Top news stories of 2020 include COVID response, U.S. 11 project

Published 7:00 am Friday, January 1, 2021

In 2020, local schools had to grapple with a pandemic, the long awaited Highway 11 expansion finally began and a country trio of Poplarville natives garnered attention for their authentic lyrics.

Here’s a look back at some of the stories that Picayune Item readers found most engaging in 2020, according to Google Analytics.

Health: Highland discharges two more COVID-19 ventilator patients

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In the first week of May, Highland Community Hospital discharged two patients who had been on ventilators as part of COVID-19 treatment. After over a month of treatment, 81-year-old Newell Blankenship was the third COVID-19 patient discharged from the hospital who needed a ventilator. He was greeted at the hospital exit by a line of applauding healthcare workers and his wife Beverly Blankenship. Prior to that day, she had not seen her husband for 33 days.

Education: Local schools prepare for coronavirus

In early March before the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Mississippi, local school districts promoted hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette among their students. Local districts stocked up on cleaning supplies, while school districts in other parts of the country were forced to close. In preparation for the same thing happening here, local school districts discussed how they would proceed if they had to close school.

Government: Poplarville Board of Aldermen terminate full time officer, 3 positions open

In 2019 and early 2020, the Poplarville Police Department had trouble filling full time positions, and had three full time officer positions open after terminating an officer in February. In March, the Poplarville Police Department saw more turn over, when Police Chief Greg Hartley resigned and current Police Chief Danny Collier was appointed.

Infrastructure: Work to widen U.S. 11 delayed

In late February, work to widen U.S. 11 was delayed by wet weather and ongoing utility relocation. Large concrete drainage structures had been delivered, but their installation had not begun as utility relocations by the city of Picayune, Coast Electric and Mississippi Power still had to be completed. By the end of 2020, the majority of the east side of Highway 11 expansion was complete. The transition to working on the west side of the highway is set for early January 2021.

Business owners on Highway 11 have mixed thoughts on expansion

At the start of February, many business owners along Highway 11 had mixed feelings about the expansion project beginning. Jordan Herbert with Fly Boutique was excited for a fresh look and improved traffic flow in the area, but knew she’d eventually lose parking spaces to the project. Florist shop owner Joe Landrum and Sun Guard Auto Works owner Fred Davis both expected the expansion to take longer than planned.

Lifestyles: Country trio Chapel Hart gain recognition for songwriting and new music video

Poplarville natives Danica Hart, Trea Swindle and Devynn Hart released their music video for “Jesus & Alcohol” in September. The video features ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and premiered on CMT. In August their song “Made for Me” earned top place in Boswell Media’s Mississippi Songwriter of the Year competition.