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News Nuggets: COVID-19, liquor, lottery, debt & schools

News Nuggets

Blood filter treats COVID-19. A new device that filters blood is showing promise at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg in treating COVID-19 patients who have not responded to other therapies. The Seraph 100 Microbind Affinity Blood Filter has helped most the 17 patients treated in four to six hour sessions. The filter has coated beads which bind to infectious agents, including viruses, in the blood. The hospital is using the treatment under an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

COVID-19 spread slows. The spread of COVID-19 in Mississippi showed significant signs of slowing last month, although it is still relatively high compared to case and death numbers in 2020. The seven-day average is now at 1,623, a 20 per cent decrease since the start of 2021. Both new cases and hospitalizations are now back to the levels they were in early December. The rolling average for deaths have dropped to early December levels, about 32 per day, after peaking at 44 per day on Jan. 9.

Move to privatize liquor business. Mississippi lawmakers are considering withdrawing the state from the liquor and wine business, letting private industry take over warehousing and distributing liquor. The Legislature is also considering allowing home delivery of liquor, wine and beer. Both measures appear to have traction in the Legislature this session, even in a Bible Belt state that has been slow to relax or change its strict liquor laws. Mississippi is one of 17 states that tightly control the sale of liquor, and one of 10 that sell spirits to all private package stores.

Copiah $1 million winner. A Copiah County Mega Millions lottery player has won $1 million. A ticket sold at RBs One Stop on Highway 28 in Hazlehurst match all five white ball winning numbers worth $1 million. The player did not choose the Megaplier option and chose to remain anonymous. "The winner is the second millionaire to win playing Mega Millions in Mississippi," said Mississippi Lottery Corporation President Tom Shaheen. "A Gautier woman won $2 millionn in the June 9, 2020, Mega Millions drawing.

Justice system drives debt. In 2019, people who had touched the criminal justice system in Mississippi held $507 million in debt as a result — more than double the $243 million they owed in 2009, new research finds. While court-ordered financial burdens grow, the minimum wage hasn’t budged and overall inflation-adjusted wages in Mississippi actually dropped in that same timeframe. Even many who finish their sentences — often coined their “debt to society” — are saddled with very literal debts that prevent them from the opportunities they need to thrive outside of prison.

Schools get more funds. Schools in Mississippi are about to see a large influx of federal dollars from the second federal coronavirus relief bill passed in December. The second wave of funding allocated for Mississippi is nearly three times the amount the state received last year from the education portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Around $720 million is slated for Mississippi K-12 schools, compared to around $170 million the state received from CARES in 2020. Up to 10% of the second round of funding, or about $72 million, can go to the Mississippi Department of Education, and the remainder must go directly to schools.

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