Mississippi Unites to Combat COVID-19 Crisis | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mississippi Unites to Combat COVID-19 Crisis

Anna Wan, mathematics professor at USM, used a 3-D printer to make 250 respirator masks for medical professionals in the Pine Belt who are treating COVID-19 patients. Photo courtesy USM

Anna Wan, mathematics professor at USM, used a 3-D printer to make 250 respirator masks for medical professionals in the Pine Belt who are treating COVID-19 patients. Photo courtesy USM

In the wake of COVID-19, many Mississippians and Mississippi-based schools, businesses and organizations have banded together to help residents across the state cope through the crisis, be it through donations of time, money and resources.

UMMC Aiding Jackson Residents Through EversCare Food Pantry

The University of Mississippi Medical Center EversCare Ambulatory Clinic is housed at the Jackson Medical Mall and is part of the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities. The UMMC health system serves residents across the state and also serves as the safety-net hospital for Mississippi's poor, disadvantaged, under- and uninsured patient populations.

For this reason, patients in every region of the state, including the Mississippi Delta, are eligible for services, physician care, specialized treatments and services offered through EversCare Food Pantry.

Belhaven University First Responder Scholarship

Belhaven University recently announced a new First Responder Scholarship to help reduce tuition for first responders during the COVID-19 crisis, along with a no-cost opportunity for people to contribute to the new program.

Belhaven is partnering with Express Feedback for Good to launch a 30-day campaign to create up to $100,000 for the scholarship fund. It will offer first responders looking to enroll in Belhaven's adult degree completion, graduate or online programs a 20% scholarship.

Express Feedback for Good is a program that allows users to share opinions on companies and brands they care about.

Through Tuesday, May 26, every time a participant shares a piece of feedback through Express Feedback for Good, the company will donate $2 in support of Belhaven's first responder scholarship.

For more information on Express Feedback for good, call 469-638-6930 or visit hundredxinc.com.

USM Partnering with Hospitals on COVID-19 Testing

The University of Southern Mississippi is partnering with health-care providers at Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic on efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic through increased testing.

Researchers at USM's Center for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence will provide technical laboratory support and help transport samples to outside labs.

USM will also help the clinics develop a workflow to perform up to 50 high-priority tests per day with a turn-around time of 24 hours or less.

The USM medical team tested COVID-19 samples at the university using its own viral transport medium and established that it was reliable and matched the Mississippi State Department of Health's test results, a press release from USM says. While USM personnel will not receive patient data and are not involved in patient contact, clinical decisions or referrals, clinicians at Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic will prioritize samples sent to USM for testing, interpret all test results and handle patient follow-up.

Fleet Feet Offering Essential Workers Discount

Fleet Feet Sports is offering a 20% discount on certain shoe brands to all health-care and other essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The discounted brands include Saucony, Asics, Karhu, New Balance and Altra.

The store is also hosting a running-focused social media series called "Up & Running" to offer advice on running and training safely during the pandemic. The series is available on Fleet Feet's Facebook and Instagram pages.

Fleet Feet's stores in Flowood and Ridgeland are open for call-ins and online curbside orders from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For information, call 769-235-4786 or 601-899-9696 or visit fleetfeetjackson.com.

Women's Foundation of Mississippi Grants for Women's Health Aid

The Women's Foundation of Mississippi, a public grant-making foundation focused on improving conditions for women and girls across the state, announced rapid response grant awards totaling $55,000 for 11 Mississippi-based nonprofit agencies and programs directly serving some of our state's most vulnerable women and families in wake of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19.

Awards will support organizations across the state that serve women and families, many at or below the poverty level who are already struggling, and find themselves even more severely impacted now. Many Mississippi women work in job sectors that are being hit the hardest by COVID-19: health care, retail, food services, social services and education. These funds are available for immediate use by the granted organizations to help them continue serving their communities.

Molina Healthcare Donations for COVID-19 Care

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Molina Healthcare of Mississippi is donating $50,000 for the purchase of personal protective equipment to protect health-care professionals and others during the pandemic.

Molina is also working with partner providers facing low or depleted PPE supplies and donating more than 17,000 three-ply masks, 4,000 N95 masks and 7,000 nitrile medical gloves to small clinics, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and larger health systems.

The company previously made a $36,000 donation to 14 Mississippi organizations that are providing food and other resources to individuals and families in need.

Molina has waived all cost share and prior authorization requirements for COVID-19 services for all health insurance products offered in Mississippi.

The organization is also providing virtual urgent care for Medicaid and Marketplace members through its partnership with Teladoc.

For information on how to access this Molina Healthcare service, visit its website or call 1-800-Teladoc.

Molina members can receive free home delivery of prescriptions through any CVS Pharmacy.

Molina is also offering its Coronavirus Chatbot tool for members seeking information about COVID-19 risk factors, which is available on the Molina website, member portal and mobile app. For more information, visit MolinaHealthcare.com.

USM Professor Produces 3-D Printed Protective Masks

Anna Wan, a mathematics professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and director of the university's 3-D printing lab—called the Eagle Maker Hub—recently used the lab's 3-D printers to create 250 respirator masks for medical professionals in the Pine Belt treating COVID-19 patients.

After going through three prototypes over two weeks, Wan partnered the Mississippi Polymer Institute, USM's School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and other USM faculty, staff, and students to deliver the first set of masks to Forrest General Hospital.

The development cycle included creating mask molds using 3-D printing, plaster and silicone, then using a thermal molding process called thermoforming, in which plastic sheets form over the molds to create the masks. After Forrest General verified the masks with positive fit and leak test results, the Maker Hub team began replicating the masks. The mask design does not include a filter but has a "hub" that acts as the standardized connection port, leading the team to name the product "The Hub Mask."

The mask serves as a hub to multiple filters of the same tube size. When in use, staff members hook the masks up to an existing hospital n99 filter that uses a uniform system in hospitals nationwide, meaning others could use Wan's model.

Wan worked with Hattiesburg Clinic physician and Forrest General's Chief Anesthesiologist Dr. Joe Campbell and Director of Respiratory Therapy Dr. Brittany Coberly; Hattiesburg Clinic pulmonologist and Forrest General's Director of ICU, Dr. Steven Stogner; as well as Hattiesburg Clinic nephrologist, Dr. John Fitzpatrick in creating the final product.

Community members and quilting clubs organized to create straps for the masks from cotton fabric and T-shirts. Each mask costs $2 to make.

Wan and Kathmann are currently seeking funding in order to scale up and produce more masks.

UMMC Offering Classroom Credit for Student Medical Volunteers

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is offering a new Disaster Management Course for students, which gives classroom credit for hours that medical students have spent volunteering as part of UMMC's anti-pandemic campaign.

Many UMMC students from different campus schools carried out swab testing for the public and UMMC employees at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in Jackson.

Students made swabs themselves; collected and constructed protective masks; staffed telehealth operations; volunteered at Mississippi MED-COM, the statewide emergency communications clearinghouse; handled the infection prevention hotline; and helped set up an acute respiratory field clinic in Parking Garage B.

The course's practical application features 36 hours of approved volunteer work. Many UMMC students met this requirement several times over before the Disaster Management Course began, a release from UMMC says.

Roughly 138 students signed up for the program, the release says. Those who finish the course before the end of July, of which nine students have done so far, earn two hours of academic credit at their own pace and at no financial cost to them.

VA Center Plan to Resume Operation of Closed Health Centers


The Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting a three-stage plan to resume regular operations at its medical centers. File Photo by Trip Burns

The Department of Veterans Affairs is conducting a three-phase plan to resume regular operations at its medical centers, benefit offices and national cemeteries amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a release from the VA Center in Jackson says.

While the VA did not close during the pandemic, it did implement policies to ensure the safety of its patients and employees. Under the new plan, the VA will consider conditions on the ground to determine how quickly each facility can resume normal operations, the release says.

Phase 1 of the plan will begin with VA medical facilities if the VA observes a falling numbers of patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, reduced numbers of people testing positive for the virus and increased testing capacity.

After the first phase, local VA facilities will continue risk-mitigation activities such as continued telework but may also determine how best to permit elective procedures and resume previously postponed face-to-face visits.

In the third phase, VA facilities will again allow visitors to hospitals, community living centers, senior living facilities and spinal cords injury and disorder units provided that conditions improve in the areas those facilities are located in. Most VA employees will also return to work in this phase, the release says.

VA's national cemeteries, benefit administrators and Board of Veterans Appeals will follow the same three-phase plan for resuming public cemetery interments and face-to-face meetings with veterans about their benefit status.

VA Center Announces Expanded Support Services

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that it has expanded support services through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to provide relief for veterans currently experiencing or at risk of homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act has allocated $17.2 billion for the Veterans Health Administration, which will use $300 million this fiscal year for homeless and at-risk Veterans. The aid money will support three VA programs that provide emergency response to veterans in need.

Of the total funds, $202 million will provide emergency housing and homelessness prevention assistance to low-income veteran families through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program. The Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing program will also use the funds to place veterans in safe housing to isolate them from the virus.

The Grant and Per Diem Program received $88 million, which the VA will use to waive per diem limits for transitional housing during the pandemic and provide grantees with emergency housing and supportive services, including emergency placement for at-risk veterans.

Ten million dollars in funding will provide emergency shelter and supportive services through the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, including placement in hotel rooms for veterans who need emergency shelter or isolation, as well as care, treatment and rehabilitative services.

Email business, education and wellness story tips to web editor Dustin Cardon at [email protected]. Read full coverage at jacksonfreepress.com/COVID19.

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