pipe, replacing the gravity sewer, and installing a duplex grinder pump station.
    • DRA Investment: $564,205
    • Total Investment: $564,205
  3. Tutwiler Flooding & Drainage Project | Tutwiler: The Town of Tutwiler will use DRA funds to rehabilitate the storm water draining system to eliminate storm water quickly and keep homes and businesses dry. This investment is projected to affect 872 families.
    • DRA Investment: $468,009
    • Total Investment: $468,009 
  4. Glendora Sewer Rehabilitation Project | Glendora: The Town of Glendora will use DRA funds to install significant sewer improvements, including rehabilitation to the sewer line and sewage lagoon and extension to the public. This investment is projected to affect 46 families.
    • DRA Investment: $536,663
    • Total Investment: $536,663 
  5. Coahoma Storm Water Drainage Rehabilitation | Coahoma: The Town of Coahoma will use DRA funds to rehabilitate the storm water drainage system to help eliminate standing water and the associated detrimental public health effects. This investment is projected to affect 95 families.
    • DRA Investment: $422,516
    • Total Investment: $422,516
  6. NTWA Water Well Project | Charleston: The North Tallahatchie Water Association will use DRA funds to install a new water well and eliminate sand and iron that are currently in the water. This investment is projected to affect 1,100 families.
    • DRA Investment: $587,172
    • Total Investment: $1,164,667
  7. TCUD Sewer Rehabilitation Project | Tunica County: The Tunica County Utility District will use DRA funds to rehabilitate its sewer system.
    • DRA Investment: $291,143
    • Total Investment: $291,143
  8. Rolling Fork Northgate Draining Improvements | Rolling Fork: The City of Rolling Fork will use DRA funds to continue ongoing drainage improvements for the Northgate and Eastgate residential areas in northern Rolling Fork.
    • DRA Investment: $345,376
    • Total Investment: $345,376
  9. Coahoma County Industrial Site Location Project | Clarksdale: Coahoma County will use DRA funds to construct site improvements to the levee and roadway for an economic development project. This investment is projected to create 56 jobs.
    • DRA Investment: $2,088,235
    • Total Investment: $3,208,235
    • Additional Capital Investment: $12,000,000
  10. Metcalfe Water System Improvements | Metcalfe: The Town of Metcalfe will use DRA funds to make water system improvements necessary to remain in compliance with the requirements. This investment is projected to affect 355 families.
    • DRA Investment: $407,920
    • Total Investment: $407,920
  11. Lamont Water System Improvements | Greenville: The Lamont Water Corporation will use DRA funds to make water system improvements that will address significant deficiencies noted by the Mississippi State Department of Health. This investment is projected to affect 36 families.
    • DRA Investment: $672,675
    • Total Investment: $672,675
  12. Coldwater Flooding Mitigation Project | Coldwater: The Town of Coldwater will use DRA funds to mitigate flooding by repairing and replacing portions of the existing drainage infrastructure.
    • DRA Investment: $400,342
    • Total Investment: $400,342
  13. Belzoni Drainage System Repairs and Improvements | Belzoni: The City of Belzoni will use DRA funds to replace two storm water pumping stations for flood and drainage system improvements.
    • DRA Investment: $516,896
    • Total Investment: $516,896

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jackson restaurants making move back to using city water

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rssfeeds.clarionledger.com – Mississippi – 2022-09-15 16:44:11

Restaurants in Jackson are ramping up and are ready to roll now that Gov. Tate Reeves has announced that Jackson’s boil-water notice can be lifted.

Recent testing indicates water is safe to drink and the state will continue to monitor the water and conduct additional testing.

A press release from the announced the boil-water notice for all City of Jackson is lifted.

Here’s what you need to know:Jackson’s boil-water notice is over.

More:Governor, FEMA, give statement on Jackson’s Ongoing Water Crisis Response

Restaurant owners immediately reacted to…

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Conflict between city and state floats back to the surface

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rssfeeds.clarionledger.com – Mississippi – 2022-09-15 21:00:09

The 45-day-long boil water notice in Jackson ended Thursday, and while the announcement from Gov. Tate Reeves was celebratory, it also came with a level of tension between the city and state governments that have surfaced multiple times throughout the water crisis.

Per Mississippi State Department of Health regulations, the boil-water notice ended after two consecutive days of clean test results from 120 sampling sites across the city.

Reeves said that system-wide testing began Tuesday, but daily updates from the city on Tuesday and Wednesday indicated that testing was still in its…

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Clean water restored for Jackson, Reeves hints at city losing control

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Clean water restored for Jackson, Reeves hints at city losing control


by Alex Rozier,
September 15, 2022

After a month and a half of Jacksonians needing to boil their water for consumption, the Mississippi State Health Department finally lifted the advisory at 1 p.m. on Thursday.


Gov. Tate Reeves announced the shortly after, cautioning there’s a long road ahead to ensure similar water system failures don’t occur again in Jackson.


”While we have restored water quality, this system is still imperfect,” Reeves said. “We cannot perfectly predict what may go wrong with such a broken system in the future.”


When asked by reporters about the next steps for managing the capital city’s drinking water, Reeves laid out the possibility that Jackson will not regain control of the system after the state declared a public health emergency and took it over.


“To the residents of Jackson, I would simply say, I don’t think it’s very likely that the city is going to operate the water system in the city of Jackson anytime soon, if ever again,” the governor said.


Reeves reiterated that any decision to remove the water system from city control would have to go through the state Legislature.


State officials first took control of operations and emergency repairs at Jackson’s primary treatment plant, O.B. Curtis, after the governor’s announcement on Aug. 29 that the plant was on the verge of failure.


The state is also taking the next steps to contract a project manager to handle equipment issues at O.B. Curtis, Agency executive director Stephen McCraney explained. The request for qualifications window closed Thursday at noon, and will review applications before it picks a vendor.


The goal for the contractor, Reeves said, is to increase redundancies at the plant in the case of future equipment failure.


Before Jackson residents return to drinking water straight from their taps again, the says they should first run their faucets for three to four minutes to allow clean water to recirculate. Residents can visit MSDH’s website for a full list of next steps after a boil water notice.


However, the department also warned Thursday that pregnant people and young children are still advised to follow precautions before using or consuming tap water.


The state’s announcement on Thursday that it was lifting the boil water notice suggested a lack of communication with City of Jackson officials.


On Wednesday, the city said in its daily update that full sampling required to lift the notice had not yet started, and that officials were still investigating when sampling could begin. Per state health requirements, the state health department has to record two straight days of clean samples to lift the notice.


When asked by a reporter for clarification, Reeves said, “I don’t read the city’s daily reports and I don’t think you should either.”


After another reporter asked what he meant by that, Reeves refrained from further criticizing the city, only saying that he recommends people use MEMA’s updates for the latest information on the water system.


MSDH Director of Health Protection Jim Craig also reminded Jackson residents, particularly young children and pregnant people, to take precautions consuming and using tap water because of the potential for lead in the water system until the city finishes the necessary corrosion control in the distribution system.


”Although the majority of home lead testing performed to date identified no lead or lead below the action level set by the (Environmental Protection Agency), the health department is continuing its recommendations as a special precaution, especially for households with young children or pregnant women,” Craig said.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

 

New COVID-19 booster shot available in Mississippi

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New COVID-19 booster shots available in Mississippi

The announced on Tuesday that appointments for the new bivalent booster shot are now available at all county health department clinics.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the new booster formulation on Aug. 31, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed suit the next day.  The release of the boosters is the largest part of government efforts to get ahead of a potential seasonal surge in infections. 

“We strongly recommend that anyone eligible should go ahead and receive the updated booster now to provide the best protection against COVID-19 infection and severe complications from COVID-19,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said in a press release. “There is always the possibility of increased cases as we move into the fall and winter months. Don’t wait to protect yourself.”

The new booster shot is a bivalent vaccine, which means that it targets two versions of COVID-19. While the original booster shot only targeted the original strain of the virus, the new booster also targets the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. 

Mississippians who want to get the new booster can make appointments through the website or by calling the health department’s COVID-19 hotline at 877-978-6453.

People aged 12 and older who have been fully vaccinated are eligible for the new booster, regardless of whether they received other booster doses. A person can only receive the new booster at least two months out from their last shot. 

If you’ve recently had COVID-19, you can receive a booster as soon as your isolation period ends. However, the CDC says you may consider delaying any additional shots by three months from when your symptoms started or you received a positive test. The reasoning behind this optional delay is that someone who has just recovered from COVID-19 will likely already have a high level of antibodies, which could cause the effects of additional shots to be reduced.

Children between the ages of 5 and 11 are only eligible for the original booster shot, though the FDA is working on making the new booster available for this age group. 

This is the first COVID-19 vaccine released to the public before data from human trials had been analyzed. The Biden Administration has the new booster to the annual flu shot, which is reformulated each year to target the latest versions of influenza and tested on animals before being released to the public.

An average of 832 cases per day are currently being reported across the state. However, the true infection rate is unknown because of the increased availability and utilization of at-home tests, which are not reported to the health department. The rate of cases, hospitalizations and deaths plummeted across the state after the peak of the omicron wave in January, but have been steadily increasing again since May.

Mississippi remains one of the least vaccinated states in America.  As of Sept. 8, 61% of the state’s population had received one dose, 53% were fully vaccinated and 21% had received a booster shot, according to CDC data. 

The state has reported 918,874 total cases, meaning that since the beginning of the pandemic, at least one-third of Mississippians have been infected with COVID-19. 12,821 Mississippians have died from the virus.  

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Jackson water crisis: an FAQ

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Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about the Jackson water crisis

The drinking water system in Jackson — Mississippi’s largest city and home to more than 160,000 residents — is failing, state officials announced on Monday.

Thousands of Jackson residents have no or little water pressure, and though local, state and federal officials are working to restore reliable service, they cannot yet say when that will happen.

Mississippi Today has compiled a list of answers to some commonly asked questions submitted by readers about the water crisis. This post will be updated.

What’s happening with the water in Jackson?

In late July, the state health department issued a city-wide boil water notice for Jackson because of turbidity, or cloudiness in the water. A couple weeks later in early August, city officials announced that some customers may experience low water pressure because of issues with the pumps at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said on Monday that from the Pearl River forced plant operators to change how they were treating the water, and that the whole city could see low water pressure as a result. Gov. Tate Reeves later on Monday blamed the low pressure on the poor-performing pumps. Lumumba has since reiterated that the flooding is the main issue at hand, while Reeves has since said the low pressure results from a combination of the two problems.

Since Monday, many homes in Jackson have seen lower or no water pressure, and state and city officials have instructed the city not to consume the water without boiling it first.

Where can I go to get water?

Many organizations, along with the City of Jackson, are distributing water for free at locations across the city. Find a list of addresses here. For those with mobility issues, call the city’s constituent services or 311, although officials urge people to reserve that line for those who can’t get water otherwise.

If I have water, is it safe to use?

Water is not safe to consume unless boiled for one minute. Residents should also use boiled water for making ice, brushing their teeth, washing dishes and other food preparation, the state health department says. The said it is safe to use unboiled water for baths and showers as well as washing hands and clothes, but people should avoid letting water get in their mouths.

What are state and city leaders doing to fix this?

While Mayor Lumumba has said for the better part of two years that the drinking water system is in a constant state of emergency and that the city does not have the funds to fix it, Jackson has begun to use new federal funds on a number of projects to improve the system, such as building a new distribution line to alleviate pressure issues, as well as weatherizing the O.B.Curtis plant to help prevent shutdowns like what Jackson saw after the winter storms in 2021.

After reluctance to provide additional funding to the city, Gov. Tate Reeves has this week thrown state resources into Jackson to help diagnose and fix the problems at the treatment plant. State health department officials are now working from the plant in-person, and Reeves said the state will cover half the costs of emergency maintenance, repairs, and improvements. 

What is the federal government doing?

Late Tuesday night approved a federal emergency declaration for the Jackson water crisis, which will provide federal resources to assist local and state officials. Emergency protective measures, the White House said, will be provided at 75% federal funding for a period of 90 days.

Do you know how long it will be before the systems are back working?

Officials cannot say when things will be fixed, but have warned it’s not an immediate fix. Gov. Reeves and other officials have said as fixes are made at the plant, there is concern other things will break because of neglected maintenance — and the plant lacks “redundancy” and staff to maintain these repairs as well. 

State, local and even federal officials are in talks of more permanent solutions. 

Is raw water really flowing through the pipes in Jackson? How long will the water be unsafe to drink?

At a press conference Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves said “raw” water from the Ross Barnett Reservoir had been pumped through the drinking water system. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba later said this was inaccurate, and officials later clarified it is more accurate to say the water has not been optimally treated and is still not safe to drink.

Officials cannot say how long before water issues will be solved.

How long should I boil my water?

The recommends Jacksonians boil water vigorously for one minute and let cool before consuming.

Can I bathe in this water? Wash my hands?

Health officials say the water is safe to use for bathing and handwashing, but should not be consumed without boiling first for one minute.

Can I use my dishwasher if I still have water pressure?

The Mississippi State Department of Health has said to use boiled water to clean dishes.

What can I do to help?

The Community Foundation for Mississippi has compiled a helpful resource page that includes information about how to give to organizations working to help Jacksonians. Visit their resource page here. People can also contact the Agency on ways to help at memainfo@.ms.gov.

How many people are impacted?

Officials don’t know how many households are impacted by low or no water pressure. Gov. Reeves said Tuesday it was impossible to say how many of the roughly 160,000 people served by the system are without water — that it depends on how close one is to a water tank, elevation and numerous other factors. But Jim Craig, director of health protection for the state health department, said that the O.B. Curtis plant, rated for 50 million gallons of water a day, on Tuesday was only pushing about 30 million gallons.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

President Biden briefed on Jackson water crisis

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President Joe Biden briefed on Jackson water crisis

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that had been briefed on the Jackson water crisis and the federal government stands ready to assist.

The drinking water system in Jackson — Mississippi’s largest city and home to more than 160,000 residents — is failing, state officials announced on Monday. Thousands of Jackson residents already have no or little water pressure, and officials cannot say when adequate, reliable service will be restored.

READ MORE: Jackson water system is failing, city will be with no or little drinking water indefinitely

“At (Biden’s) direction, we have been in regular contact with state and local officials, including Mayor Lumumba, and made clear that the Federal Government stands ready to offer assistance,” Jean-Pierre tweeted on Tuesday.

She continued: “FEMA is working closely with the state officials to identify needs, and the EPA is coordinating with industry partners to expedite delivery of critical treatment equipment for emergency repairs at the City of Jackson water treatment facilities.”

The city water system has been plagued with problems for years, including tens of thousands of residents losing water between one and three weeks during a 2021 winter storm.

READ MORE: State health department declares drinking water emergency for Jackson

Gov. Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to assist on Tuesday, and the declared a public drinking water supply emergency.

“We will continue to partner closely with state and local officials to support the people of Mississippi, and stand ready to assist further as soon as we receive an official request from the state,” Jean-Pierre said.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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