There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a tough and unexpected year for all of us. Yet, I remain thankful for the many lessons we have learned.

The coronavirus pandemic and renewed attention to racial injustice has made our purpose more apparent and illuminated the ways we can fulfill that purpose.

We’ve found new ways to share community with one another.

We have been reminded of why we love our pre-COVID lives and what makes our communities tick.

We’ve seen proper attention paid to heroes who have always been there, from those working in hospitals to friends on the frontlines in the service and hospitality sectors.

In our separation, we have been forcibly reminded of how much our lives are ultimately intertwined.

While this Thanksgiving will certainly be different, we can use it as a time to nourish our spirits and refuel for the challenging months to come.

Together, we’ll get to the other side. So thanks for your partnership, and Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you.

Mitch Landrieu
Founder & President, E Pluribus Unum

News Around the South on COVID-19

The Alabama Education Association sent a letter to the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners expressing concern for the health of students and school employees when children are allowed to return to school without completing quarantine. The organization learned some doctors are writing excuses for students to return to school before mandated quarantine periods expire. [AL Daily News]

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson set out his biennial budget priorities for the upcoming legislative session, noting that his $5.84 billion balanced budget will maintain the robust surplus. Unlike many states facing deep deficits during the pandemic, Arkansas will enter the 2021 legislative session with at least a $240 million surplus. [Daily Record]

Eight years after fast-food workers walked off the job and began calling for a $15 minimum wage in New York City, a ballot measure raising the minimum wage in Florida came as a big victory. Florida is the first state in the South and the eighth state overall to adopt such a measure. And the path forward for a nationwide $15 minimum wage is uncertain. [NPR]

Georgia’s new single-day record of COVID infections topping 6,300 has experts alarmed, even though this number combines positive COVID-19 results from antigen tests with those from Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) screenings. Georgia is approaching its previous peak in a seven-day infection rate as a surge of new infections is rocking the nation. The number of U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 12 million Saturday — an increase of more than 1 million cases in less than a week. [Albany Herald]

Kentucky has paid out more than $5 billion in unemployment money since the pandemic began, but 78,000 people’s claims are still unprocessed — some dating back to the early days of the pandemic. [WYMT]

Last week, Louisiana was awarded $2.4 million in federal funds to spur business recovery throughout the state in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Louisiana Economic Development will match $600,000 in state funds, for a $3 million initiative. The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration grant represents $2.4 million in CARES Act recovery assistance, part of a $1.5 billion package of economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. [WGNO]

Throughout Mississippi, 88% of the intensive care units are filled, and seven COVID-care centers now have zero beds available. In the past two weeks, total hospitalizations have risen 6%, patients in the ICU have risen 15%, and patients on ventilators have risen 23%.[The Daily Mississippian]

North Carolina
Members of the North Carolina Farmworker Advocacy Network gathered in the North Carolina state capitol to honor and remember those in the farm, poultry, and meat processing industries who have lost their lives to the coronavirus. [WCNC]

South Carolina
The South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) is urging healthcare systems across the state to come up with staffing plans should a COVID-19 winter spike exacerbate a shortage of frontline workers. As the demand for registered nurses greatly outweighs the current supply, hospitals are being urged to come up with creative solutions to alleviate their workloads in the case of a surge. [Live 5 News]

The Tennessee Supreme Court has suspended jury trials through Jan. 31 because of rising coronavirus cases. The order also directs judicial districts to reexamine their reopening plans and coronavirus protocols, specifically mentioning the high court receiving complaints of judges, attorneys, and defendants failing to follow protocols and some even attending court while testing positive for the virus. [Tennessean]

A new study found that at least 231 people have died from COVID in Texas correctional facilities. 80% of people who died in jails from COVID were not convicted of a crime. 58% of people who died in prisons from COVID were eligible for parole; 73% did not have a life sentence. [University of Texas]

Nearly one week into new COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia and some restaurant owners said they have noticed a dip in revenue and a decrease in foot traffic. Part of the concern and notice of revenue losses comes from one restriction that includes the stop of alcohol sales by 10 p.m. The latest restrictions are yet another hurdle for the food and beverage industry to adapt to as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the country. [WUSA 9]

West Virginia
As the rollout for a COVID-19 vaccination appears much closer, West Virginians wonder whether state residents will be required to take it. That question was posed on Friday during the state’s pandemic briefing and Governor Jim Justice didn’t answer it. But at least two of the state’s most veteran attorneys believe the state has the legal standing to mandate vaccinations if that’s the route Justice and his experts want to take. [WV News]