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Gov extends mask mandate, eases other COVID-19 rules

With improving state COVID-19 numbers, Gov. Tate Reeves extended the mask order until the end of September but loosened the reigns on restaurants and retail businesses.

After a long period of being limited to 50 percent capacity, restaurants and retail businesses may now accommodate customers at up to 75 percent capacity. That change to the executive order also affects gyms and seated dinners at reception halls and conference centers.

Restaurant tables still need to be 6 feet apart. Also, party sizes at restaurants, previously limited to six, may now be up to 10. The limitation on hours at gyms is lifted.

The requirement to wear a mask in public is extended through 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Reeves announced the tweaks to the state’s mandates in a press briefing Monday morning, a day that saw 145 new COVID-19 cases reported and nine new deaths. The fatalities, notably, are all from vital records investigations and not from new daily reports.

“We have, for the first time in many, many, many months, taken our seven-day average of new cases of COVID below 3,000,” said Reeves. “According to the White House, we are no longer in the red zone of COVID-19.”

The seven-day moving average was about 412 on Monday compared to 1,381 at the state’s peak on June 26.

He praised residents’ efforts with wearing masks and social distancing.

“You have stepped up and you have made a difference,” he said.

However, officials encourage residents to continue to make the effort.

“I simply want everyone to understand that now is not the time to let your guard down,” the governor said. “We want people to continue to wear your masks. We want people to continue to socially distance.”

As of Friday afternoon, Magnolia Regional Health Center had 12 in-patients being treated for COVID-19.

County adopts budget with level taxes

Without any changes to the property tax rate, the next county budget went quietly onto the books Monday morning.

In a special meeting, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed budget and tax levy for fiscal 2020-2021 with no citizens submitting comments in person or in writing. The total tax levy holds at 116.21 mills, with 63.45 for the county and 52.76 for the Alcorn School District.

Chancery Clerk Greg Younger said the goal was to generally keep things the same where possible.

“The county continues to be in good financial condition, and we are adding to the rainy day fund,” he said.

Some potentially large expenditures are looming for the coming fiscal year. The county is moving toward major roof work at the courthouse and also plans to deal with serious roof issues at the Alcorn County Justice Center.

General county millage of 31.12 is projected to generate revenue of $9,522,921. The remaining millage, allocated to things such as the park, solid waste, the VFDs, roads and bridges, Northeast Community College and The Alliance, brings the total revenue to $21,272,629.

In the final numbers adopted Monday, the reserve fund is projected to grow from $277,223 this budget year to $500,250 at the end of the coming budget year, which begins Oct. 1. The fund ended the prior fiscal year at $490,270 and decreased some this year in order to give a funding boost to the VFDs, which are making improvements to their services across the county.

Funding for departments and outside agencies includes:

Veterans Service Office – $113,566 (was $107,628 for FY 20)

Airport – $110,000 and $12,000 grant match

Health department – $137,090

Red Cross – $8,000 (was $6,000)

Animal shelter – $50,000

Spay and neuter program – $12,000 (was $10,000)

Alcorn County 4-H livestock – $6,000

Region IV Mental Health – $50,088

Department of Human Services – $87,425

Human Resource Agency – $155,000 (was $145,000)

Regional Rehabilitation Center – $2,000

Northeast Mississippi Community Services – $8,055

SAFE – $3,000

Northeast Regional Library – $170,000 (was $165,375)

Crossroads Arena – $50,000

Boys & Girls Club – $10,000

Jacinto Foundation – $25,000 (was $4,578 on a reimbursement basis and up to $20,000 for maintenance)

Soil Conservation – $52,200 (was $60,049)

Extension Service – $106,000

Planning & Development District – $20,000 (was $25,000)

Emergency management – $104,261 (was $80,000)

911 supplement – $341,430 (was $300,000)

Board of Supervisors – $425,000 (was $417,115)

Chancery clerk – $169,215 (was $155,865)

Circuit clerk – $166,000 (was $161,000)

Tax assessor – $110,000

Tax collector – $438,500

Buildings and grounds maintenance – $550,000 (was $400,000)

Chancery court – $139,000 (was $130,000)

Circuit court – $306,000

Justice court – $363,129 (was $350,000)

Elections – $210,000

Sheriff – $1,725,000 (was $1,690,115)

• Juvenile Detention Center – $422,103 (was $415,909)

One person was transported by ambulance from the scene of a one-vehicle wreck. The crash happened around 2:50 p.m. Monday afternoon on US 72 just before County Road 304 in the edge of the city limits. The gray Ford Edge SUV came to rest at the bottom of an embankment against a tree line. Mississippi Highway Patrol was in charge of the scene. Other responders included Corinth Police, Alcorn County Sheriff’s Department, Farmington Fire and Rescue, Corinth Fire Department and Magnolia EMT. Traffic was diverted to one lane on US 72 East until the scene was cleared.

Wreck sends person to hospital

High school student dies in crash

Booneville and Prentiss County are mourning the death of a high school student and athlete killed in a Sunday morning crash.

Booneville High School junior Logan Harr, 16, died in the crash on Mississippi Highway 4 just east of the Booneville city limits early Sunday morning, reports Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop F Public Affairs Officer Sgt. Gary Stanton.

Harr was a passenger in the 2016 Dodge Challenger which was westbound when it left the roadway and struck a tree.

“Moderate injuries were reported from the driver and third occupant of the vehicle,” said Stanton.

Harr was a two-sport athlete at BHS where he played both soccer and football.

“Please pray for the family of Logan Harr as we mourn his passing,” BHS Head Football Coach Mike Mattox posted on the Blue Devil Football Facebook group. “Logan was an outstanding young man and we are blessed that he was a part of our lives. He was our teammate, friend and brother and so much more. We will never forget him.”

Visitation for Harr is set for Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Booneville’s First Baptist Church with a memorial service to follow.

Anti-inflammatory drug may shorten COVID-19 recovery time

A drug company says that adding an anti-inflammatory medicine to a drug already widely used for hospitalized COVID-19 patients shortens their time to recovery by an additional day.

Eli Lilly announced the results Monday from a 1,000-person study sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The result have not yet been published or reviewed by independent scientists, but the government confirmed that Lilly’s statement was accurate.

The study tested baricitinib, a pill that Indianapolis-based Lilly already sells as Olumiant to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the less common form of arthritis that occurs when a mistaken or overreacting immune system attacks joints, causing inflammation. An overactive immune system also can lead to serious problems in coronavirus patients.

All study participants received remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug previously shown to reduce the time to recovery, defined as being well enough to leave the hospital, by four days on average. Those who also were given baricitinib recovered one day sooner than those given remdesivir alone, Lilly said.

Lilly said it planned to discuss with regulators the possible emergency use of baricitinib for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

If that’s approved, Lilly will propose that the drug be sold through usual commercial means. Based on current pricing, the government would pay $105 per patient per day, and for people with private insurance, hospitals would pay about $150 per day, Lilly said. What a patient ends up paying out of pocket depends on many factors.

It would be important to know how many study participants also received steroid drugs, which have been shown in other research to lower the risk of death for severely ill, hospitalized COVID-19 patients, said Dr. Jesse Goodman, former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief scientist now at Georgetown University who had no role in the study.

Figuring out how to best use the various drugs shown to help “is something we’re going to have to work at,” he said.

Tennessee convict pleads guilty in Holly Bobo murder case

SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) — A convicted felon pleaded guilty Monday to taking part in the killing of Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo more than nine years ago, but he is expected to be released soon as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Hardin County Judge C. Creed McGinley sentenced Jason Autry to eight years in prison after Autry pleaded guilty to solicitation to commit murder and facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping. Autry gets credit for time served in the case and he could be released in the next few days, said his attorney, Michael Scholl.

Autry provided key testimony in the 2017 trial of Zachary Adams, who was found guilty of murder, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape. Adams was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.

Adams is appealing his conviction. His brother, John Dylan Adams, also reached a deal with prosecutors. He is serving 35 years in prison.

Bobo was 20 when she vanished from their home in rural Parsons, Tennessee, in April 2011, prompting a massive search of woods, fields and farms in west Tennessee. Her remains were found more than three years later, in September 2014, by two ginseng hunters in woods not far from her home, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Nashville.

The case shook Parsons and the surrounding rural counties, as residents feared that Bobo’s killer or killers lived among them.

Ahead of Zachary Adams’ trial, Autry’s name showed up on a list of witnesses who could get immunity, and he said during questioning that he was testifying because he wanted leniency.

Autry said Adams provided some graphic details when he told Autry that he – along with his brother, John Dylan Adams, and Autry’s cousin, Shayne Austin – had raped Bobo. Austin was found dead in an apparent suicide in Florida in February 2015.

Autry told jurors he had been locked up for theft and drug convictions three times before he was jailed in the Bobo case. He acknowledged an addiction to methamphetamine and morphine.

Autry said he’d known Zachary Adams for years. He said he called Adams on the day of Bobo’s disappearance to ask Adams for a morphine pill. When Adams called him back, he told Autry that he needed his help.

Autry then went to Austin’s trailer, where Adams had driven with Bobo wrapped in a blanket in the back of his pickup truck, Autry said.

Adams and Autry drove to a river and retrieved Bobo’s body from the truck, he said. Instead of burying her, they decided to throw her into the river, at a spot under a bridge.

But Bobo made a sound and moved, indicating she was still alive. Adams retrieved a pistol from his truck, Autry said.

Autry then walked around the area to make sure no one was around, he said.

Autry told Adams the area was clear. He then heard a gunshot coming from the location where Adams and Bobo were.

“It sounded like, boom, boom, boom, underneath that bridge. It was just one shot but it echoed,” Autry said. “Birds went everywhere, all up under that bridge. Then just dead silence for just a second.”

Fearing capture, he and Adams loaded Bobo’s body back into the truck and drove away, Autry said.

McGinley, the judge, praised Autry’s testimony.

“His testimony was some of the most credible, persuasive testimony I’ve ever heard given in a courtroom,” the judge said Monday.

Bobo’s parents were in the courtroom Monday and prosecutor Paul Hagerman said they supported plea deal.

Autry’s testimony helped answer important factual questions in the case, the prosecutor said.

“It was a very important piece in getting justice for Holly,” Hagerman said.