Friday, March 13, 2020   
Mississippi State, MUW, other IHL universities to extend spring break by one week
All eight public universities in Mississippi, including Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women, will extend spring break an additional week in light of the spread of COVID-19. Classes are suspended for the week of March 16-22, according to an MSU press release. This will give faculty members time to prepare for hosting online classes or other alternative instructional methods. While events sponsored by MSU and official student groups are canceled, the residence halls and dining facilities will remain open for students on campus. "Our primary responsibility is to safeguard our students, faculty, and staff during this health crisis," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum in a prepared statement. "At this juncture, as COVID-19 is now a growing reality in Mississippi, this course of action is prudent and provides us the best opportunity to make the transitions necessary to most effectively meet our educational responsibilities as well."
MSU Riley Center adjusts performance schedule
Two shows at the Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts at Mississippi State University-Meridian are being rescheduled under recommended guidelines of the Mississippi Department of Health and the university. Riley Center officials are working with agents of singer/songwriter Bruce Hornsby and the dramatic performance Lula Del Ray to reschedule shows for a later date. Tickets for the original events will be honored. New show dates will be posted at when announced. Access it by clicking the attached link. For more information, call 601-696-2200 or email
You're not paranoid: Your phone really is tracking you
Experts say your phone probably isn't listening to you, but it certainly is using a lot of information about you that you probably don't even know about. "They've found no evidence that phones are listening in, besides those wait words," said Dr. Merrill Warkentin, a professor of information systems at Mississippi State University. Wait words being things like Siri, OK Google, or Alexa. "Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft claim, and the evidence would show, that they're not listening in -- except for the so-called wake words," he said. While the research may show that to be the case, a 2019 Consumer Reports survey polled more than 1,000 Americans. 43 percent said they believe their phone is recording conversations without their permission. Dr. Warkentin said he understands why people think their phone is listening. "I heard about a guy who went up on his roof. He didn't talk to anybody. He didn't use his microphone. He went up to check on his roof. And when he got down, he started seeing ads for roof shingles and roofers. He was really freaked out," he said. In that case, no, Google wasn't in that man's head or spying on what he said to his significant other earlier in the day. But Dr. Warkentin said Google does know where most of us live, thanks to Google Maps and other tools. Not only does it know your latitude and longitude, but also, your altitude.
MSU-Meridian students excel at DECA competition
Members of Mississippi State University-Meridian's Collegiate DECA chapter are the recipients of nine first place trophies presented at the 2020 Mississippi Collegiate DECA Career Development Conference. The group also is the Collegiate DECA Chapter of the Year, awarded for their chapter growth, community service and social media presence. Every member of the chapter also now qualifies for the April 22-25 International College Career Development Conference in Atlanta, Georgia by placing in the top six in their respective competition categories at the statewide conference. Collegiate DECA, founded in Mississippi in 1947, is a national organization with the purpose of preparing college students for a variety of career areas, with emphasis in marketing, management, merchandising and entrepreneurship. Mississippi Collegiate DECA has a membership of more than 400 members from 19 chapters across the state. MSU-Meridian formed a Collegiate DECA chapter in 2015.
Unusually high rainfall delays public, private building projects
Starkville received 10.28 inches of rain in January and 14.72 inches in February, far exceeding what is considered a "normal" amount, which is 5.4 inches for January and 5.7 inches for February, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson. The area received 8.81 inches in January 2019 and 8.87 inches in February 2019, NWS forecaster Janae Elkins said. With 3.86 inches of rain so far in March, Starkville has had a total of 28.86 inches of rain so far in 2020. White said he has worked in construction for almost 30 years and "can tell this is an abnormal year" for rainfall. The rain has delayed both residential and commercial developments. Rob Winklepleck, vice president of West Brothers Construction, said the recent rainfall had impacts on all of its current projects in Starkville as well. Although rainy days are budgeted into construction contracts, Winklepleck said the recent rainfall has been beyond what he had expected.
OCH gives insight on hospital capabilities, coronavirus preparedness
Proceeding the arrival of COVID-19, more commonly known as the novel coronavirus, in Mississippi, OCH Regional Medical Center has remained in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mississippi State Department of Health. This communication is part of OCH's multi-phase, 5 level plan to respond to any scale or intensity of widespread infection. Currently, OCH is on level 3 of the plan, which was initiated due to increased and sustained transmission of the virus to the general population within the United States. While people starting to get sick may wish to be tested, Kight said OCH is only testing patients who have flu-like symptoms and have traveled to affected areas within the past 14 days and/or people who have been in close contact with a lab-confirmed case. Though OCH is prepared for people to come to the emergency room, Kight said they are encouraging people to contact their health care provider or urgent care first.
State Health Department rolls out new guidelines following first positive coronavirus case
Following the first coronavirus case in Forrest County Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health rolled out new recommendations pertaining to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) Thursday morning during a press conference. Recommendations include avoiding gatherings of over 250 people, restricting visitation to nursing care and similar facilities to family only, the Department of Corrections temporarily halting all visitation for anyone other than attorneys and essential visitors, and preparing a long term response. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs recommended travelers stay aware of areas with known cases and either avoid traveling to those areas or practice listed guidelines to avoid potential exposure. They are not making recommendations for schools to close at this time but did ask they consider cancelling group gathering of 250 and take precautions at smaller levels.
Second Mississippi coronavirus case being reported
Another case of the novel coronavirus is being reported in Mississippi. If confirmed, it would be the second case of the virus in the state. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said Friday morning in a radio interview on SuperTalk with Paul Gallo that the state Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs told him about the case Thursday night. The Clarion Ledger is working to confirm the report through the health department, which shows one case on its website. The patient is in Hattiesburg, Hosemann said on the show. The state Department of Health, which did not immediately return calls is still processing the case, he said. The Health Department confirmed the first presumptive case of the virus, a Forrest County man, on Wednesday evening. The first patient is self-quarantined at home, where he is doing well, hospital officials said Thursday.
Federal Reserve to give economic briefing in Starkville
The Memphis branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis will hold a regional economic briefing in Starkville on April 14 at The Mill Conference Center, the bank announced Tuesday morning. The meeting is aimed at "business leaders, academics, community development practitioners and others interested in economic conditions," the press release says. Kevin Kliesen, a Fed business economist and research officer, and Charles Gascon, a regional economist and senior research coordinator, will give local business leaders "an overview of economic conditions," according to the press release. The FRB's choice of Starkville for the event means the agency sees it as a thriving community in the region, Mayor Lynn Spruill and Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Mike Tagert both said. Tagert said the event had already generated a great deal of interest soon after it was announced Tuesday morning, and strong attendance is expected. An FRB spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, might postpone the briefing or be a topic of the economic conversation there.
Two Brothers Smoked Meats now open at its new location
If you're in Starkville, Starkvegas Snowballs in the Cotton District and on MLK Drive also opened for the season and will be open every day from 2-7 p.m. Also in Starkville, Two Brothers Smoked Meats is now open at its new location. The restaurant was formerly located on Rue Du Grand Fromage, in the Cotton District. The high-end barbecue restaurant could only serve about 35 customers at its former location. Now, Two Brothers will serve its customers from a two-story, more than 100-person capacity building on University Drive. Be sure to check out the local restaurant's newest pad. Two Brothers is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Major floor action deadline leaves some bills thriving and others dead
Senators and Representatives faced the first major floor action deadline on Thursday. After many long hours of debate, Y'all Politics posts a list of bills worth noting where they stand in the process.
Computer science education bill gains momentum, passes committee hurdle
A bill championed by C Spire that would give all 463,000 elementary, middle and high school students in Mississippi access to computer science curriculum passed a key legislative hurdle Tuesday with House Education Committee approval of HB 1165. The bill by Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, to bring computer science education to the state's 884 public and charter K-12 schools by the 2023-2024 school year, was approved unanimously by the panel on the final day for committee advancement of legislation during the 2020 session. The next stop for the bill will be the full House of Representatives, where 122 members will have an opportunity to vote on the legislation by March 12. A companion bill, SB 2284 by State Senator Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, did not receive a hearing or vote in the Senate Education Committee.
Two medical marijuana proposals will be on November ballot, some believe resulting in confusion
Mississippians who support medical marijuana will have to decide between two proposals that will be on the November general election ballot. The Senate, by a 34-17 vote, approved a proposal Thursday night to place on the November ballot an alternative to a citizen-sponsored initiative designed to legalize medical marijuana for people with "debilitating illnesses." The alternative passed the House earlier. Supporters of the medical marijuana initiative say the legislative alternative is designed to confuse the voters and result in the defeat of both. But Senate Constitution Chair Chris Johnson, R-Hattiesburg, said, he does not believe the legislative leadership was trying to kill medical marijuana by placing the alternative on the ballot. "I have heard over 70 percent of voters approve of medical marijuana, according to polling," he said. Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, who authored the proposal, has argued that the citizen-sponsored initiative was written in a way to prevent the Legislature from being able to regulate medical marijuana. He said both his proposal and the initiative would allow people to purchase marijuana if a medical doctor certified they needed it for their illness.
President Trump approves Mississippi disaster declaration
Friday, President Donald J. Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Mississippi and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding from January 10 to January 11, 2020. Federal funding is available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding in the counties of Bolivar, Choctaw, Clay, DeSoto, Oktibbeha, Panola, Prentiss, Sunflower, Tishomingo, and Washington. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.
Stocks rebound on stimulus hopes after Wall Street's worst day since 1987
Stocks rebounded Friday on hopes for a coronavirus aid package from Washington after Wall Street's worst day since the "Black Monday" crash of 1987. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 650 points, a day after plunging 2,352 points, or 10%, for its worst loss since its nearly 23% drop on Oct. 19, 1987. The Standard & Poor's 500 surged 3.6%. The broad index tumbled more than 20% from its February record Thursday, sliding into a bear market and officially ending Wall Street's historic 11-year bull market run. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration hoped to announce agreement Friday on a virus aid package to reassure anxious Americans by providing sick pay, free testing and other resources in an effort to calm teetering financial markets and the mounting crisis. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin struck a positive tone Friday morning, saying a deal on a virus response package with Congress was imminent.
Gov. Tate Reeves and his family cut Spain trip short amid coronavirus outbreak
Gov. Tate Reeves and his family are cutting a trip to Europe short and will arrive back in Mississippi before President Donald Trump's announced European travel restrictions take effect on Friday night. Reeves and his family are in Barcelona, Spain, this week as one of his daughters is playing in a soccer tournament. The first family had traveled with the soccer teams to Paris earlier in the week before staying in Barcelona. The family is flying back to New York earlier than planned as European countries including Spain tighten precautionary measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus and after Trump announced European travel restrictions for Americans on Wednesday night. "Gov. Reeves has been in constant touch with federal and state health officials about not just the greater situation in Mississippi but also his family's trip," Brad White, Reeves' chief of staff, told Mississippi Today on Thursday. "None of his family have any signs or symptoms, but they'll be closely monitored when they return."
Coronavirus consumes Trump's reelection bid
When Donald Trump's top campaign advisers met with the president in the White House on Wednesday, they came prepared with reams of polling data on his standing with voters eight months out from the election. But Trump was focused on something else: The coronavirus. Before the group could begin its long-planned presentation on the 2020 race, the president launched into a commentary about how travel from Europe was a "mess" and needed to be shut down. He ordered White House counsel Pat Cipollone and chief economist Larry Kudlow into the room to talk about ideas for addressing the pandemic. And he sent two other top aides, Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks, outside to draft a to-do list. The episode illustrated how the coronavirus crisis has upended the election for both parties. Nearly every element of the presidential campaign is being adjusted or put on hold, from rallies to fundraising to staff work. Advertising campaigns are being paused and both parties are trying to gauge how to reach voters online.
The vote must go on: States prep for primaries as virus looms
Despite widespread cancellations of campaign events and everyday activities across the nation amid the new coronavirus pandemic, four states with primaries next week are sending the message: Voting will go on, but with an extra dose of hand sanitizer. Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, while encouraging early voting or voting by mail, have not canceled primary contests scheduled for Tuesday. "You will probably see lots of sanitizing wipes being used on touch screens and on pens that are used by voters," said Matt Dietrich, public information officer for the Illinois State Board of Elections. "There will be sterilizing wipes and facilities to wash hands before and after voting." As state election officials scramble to move polling places out of senior living facilities and ensure there are ways for voters to avoid large crowds, it's not clear whether states with upcoming elections will get any immediate help from Congress. Congress' response so far has been focused on a package to address the fast-moving health and economic crisis. Sen. Ron Wyden did introduce a bill Wednesday that would require states to offer vote-by-mail options or options to drop off paper ballots in person if a quarter of the states declare a state of emergency related to COVID-19 or some other disaster.
Virus testing lag is a 'failing,' US health official says
The U.S. lag in coronavirus testing is "a failing," a top federal health official said Thursday, and public health experts say they still don't have a good understanding of how widely the new virus has spread. The effort initially was hobbled by delays in getting testing kits out to public health labs, but the stumbles have continued, leading scientists to conclude that the virus has already spread far wider than government officials are reporting. U.S. health officials, for example, promised nearly a month ago to tap into a national network of labs that monitor for flu. That system still isn't up and running. Large-scale testing is a critical part of tracking the spread of infectious diseases and allocating resources for treatment. The lack of comprehensive figures means U.S. health providers could quickly be overwhelmed by undetected cases.
State's top health officer moves to improve access to coronavirus testing
After weeks of confusion and lack of clarity around testing, state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has made one thing clear: if physicians feel they need to test a patient for COVID-19, they can and should. Referring to clinics and hospitals, "Anybody can test, if it's appropriate," Dobbs said. "If you're sick and worried, call your clinic, call your provider, call your doctor, and let them take care of it." Physicians no longer have to obtain Mississippi State Department of Health approval to test patients, a departure from previous guidelines. The new guidelines were announced Wednesday afternoon, before the state's first confirmed case Wednesday night, and clarified Thursday morning in a news conference. As of Thursday morning, physicians have complete discretion and ability to test patients they suspect might carry coronavirus and risk spreading the disease, COVID-19, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic this week.
Rural Towns Insulated From Coronavirus Now May Take A Harder Hit Later
Remote rural towns are a good place to be early in a pandemic, as they tend to be more spread out, which potentially means fewer chances to catch a bug. Remote rural areas are also, by definition, way removed from major seaports, airports and often even big highways. So it generally takes longer for new viruses to show up in tiny towns. Epidemiologists recommend social distancing or staying a few feet away from anyone who might have the coronavirus. That's easier in spacious little towns with no mass transit, long lines or dense crowds. That said, rural communities are not permanently shielded from the spread of the coronavirus. "I think it's just a matter of time," says Andy Pekosz, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. Most remote rural towns don't get many outside visitors, but the people who live in them drive to larger cities all the time. They go for everything from medical treatment, to work, to a night on the town. And Pekosz says that unless containment efforts succeed beyond his expectations, those people are going to be increasingly likely to be exposed to the coronavirus on those trips.
Mississippi Archives and History sites, offices to close amid coronavirus pandemic
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History is joining the list of offices closing because of novel coronavirus. All sites will be closed beginning Friday, March 13. The Museum of Mississippi History, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Eudora Welty House and Garden, Mississippi Governor's Mansion, Old Capitol Museum and William F. Winter Archives and History Building are all closing until further notice. Grand Village of the Natchez Indians in Natchez and Winterville Mounds near Greenville will also close. All public events at MDAH sites through the end of March have been postponed. The delays include the weekly History Is Lunch program, the opening reception of the Mississippi Distilled Prohibition exhibit on March 20, and the Mississippi Freedom Seder event on April 2, all at the Two Mississippi Museums. The Bettye Jolly Lecture at the Eudora Welty House and Garden on March 19, the New Stage Theater event at the Old Capitol Museum on March 31, and the Pow Wow at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians on March 28, have also been postponed.
Hotels and casinos still open, providing 'safest environment possible'
Despite many event cancellations and postponements, business and community leaders on the coast are reminding the public that they are open for business. Concern about the coronavirus is convincing some customers to stay at home, but local businesses say they are taking extra precautions to make their clients feel safe. The president of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association issued a statement on Thursday. "In the wake of COVID-19 that has disrupted our daily routines and elevated concerns regarding travel, I wanted to personally convey to every person traveling to our wonderful Mississippi cities that our hospitality teams are ensuring all protocols are in place to provide the safest environment possible," said Kenny Glavan. The efforts haven't gone unnoticed. They have even put some customers' minds at ease. "Never seen cleaner machines," said Twyla Dufrene. "I mean, you can almost see like a mirror, you know. So I am very, very excited about what they're doing and, like I said, I am not worried."
Mississippi universities extend break, plan online classes
Mississippi's eight public universities are extending their spring breaks and planning online classes to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, state higher education officials announced Thursday. Students were already on a week's break when the announcement was made. The break was to be extended through next week, according to the universities' website. Once the break is over on March 23, the universities will begin online classes. Students will be encouraged to remain home and participate in classes remotely. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
State's universities modify class schedules in regard to COVID-19
Mississippi's eight public universities have modified the schedules for the spring semester classes due to the coronavirus. "The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are paramount," said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. "Our universities are modifying the schedules for the spring semester out of an abundance of caution." All eight universities, including Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi are observing Spring Break this week and will extend Spring Break an additional week. "The situation remains fluid and university plans are subject to change in response to new information and recommendations received," said Rankins.
Mississippi colleges and universities extend spring break, cancel in-person classes as a coronavirus precaution
As colleges and universities across the nation are beginning to close their campuses and shift to online learning in their effort to halt the spread of coronavirus, Mississippi's institutions are following suit. The Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees Mississippi's eight public colleges and universities, issued a statement Thursday morning that all schools will not return to class until Monday, March 23. Classes will transition to alternate methods, such as online and remote instruction. "The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are paramount," Commissioner of Higher Education Alfred Rankins Jr. said. "Our universities are modifying the schedules for the spring semester out of an abundance of caution." The Mississippi Association of Community Colleges has suspended all college athletics until March 30. Mississippi's 15 community colleges are making decisions about whether to transition to online courses and extend spring break on an individual basis, said Mississippi Community College Board spokesperson Kell Smith.
Mississippi colleges extend spring break over COVID-19 concerns
Following Wednesday's confirmation of Mississippi's first COVID-19 case, colleges and universities are extending spring break an extra week. Classes will resume on Monday, March 23, and will be taught online and via other methods. The Mississippi Association of Community College Commission, which is made up of the state's 15 community college presidents, suspended all community college activities, including athletic practices and competition, through March 30, according to a news release. Mississippi State University suspended all university-sponsored events and gatherings, including events sponsored by any registered student organization, through March 23. With no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the university community, MSU will remain open March 16-22 for faculty and staff. University of Mississippi students are expected to stay away from campus and participate in classes from home. At USM in Hattiesburg, the school's offices and all student services will remain open, including residence halls, dining services, libraries, campus recreation, student health services, student counseling services, and other student services.
FCC asked to assist Mississippi workers and students during health crisis
Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission to intervene on behalf of Mississippi customers ordered to work from home or students who have transitioned to online classes due to COVID-19. The letter asks the FCC to take action to remove data plan caps, prevent customers from receiving overage charges on their plans, and prohibit companies from reducing internet speeds due to increased usage, also known as throttling, during this health emergency. On Thursday, the State Institutions of Higher Learning announced that all eight of the state's public universities will shift to online courses on March 23rd, following an extended Spring Break. "Many consumers have no other option than to utilize their mobile devices for internet services, both through the use of their devices by themselves and by utilizing them as mobile 'hotspots' to use with other technology," Commissioner Presley said in the letter. "They should not be penalized for doing their jobs or furthering their education due to these unforeseen changes that are outside their control. The digital divide is real and these steps will greatly help those affected by it."
U. of Mississippi extends spring break and prepares for online classes
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees announced that all eight public universities in the state, including the University of Mississippi, will extend spring break by one week to "allow faculty members time to prepare to offer classes remotely" and prohibit the spread of the coronavirus. When classes resume on Monday, March 23, they will be conducted online and via other alternative instruction methods until further notice. Following the announcement, Chancellor Glenn Boyce sent a university-wide email detailing the move to online classes. Boyce encouraged students to return home to their families during this period "to promote social distancing and minimize the risk of spreading the virus." If students have "no other living option available," Boyce said they can contact university housing. Residence halls will be accessible from Sunday, March 15 at 8 a.m. until Wednesday, March 18 at 5 p.m. for students to retrieve "essential items."
Willie Morris Awards move to UM
A generous New England-based couple with deep roots in the South, aware of the close relationship between a late-great Mississippi author and the Oxford community, is moving the celebrated Willie Morris Awards for Southern Writing from New York City to the University of Mississippi. With their $3 million gift to the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric, Reba White Williams and Dave Williams have established an endowment to oversee administration of the awards. "From a state known for producing star-studded literary talent, Willie Morris remains a legendary Mississippi author, journalist and teacher more than two decades after his death," Chancellor Glenn Boyce said of the Williams' desire to establish the endowment. "We are honored by Reba and Dave's gift, and we are grateful that they entrusted the University of Mississippi to serve as the steward for this literary prize. We are committed to taking this award to new heights and growing the legacies created by the Williamses and Willie Morris."
USM gives update on latest coronavirus concerns
The University of Southern Mississippi has provided updates, effective immediately, in light of the new coronavirus reports. Spring break has been extended through March 27 and classes will resume the following week on March 30. According to USM officials, all university offices and student services will remain open during this period. Students are not required to work during this period but are permitted if their unit thinks work is essential. University president Rodney Bennett encourages supervisors to meet with student employees on discussing work during the extended spring break. Employees remain eligible and are encouraged to use personal leave or comp time in accordance with policies and advice from the proper supervisor. Events sponsored by USM or hosted in campus facilities, where 50 or more attendees are expected, are canceled. This is effective from March 12-April 30, 2020. Students should now prepare for coursework being delivered online or through an alternate method with adequate internet access.
Jackson State extends spring break, switching to online classes
It's spring break for Jackson State students, so walking through a fairly empty campus isn't anything out of the ordinary. However, as the coronavirus continues to threaten Mississippi, it's possible that the campus will continue to look desolate for the rest of the semester. "Classes will resume on March 23rd, but it will resume as an online option -- online course rather, I should say," said L.A. Warren, JSU's media relations specialist. It's an additional step JSU is taking to keep their campus safe from COVID-19. While campus will be open for use, Warren warns that everyone should avoid doing so. "We're going to do everything we can to accommodate them. Some people study fine online and some people of course may have some troubles, but nonetheless I think this is going to be the best overall picture for everyone in terms of helping us to contain this virus," said Warren. As of now, the university is still on track for spring graduation in May.
Meridian Community College extends spring breaks, shifts to online classes
Meridian Community College announced Friday morning it was extending its spring break and shifting to online classes for many classes when students return. The decision was made after reviewing information shared by the Mississippi State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and higher education colleagues from across the state, MCC announced in a statement. The decisions were made to reduce the transmission of the virus on campus and to the community, according to the statement. Classes will resume on March 23 in an online or alternative format. Some career technical programs will continue in a traditional format with added precautions. Residence halls will be open for students to return on March 22 and computer labs and student support will be made available for students who need them beginning on March 23. Students living on campus will receive additional information before March 22. All campus activities and events at MCC have been canceled until further notice.
Auburn University transitioning to online classes until at least April 10
Auburn University will transition to online classes until at least April 10 over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, per an email sent to students. University officials are urging students not to return to campus Monday, which is when spring break was set to end. "University officials will subsequently determine if students will return to campus for the remaining weeks of the spring semester," the email said. The University said Auburn professors and faculty will be in contact with students about how coursework will be completed. Auburn will continue "normal operations," according to the email, though it is encouraging social distancing as appropriate. Dining facilities, libraries and residence halls are closed through April 10. Students with living situations compromised by this are urged to contact the Auburn Division of Student Affairs.
Auburn tells students, faculty to work online
Coronavirus concerns triggered a big move Thursday by Auburn University, while other local institutions continue to opt for a wait-and-see approach. AU officials announced that students and faculty will be doing coursework online only, as of Monday and continuing through April 10. "The Auburn Family faces many unknowns about this virus," Auburn President Jay Gogue stated in the university's announcement. "We are taking these unprecedented steps based on our utmost concern for the health and well-being of Auburn students, faculty and staff. Students should avoid campus after spring break, according to the statement. Faculty will contact students regarding their academic coursework. University Senate President Nedret Billor, a math professor, said Thursday that the faculty has been kept in the loop throughout the decision-making process. "The university administration has been working with the Senate leadership since the COVID-19 problem started," Billor said.
Colleges in Arkansas shift to online-only
The state's largest public and private universities on Thursday announced a shift to online instruction in response to concerns about the threat of the covid-19 illness, as did the biggest two-year college. The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville suspended in-person courses through the end of the spring semester, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz announced in an email to the campus. Campus housing and dining services will remain open or students may return home as remote instruction begins Monday. Steinmetz said the shift to remote instruction is about trying to reduce the chance of illness spreading by means of people congregating together. "In a classroom setting, which is very closed, that becomes the biggest issue," Steinmetz said. Health experts advise frequent hand-washing and to stay home if sick, as the virus causing the respiratory illness is thought to spread via close contact and through droplets from coughs and sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Georgia reverses course and closes all public colleges for two weeks
Despite an earlier message from the University System of Georgia that public campuses would remain open, the plan now is to close them for two weeks, per Gov. Brian Kemp's press conference at 3 p.m. In what he described as a call to action in response to rising cases of the coronavirus in the state, Kemp suggested schools consider closing for two weeks, starting as early as tomorrow. But Kemp said he is giving local K-12 districts, the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia free rein to act in the best interest of their students. "They have all been freed to take action as they deem fit, and I am sure you will see many of them do that," he said. And they are taking action at dizzying speeds.
U-Haul offers free storage to college students displaced by coronavirus closings
Spring break. Midterms. Global pandemic. It's been a stressful, confusing week for college students across the country. College campuses -- including University of Tennessee-Knoxville -- have sent students home and moved classes online as the nation tries to subdue the spread of the coronavirus. As many students scramble to find places to store their belongings until school resumes, U-Haul is offering a way to ease the burden. College students can store their belongings in self-storage, for free, for 30 days at U-Haul-owned and -operated facilities, the company announced Thursday. "We don't know how every student is affected. But we know they are affected," said U-Haul president John Taylor in a press release. "More and more universities are giving instructions to leave campus and go home. Students and their parents are in need of moving and storage solutions. We have the expertise and network to help, and that's exactly what we're going to do."
U. of Florida offers emergency funding for students
Students who are experiencing "unanticipated expenses" can apply for financial assistance through an Aid-a-Gator application, according to an email sent Thursday by the UF Office for Student Financial Affairs. The assistance is intended to help cover the costs of unanticipated travel, additional technology requirements and other "education-related expenses" in the wake of coronavirus-related changes. Students who receive emergency funding are not expected to pay the aid back, according to the Aid-a-Gator website. "Funds from Aid-a-Gator are intended to be a grant, not a loan, to help our students in need," according to the website. Aid-a-Gator has existed as an emergency fund for students since 2017, when it was first established as a relief fund for students impacted by Hurricane Irma, according to WUFT.
Texas A&M, Blinn, Sam Houston State cancel classes for next week
Texas A&M University, Blinn College District and Sam Houston State University canceled classes through March 20 on Thursday in response to the COVID-19 virus. According to the A&M announcement, everything will be done completely online when students resume classes March 23. Blinn said most courses will be online, but hands-on, skills-based classes such as labs, clinicals and external internships will continue in their current formats. Both schools said the week of canceled classes will allow leaders to plan for the upcoming changes. A&M and Blinn will keep their campus resources, such as dining halls and dorms, open. Texas A&M biomedical sciences junior Emma Townsend said she wants to move back to her hometown, Houston, now that classes are online. However, she has a job at the student recreation center on campus, which she said might keep her in town longer. Townsend said she is glad that classes are moving online because to her it shows that administration is concerned for faculty and students.
Survey of presidents reveals growing divide in confidence, opposition to free college and broad debt forgiveness
At first glance, the overall responses of 746 campus chief executives to Inside Higher Ed's new Survey of College and University Presidents may seem discordantly upbeat, particularly on financial questions. Presidents, whose responses were solicited in January, before the onset of the coronavirus became apparent, seem solidly confident in the financial stability of their campuses, with a record-high 69 percent of all college leaders agreeing that their institution will be financially stable over five years, up from 66 percent last year, and 57 percent saying the same over a 10-year period, the same as in 2019. Most presidents also largely play down the possibility that their institutions could merge or close, with the vast majority (84 percent) saying they've not seriously discussed mergers with their senior campus colleagues and 85 percent saying they don't believe their college should merge with another within five years. But a closer look at the data tells a somewhat different story -- that of a widening divide between the haves and the have-nots, and a hollowing out of the middle.
Experts discuss new regulatory flexibility from the feds on coronavirus measures
The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines that seek to give colleges and universities more regulatory flexibility as they close campuses and move classes online amid coronavirus concerns. A March 5 guidance document included temporary waivers from the feds and accreditors on new or expanded distance education programs. Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum, said much of the new guidance was outlined in what the department released during the 2009 spread of the H1N1 virus. For example, if a student were to test positive for coronavirus or had symptoms, the college could release a statement saying a student tested positive, without identifying the student. Colleges also could send emails to students who shared specific classes with the sick student. While the guidance released today says those situations are typically rare, Vance said that likely will not be the case with coronavirus. For those worried about violating regulations, Vance pointed to a 2009 FERPA regulation that said the department won't second-guess a college's determination in an emergency unless most people would consider it unreasonable.
Preparing for Emergency Online Teaching
When Clemson University held an online-teaching day last August, closing the campus and requiring instructors to teach online, a pandemic was not uppermost on people's minds. But the South Carolina institution did want to ensure that all of its 2,000-plus faculty members and instructors were capable of teaching remotely in case an emergency shuttered the campus. As it turns out, that "eLearning Day" and a similar follow-up event last month were particularly timely. As the coronavirus spreads across the country, leading some campuses to shift instruction online temporarily, Clemson has a handle on what it takes to help its professors transition to remote teaching. Most colleges are planning for a potential or actual disruption this spring. So can other institutions learn from Clemson's experience as they prepare? For one, says Anne Marie Rogers, associate director of learning technology for Clemson Online, many professors are more proficient in online teaching than they think.
Future unclear for support staff on empty college campuses
Amid virus fears, hundreds of colleges and universities have now moved face-to-face instruction online. Some, like the University of Washington, have decided to keep campuses open and to let students decide if they want to stay. Other colleges, however, have said in no uncertain terms that students, barring extraordinary circumstances, need to leave campus. The landscape is changing at an exceptional pace. But for now, the fate of support staff members at these institutions remains unclear. Many office workers are able to take their jobs online and work remotely. But how food service workers, custodians and groundskeepers will fare without meals to serve, wastebaskets to empty or prospective students to impress has yet to be figured out in many places. The possibilities could range from retaining full employment to reduced hours to layoffs or unpaid furlough.
Customers are judging every aspect of every transaction
Columnist Phil Hardwick writes for the Mississippi Business Journal: Once upon a time, I did some research about customer transactions for a company that had an office where customers could come in, sign up for new accounts, make payments on existing accounts and otherwise transact business. My task was to learn more about why customers were coming to the facility to transact business when they could just as easily, actually even more easily, complete the transaction online. What I discovered from one certain customer caused me to rethink business transactions.

SEC, NCAA cancellations over coronavirus shock Mississippi State athletes and coaches
Greg Sankey watched professional basketball come to a stunning halt from his phone screen in Nashville, shocked by the sudden news that foreshadowed the beginning of the end for pro and college sports in America for the foreseeable future. Shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday, Sankey and a swath of the nation's major conference commissioners made the call: The rest of their basketball tournaments were canceled, effective immediately. By Thursday afternoon, every single NCAA Division I conference that had not yet completed its tournament had canceled it. At 3:16 p.m., the NCAA delivered the worst news of all for student-athletes striving for a title: NCAA championships for all winter and spring sports had been officially canceled. That meant no March Madness for men's and women's basketball. No College World Series for baseball. No Women's College World Series for softball. No championships in golf, tennis or outdoor track and field, either.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State sporting events suspended amid coronavirus fears
Around 3:15 p.m. on March 12, 2020, NCAA indefinitely became an acronym for No College Athletics Anymore. In a move that will certainly be remembered and analyzed for years to come, the NCAA announced Thursday afternoon that it canceled all of its winter and spring intercollegiate championship events. This included the 2020 NCAA men's and women's basketball championships, which were scheduled to begin next week, and the College World Series, which normally runs into June. The cancellations came in response to escalating fears about the spread of COVID-19. Conference USA announced an indefinite hiatus Thursday, taking Southern Miss sports off the calendar. The SWAC has suspended all regular season competition until March 31, taking Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State out of commission. And even the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges has suspended operations through March 30.
March without the Madness? April without baseball? Just when we most need diversion
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: It is difficult to imagine going through the month of March without basketball's Madness. That became a reality Thursday afternoon, It is difficult to imagine the calendar rolling into April without Major League Baseball. That's certain now. Mississippi's minor league teams surely will follow suit. In Mississippi, so many compelling sports stories are put on hold, if not ended abruptly. Pearl River Community College's men's basketball team has won 28 games without a defeat and was set to begin play as the only undefeated team in the national tournament at Hutchinson, Kansas. That tournament has been postponed until at least April 20. Vic Schaefer's Mississippi State women's team surely would have been hosting an NCAA Tournament sub-regional next weekend. That entire tournament has been canceled. So has the men's tournament. Mississippi State fans have been holding on to hope Ben Howland's men's team would win a couple games in the SEC Tournament and make the NCAA field. There is no field to make.
'What are you playing for?' LSU waits in uncertainty after College World Series canceled
Freshmen Alex Milazzo and Cade Doughty leaned into the storage compartments of a bus sitting outside Alex Box Stadium on Thursday morning. They grabbed their bags and returned to the locker room. Doughty raised his eyebrows and shrugged. One by one, players trickled toward the bus. They removed their bags less than an hour before they were scheduled to leave for LSU's first Southeastern Conference series of the year against Ole Miss. Staff told them to go inside. "Wild, man," junior shortstop Hal Hughes said as he walked off the bus holding a pillow. Inside the locker room, coach Paul Mainieri held a team meeting. He told the players what the SEC soon announced: the league had suspended athletic competition until March 30 amid the spread of COVID-19. Hours later, at 3:16 p.m., the NCAA announced it had canceled all remaining winter and spring championships, including the College World Series in June, because of the continued spread of coronavirus, an unprecedented decision that left LSU wondering if it will play again this season. "If the College World Series is canceled," Mainieri said, "what are you playing for?"
Hogs' AD Hunter Yurachek: Disruptions without comparison
The college sports world was thrown off its moorings Thursday with the NCAA canceling the remainder of national championships for the winter and spring school terms. The announcement came a little after 3 p.m. in a news release from the NCAA stating the decision was made by NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors. UA Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek, who returned from Nashville, Tenn., with the men's basketball team on Thursday, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette the decisions regarding suspensions and cancellations the past couple of days have been fluid and without precedent. Yurachek is scheduled to meet with UA head coaches and athletic department personnel this morning to further discuss the developing news. The NCAA's decision came hours after the SEC took the unprecedented step of suspending competition in all sports due to the growing threat of the coronavirus around the world.
Masters Postponed After PGA Tour Announces Cancellations
The 2020 Masters tournament, golf's first major championship and a signature, springtime event in American sport, was postponed Friday morning by the Augusta National Golf Club, the hosts of the event. The tournament, which takes place in Augusta, Ga., was scheduled for Apr. 9-12. The club said it hoped it could play the event at some later date. Fred Ridley, the Augusta National chairman, said in a statement: "Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision. We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date." Thursday night, the PGA Tour, which conducts the bulk of the professional golf events in North America, announced it was canceling several tournaments and suspending operations until the week of the Masters. That included the Players Championship, which was canceled after one round was played Thursday. The Masters is the first golf major championship of the year and has been played every year since 1934, except from 1943 to 1945 when it was canceled due to World War II.

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