Tuesday, March 17, 2020   
SMART routes, Paratransit return with limited service
As the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit or SMART system continues to maneuver through COVID-19 and evaluate best ways to protect transit riders and staff, the routes will be returning with limited service (one Bus Per Route) for the following routes: Boardtown North, Boardtown South, Old Main, Highway 12, Sportsplex and Paratransit. Routes will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and will be limited to nine passengers per bus. Routes will stop from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for cleaning and spraying of all buses. GTR (Airport) will run based on flight schedule Monday through Sunday. The SMART system asks for patience through this process. For questions, please call 662-325-7594 or 662-325-3526. For more information, visit www.smart.msstate.edu.
Monday Profile: Pandemic has third-generation businessman working overtime to keep up
First they came for the hand sanitizer. Then the disinfectant. Then the toilet paper. By Friday afternoon, customers were accosting sales representative E.J. Nolen in the back parking lot of Columbus Paper and Chemical for those basic supplies. Nolen had to turn them away. "It's been crazy," Nolen said. "I've not ever seen it this wild since I've been here. ... It's just been nonstop. But we're trying to do the best we can to get what we can in." Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, hand sanitizer "flew off the shelves" of the warehouse for the janitorial supplies wholesaler on Military Road, and Nolen said there's little hope of getting another shipment before April, maybe even early May. While shipments of toilet paper, paper towels and hand soap are still coming on schedule, those products are "selling a lot faster than they normally would." Nolen admits he looks forward to a "return to normal," the third-generation member of his family's than 50-year-old business is learning that some unpredictability comes with the territory.
Coronavirus cases jump in Mississippi: now at 21
The Mississippi State Department of Health said Mississippi has nine new cases as of Tuesday morning, bringing the state's total to 21. The new cases reported include four in Hinds County, three in LeFlore County and one each in Jackson and Harrison counties. The two new cases brings Mississippi's total of COVID-19 cases to 21 of 389 that were tested as of Tuesday morning. Gov. Tate Reeves is scheduled for a live Facebook chat at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to answer people's questions about new coronavirus in Mississippi. He said people can add their questions as messages to his post about the chat. By Tuesday morning he had more than 500 questions.
Health officials are working to control the virus spread in Mississippi
Transmission of the coronavirus is continuing throughout Mississippi. State health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, says they've tested almost 300 people. At a press event yesterday, he said labs are accepting and testing samples and results are generally available in 24 hours or less. "Right now Mississippi is experiencing low-level community transmission most likely and we're monitoring that very closely. Of course this could change very quickly," said Dobbs. Dobbs recommends Mississippians not to congregate in crowds larger than 10 people, especially those over the age of 65 or living with chronic medical conditions. He is also asking healthcare providers to cancel non-essential clinic visits and delay elective surgeries at hospitals. "So from an outpatient basis recommending if it's not an absolute necessity for someone to come into the medical environment, to delay that for a future date," said Dobbs.
Two coronavirus cases reported in Harrison County
The first two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Harrison County were announced Tuesday morning by Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. CEO Kent Nicaud announced that the tests were performed at the Mississippi Department of Health laboratory and both cases were confirmed to be coronavirus (COVID-19), making them the first in Harrison County to be identified. The hospital didn't provide any age or sex for the patients, but said in a press release the individuals are isolated but not hospitalized, and are at home recovering. The hospital is in contact with the patients. Neither of them were inpatients at Memorial or Stone County campuses, and each patient is self-quarantined at home. "The patients felt ill and sought treatment early, which we have educated the community to do," Nicaud said. "They visited our clinics, where our staff followed the CDC guidelines for suspected COVID-19 patients by isolating each quickly, taking samples safely and working with our state agencies for a diagnosis. The process worked." Nicaud said more COVID-19 cases are expected in South Mississippi.
Mississippi orders casinos to close amid virus concerns
All of Mississippi's state-regulated casinos were ordered to close by midnight Monday to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Mississippi reported 12 confirmed cases of the virus as of Monday. Schools and universities and some museums remained closed. The Mississippi Gaming Commission said in its order closing the casinos that keeping them open "poses an immediate threat to the public peace, health, safety, and general welfare of patrons and employees." State law limits casinos to areas along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. More than 16,400 employees work in the 26 casinos, which are strong tourist attractions. The Mississippi State Department of Health website said that Forrest County had three virus cases by Monday. Copiah, Hinds and Pearl River counties had two each. Hancock, Leflore and Monroe had one each.
'There Is Plenty of Food in the Country'
The aisles and aisles of empty store shelves give the appearance that the United States, improbably and alarmingly, is running out of food. But the nation's biggest retailers, dairy farmers and meat producers say that isn't so. The food supply chain, they say, remains intact and has been ramping up to meet the unprecedented stockpiling brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, shoppers can most likely expect to see empty shelves intermittently, as the nation's network of food producers, distributors and retailers are stretched as never before. Industries that are calibrated to supply consumers with just enough of what they need on a given day cannot keep up with a nationwide surge of relentless shopping fueled in large part by fear. Food suppliers and retailers are now not only struggling to satiate crushing demand for canned soup and oat milk, they are battling a perception that the scary scenes at the grocery store reflect a fundamental breakdown.
'We really don't know what's going on': Confusion abounds as Capitol leaders mull postponing session due to coronavirus
State Sen. Dean Kirby, the Senate president pro-tempore, leaned back in his office desk chair on Monday afternoon and updated the Rules Committee about negotiations between Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn about whether to postpone a legislative session for the first time in recent history. "We really don't know what's going on," Kirby said, minutes after returning from a closed door meeting in Hosemann's office that included Gunn and Rep. Jason White, the House speaker pro-tem. "(Gunn and Hosemann) are trying to work some things out. We've obviously got a serious situation, but we're checking with legal staff to make sure we're doing everything properly." For several hours on Monday afternoon, Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the Capitol wondered aloud why the legislative session had not been postponed as the COVID-19 virus spreads in the state, and as health and government officials have suggested avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people. Democratic House and Senate leaders and the Legislative Black Caucus publicly asked Monday afternoon that legislative leaders postpone the session.
Coronavirus: How Mississippi's major private employers are responding
Amid news of event cancellations and postponements as well as swirling speculation about shutdowns of schools and governments, some of Mississippi's largest private employers are also grappling with how to respond to COVID-19. Nationwide, some businesses have already begun to implement changes as government contemplates what other protections need to be put in place. Walmart, the world's largest retailer and one of Mississippi's largest employers, said over the weekend that 24-hour stores and other locations would cut back their hours. The temporary hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with other Walmart stores also reducing their hours. In Mississippi, automobile manufacturers, meat processors, restaurants, casinos, long-haul trucking companies join retailers like WalMart as some of the state's top private employers. Our reporters asked representatives of these Mississippi companies and industries, which employ thousands of Mississippians statewide, how they're responding to the situation and aiming to keep workers and the public safe.
Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln now making hand sanitizer
While Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company is known for its beer and its pizza, they're now rolling out two new items: rain water, and hand sanitizer. The innovation came after staff members noticed a shortage of sanitizer around town. After realizing they had the necessary items to make it, they quickly found a solution to help out their community in a time of need. "Our own staff said we can't find hand sanitizer anywhere. Whole management crew got together on Friday of last week and said hey, can we do something about this?" co-owner Mark Henderson said. "Can we support the community? We managed to figure out how to make that happen. We said look, we have this raw material, we absolutely can convert it into hand sanitizer. This is an opportunity for us to come together, not lose our minds and not get crazy. We all have the things that we need as a community to make ourselves safe and to really embrace one another. And this is just an opportunity for us to do that."
Amazon To Hire 100,000 Workers To Meet 'Surge In Demand'
Amazon says it plans to hire 100,000 new workers for warehouses and delivery service in the U.S. as more people turn to online shopping for supplies as they're isolated at home during the coronavirus outbreak. Those positions include both full- and part-time jobs "to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon's service during this stressful time," particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public, Amazon executive Dave Clark wrote in a blog post on Monday. The online retailer is also temporarily increasing its pay through April. Amazon says it will add $2 per hour in the U.S. and similar amounts in the United Kingdom and Europe. Amazon's hiring comes at a time when many companies are forced to cut jobs and pay as travel and events grind to a halt in hopes of limiting social contact and slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Amazon last week acknowledged that many household staples and other items on its website were unavailable and that deliveries were taking longer than usual. The company said it was working with the businesses that sell on its platform to resolve both.
Mississippi Museum of Art also shutting down amid corona concerns
The Mississippi Museum of Art is also closing its doors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Museum Director Betsy Bradley sent out this letter Monday: The safety of our staff, you our visitors, and our volunteers is of the utmost importance to us. We are monitoring the environment constantly and making thoughtful decisions as the situation surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus) evolves in the region. Therefore, in an effort to reduce the potential spread of the coronavirus, we will temporarily be closed through April 3. Our public gardens will remain open to offer you a space of beauty, comfort, and peace at this time. To increase social distance and prevent crowds of more than 50 people in close quarters at a time, we are cancelling or postponing all public programs and special events scheduled for the next eight weeks. We are disappointed to have to postpone our celebratory events surrounding the opening of Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. However, we are working on announcing new dates for these events very soon. While we are postponing large social events for the time being, our plans remain for this exhibition to be open on April 4 with our regular visiting hours.
Rep. Bennie Thompson seeking delay in REAL ID implementation
Travelers in Mississippi seeking a REAL ID to come into compliance this fall with Federal guidelines will have to wait until driver's license stations reopen across the state after being closed to mitigate the coronavirus. The United States Department of Homeland Security announced in December 2013 a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act. The measure was passed by Congress in 2005 and was enacted on the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the Federal Government "set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses." Currently, 47 states are compliant with the Act, including Mississippi. For those citizens who access Federal facilities or fly on a regular basis, they must have a new Mississippi driver's license that is REAL ID compliant by October 1, 2020. However, Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS02) is seeking to delay this deadline due to the coronavirus pandemic. "While we recognize the administration's commitment to ensuring the nation's full compliance with the REAL ID Act, the challenges presented by the coronavirus outbreak and its impacts on the aviation industry must lead DHS to delay the October 1 implementation deadline," the Chairs said. "For implementation to go smoothly, DHS would need tens of millions of Americans to get new identifications over the next several months. Creating lines at Departments of Motor Vehicles would be foolish during a pandemic."
Trump administration seeks roughly $850 billion stimulus package for coronavirus economic fallout
The Trump administration is asking Congress to approve a massive economic stimulus package of around $850 billion to stanch the economic free fall caused by the coronavirus, four officials familiar with the planning said Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will present details to Senate Republicans later Tuesday. The package would be mostly devoted to flooding the economy with cash, through a payroll tax cut or other mechanism, two of the officials said, with some $50 billion directed specifically to helping the airline industry. White House officials also want to include more assistance for small businesses and their employees in the legislation, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The talks have taken on more urgency as the economy has shown signs of careening into recession. The Dow Jones industrial average fell almost 3,000 points on Monday and showed signs of a slight rebound on Tuesday.
A chastened President Trump presents a newly somber tone
Before markets started spiraling like 1987's "Black Monday" crash, and even before President Donald Trump heard from state governors and G-7 leaders trying to stave off deaths at home, the president received a series of fresh warnings about the scale of the calamity poised to wash over America. His coronavirus task force presented new information based on overseas models showing how quickly the virus could spread without swift action. And new data he was shown from China overnight highlighted that country's economic collapse -- plunging factory activity and soaring unemployment -- despite its draconian measures to combat the coronavirus crisis. Faced with a reality that the nation he oversees needs to take dramatic action or follow in the footsteps of deeply troubled nations abroad, the president took on a newly somber tone about a virus outbreak he spent months downplaying. In just 24 hours, the president went from telling people filling up their pantries to just "relax," to acknowledging the economy might be careening toward a recession and warning the public they have a narrow window of 15 days to stop the spread of a lethal disease.
Shortage of life-saving ventilators in coronavirus crisis has White House scrambling
Public health officials are preparing to ration a limited supply of ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile should hospitals be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, whose access to the machines could mean the difference between life and death from the respiratory disease. The Trump administration's primary goal is to avoid the depletion of that stockpile by securing new emergency sources of medical ventilation machines. But members of the White House coronavirus task force are gearing up for a flood of requests from states that could begin experiencing shortages in a matter of weeks. Without treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, ventilator machines -- which provide oxygen to those who cannot breathe on their own ---can be a key factor in keeping critically ill patients alive. Two days of crisis meetings held at the Department of Health and Human Services with senior White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner, focused on speeding up the supply chain, as well as the production of other critical hospital equipment, two senior administration officials said.
Why the Coronavirus Hit Italy So Hard
With the world descending deeper and deeper into coronavirus chaos, we all face unnerving unknowns: How long we'll have to remain in isolation; when the pandemic will peak; the depths to which the stock market will tumble. But what's abundantly clear is that this novel disease is most deadly for the elderly. The young may not present any symptoms at all, and this is especially dangerous to their elders, because they can pass the virus on to them without realizing it. Italy has been hit particularly hard, with some 2,000 deaths thus far. Overwhelmed hospital staffers have had to make devastating decisions about who to treat and who they must let perish. The reason why Italy is suffering so badly, write University of Oxford researchers in a new paper in the journal Demographic Science, may be twofold: The country has the second-oldest population on Earth, and its young tend to mingle more often with the elderly, like their grandparents. Such demographic research will be critical in facing down the threat elsewhere, as more countries grapple with a deadly pandemic that's just getting started and learn more about how the virus is transmitted within families and communities.
U. of Mississippi student contracts coronavirus abroad, did not visit Oxford after
A University of Mississippi undergraduate student who was traveling internationally has reported that she tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a statement from the chancellor. The student did not visit Oxford or the university, according to the statement. She returned to her family home in another state and self-isolated. The statement included several updates for the university. The University has prohibited domestic travel for all university-affiliated trips until further notice. The statement "strongly discouraged" all personal international travel. The university is requesting all university community members who traveled internationally to report it through the travel reporting portal. The University Counseling Center is now offering "tele-mental health" in addition to in-person services to promote social distancing. The UCC will be open from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. each day. Parking zone regulations and O.U.T. bus services implemented during spring break will be extended at least through March 20.
Delta State University makes arrangements for campus
Delta State University students were poised to return from spring break this week, but due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, all classes will be taught online beginning March 23 in order to mitigate any potential spread of the disease. Mississippi identified its first case last week, and the Institutions of Higher Learning responded by announcing a schedule change for all eight public universities in the state. In a statement released last week, Delta State President William LaForge announced: "In an effort to be proactive regarding the need to safeguard our university community, and to maximize social distancing, thus slowing down person-to-person transmission, Delta State has made a number of important and timely decisions, and taken several action-oriented steps to immediately modify its campus operations and services," said LaForge. All campus events including the upcoming Winning the Race conference have been canceled until further notice.The Gulf South Conference has suspended all athletic events for an indefinite period.
State Superintendent Carey Wright calls for state testing cancellation amid coronavirus concerns
As coronavirus precautions continue to close businesses and shut down schools, state Superintendent Carey Wright is calling for state testing requirements to be cancelled for the 2019-20 school year. There are 14 assessments for students in grades K-12 required by state or federal law, or state board of education policy. In a statement sent out late Monday afternoon, the Mississippi Department of Education announced that Wright is asking the State Board of Education, which sets policy for the state's 140 public school districts, to suspend state and federal assessment and accountability requirements. The state board of education is scheduled to meet virtually on March 19 at 10 a.m. "This is an unprecedented time in our state and country, and the safety, health and well-being of students, school staff and communities are the MDE's and the Mississippi State Board of Education's top priorities," Wright said.
Closed by COVID-19: Auburn students move out of dorms, prepare for long haul at home
The day started at 6 a.m. when Lowell Sands and his daughter Hallie Sands prepared to fly from Dallas, Texas, back to the Plains, to the place preparing for a pandemic that has altered the typical back-from-spring break routine and replaced it with a sense of urgency, a sense to drop everything and book the earliest flight on Sunday, March 15. "Well, the plan is to pack everything up as quickly as we can so we can head out in 20 minutes," Lowell said, pulling a blue wagon toward the family's car. On-campus students were told by Auburn University Housing that they could grab their belongings on Sunday between noon and 4 p.m., a direction given in the wake of a coronavirus pandemic that has caused campus to be closed until at least April 10. Residence Halls were packed with students and parents grabbing last minute shirts, photos, posters. Only a few people were wearing masks; most went back and forth from car to dorm, gassed and sweaty from one of the first warm days of the year, determined to get in and out as fast as possible.
Coronavirus: U. of Tennessee cancels commencement ceremonies
The University of Tennessee will continue online classes through the end of the semester and will have alternate graduation plans because of concerns about the coronavirus, the university announced on Monday. Traditional graduation ceremonies have been canceled for May. "In an effort to avoid further disruption for our students, faculty and staff, we will move instruction entirely online for the remainder of the spring semester," said interim System President Randy Boyd. "In addition, commencement ceremonies will not be held in May. Each campus is looking at alternative commencement options at this time." Alternate graduation plans have not been announced. All campus events have been canceled in order to avoid large group gatherings. "These are difficult decisions that we did not make lightly," UT-Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said in an email to the UT campus. "Our graduates were looking forward to commencement with their families; our other students wanted to finish the year together on campus; and all of you, our faculty and staff, put tremendous time and effort into your curriculum and your work to support our mission."
Shift to online-only brings lighter moments for U. of Florida
Students on screens and professors in pajamas. University of Florida students and faculty members are adapting to the lightning-fast shift from in-person classes to fully virtual instruction --- a decision that came Wednesday in light of the growing COVID-19 outbreak and was in effect Monday. Many faculty members are using the online conference service called Zoom, which allows them to appear on live video to up to 300 students while also seeing and hearing the students. The switch to online, sudden yet necessary, has left faculty members having to prove their tech-savviness in order to keep the semester running as smoothly as possible. Clay Calvert, a UF eminent scholar in mass communication, said he decided to use the Zoom application and took a Zoom training session given by the university Thursday. "It is kind of a crash course for us all and frankly I've found it fairly easy to use," Calvert said. He said the initial hurdle is over and that faculty members had been helpful to each other, assisting in the move to online. "It will definitely be a challenge on Zoom, it is not impossible," Calvert said.
Coronavirus updates: President Kent Fuchs addresses UF community, no graduation decision, city holds emergency meeting
The city of Gainesville and the University of Florida are making more emergency decisions this week in regard to concerns from COVID-19. UF President Kent Fuchs addressed the UF community through a video message Monday afternoon. Fuchs said that he expects that the university will be making an announcement regarding the status of classes beyond March 30 and the status of big events in April and May, such as graduation, by the end of this week. This comes after the CDC recommended that all gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks. The university-wide graduation ceremony is set for May 1, about seven weeks away. Additionally, Fuchs announced that effective this morning all university travel is prohibited for all UF employees until further notice. Fuchs announced that as of Monday, all 5,000 classes at UF are fully online. He thanked faculty and staff for responding rapidly, and thanked students for their "understanding and flexibility."
Arkansas colleges left bare; housing empties
Some students cited jobs keeping them in town. Others said they wanted at least some semblance of college life. But students still living in residence halls on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus as of Monday also said they were among only a few making the choice to stay on campus after in-person classes were suspended Thursday. "I can probably count on my hands how many people are left on my floor," said Colin Donart, a freshman from Austin, Texas, describing how maybe 100 students lived on his floor of the Maple Hill residence hall before the coronavirus concerns. Residence halls, Greek houses and dining services remained open at UA-Fayetteville on Monday, but while the state's largest public universities have kept campus housing open, several private colleges in the state announced last week that they will quickly be closing dorms as coursework moves to remote instruction done online. "We've had 664 checkouts this year after the announcement of online classes. That is roughly 13 percent of the total 4,950 students living with us this semester," UA spokesman Christopher Spencer said in an email Monday.
U. of South Carolina won't let students stay in campus residences as coronavirus cases rise in state
Days after it announced it was extending spring break and going to online classes, the University of South Carolina said students will not be allowed to stay in on-campus housing because of concerns about coronavirus. USC students "will not be allowed to reside in Columbia campus residence halls unless they demonstrate extenuating circumstances," the university said on its website. Students will not be permitted live in those residences until at least April 5, USC officials said. That includes fraternity and sorority houses. Students with no other housing options can apply to stay in the campus homes. The form is available online and must be submitted by 5 p.m. Monday for consideration. "This decision is based on advice from health care experts and is designed to protect the health and safety of our students and the community," the university statement said. "Students living in close quarters can rapidly spread the coronavirus and significantly increase the chances of a major outbreak."
Texas A&M's The Big Event cancels 2020 service project
The Big Event, the annual service project run by Texas A&M students, has been canceled due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, event organizers announced Monday. The event was scheduled for March 28. Since 1982, The Big Event has become the largest single-day, student-run service project in the nation with tens of thousands of A&M students going out into the Bryan-College Station community each spring to complete various projects for residents. "As disappointed as we are that The Big Event is not possible this year, we are grateful for the opportunity to connect with the community through our job checks, the willingness of our student volunteers, and all the support of our sponsors, vendors, Bryan/College Station, Texas A&M, and other stakeholders," organizers wrote in a statement.
Curators give U. of Missouri System president temporary authority for COVID-19
The president of the University of Missouri System now has temporary authority to implement "lawful policies, procedures or other measures" related to the system's response regarding COVID-19. The new rule would allow Mun Choi to make adjustments to human resources policies such as sick leave, administrative leave and vacation leave as the system responds to the virus threat. As of Monday, there were no COVID-19 cases at MU, in Columbia or in Boone County. The board's three-member Executive Committee unanimously approved the new rule. The meeting was called on short notice after the system learned about 1:30 p.m. that Columbia Public Schools will close Wednesday. "CPS' announcement affects many of our faculty and staff and the arrangements they have made for their families during the work day," UM spokesperson Christian Basi said. "So the reason why we had to call this meeting this quickly was so that the president could make some necessary policy changes quickly."
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders differ in approaches to administrative actions
In the coming weeks or days, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is expected to set off a firestorm of controversy by issuing a new rule to change how the nation's colleges and universities deal with allegations of sexual assault and harassment on campuses. Most controversially, DeVos is expected to require that the accused be able to cross-examine their accusers in a live hearing, a move opponents say would discourage victims from coming forward. This would come after DeVos, on her own and without the consent of Congress, undid an Obama administration rule that made it easier for students to get their student debt forgiven if they were defrauded by a for-profit college. Using her administrative powers, DeVos also repealed Obama's gainful-employment rule, which had threatened for-profits with the loss of federal funds if not enough of their graduates were able to pay off their student loans.
Trump promised to waive student loan interest, but it's unclear if borrowers will see any immediate relief
Three days after President Trump announced he is waiving the interest on federal student loans "to help students and their families" during the coronavirus crisis, the Education Department hasn't released any details about the plan, leaving unanswered questions about whether borrowers' monthly payments will actually go down and if the president even has the authority to make such a decision. While waiving interest might help borrowers in the long term, it won't do much to help those who've lost their jobs during the crisis if they still have to pay the same amount every month, said Ben Miller, vice president for postsecondary education at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress. Miller noted that if borrowers request forbearance, interest would normally still accrue on their unsubsidized loans. So they'd benefit if they do not have to pay the interest, either, he said. However, their monthly payments would only go down if the loan servicers recalculate borrowers' payment amounts, said Miller and other experts such as Justin Draeger, president and CEO of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
Colleges Emptied Dorms Amid Coronavirus Fears. What Can They Do About Off-Campus Housing?
Universities' jurisdiction usually extends only as far as the borders of campus and to university-owned off-campus housing. While officials can do everything in their power to keep students from gathering, their enforcement authority is limited. Some institutions have taken a more aggressive approach to limiting the spread of the virus in off-campus housing. In an email to parents over the weekend, the University of Pennsylvania said students in both on-campus and off-campus housing are expected to vacate by March 17. The university reportedly reached out to landlords for help, calling it a "public-health necessity." Universities aren't entirely helpless when it comes to dealing with off-campus parties. City police officers in Dayton, Ohio, and campus officers from the University of Dayton, clad in riot gear, cleared more than 1,000 people from the streets last week after the university announced it was temporarily closing student housing and moving to an online-education model. The university said in a statement that its officers had shot pepper balls into the crowds of students after they refused to disperse.
Students organize their own aid networks as campuses close for virus
Last Thursday night, Noah French, a sophomore studying aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, couldn't sleep. The university had announced that day that operations were suspended to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. "I was really anxious that whole day," he said. "Right now students don't know what the future holds. They don't know how they're going to be able to pay their rent, pay their utilities." French had seen a spreadsheet made by students at Middlebury College circulating on Twitter. Middlebury had encouraged students early last week to leave the campus. The sheet was a way to coordinate "mutual aid," where students in need could post what would help them out and others who had money, storage space or free housing to offer could post their contact information. The Middlebury sheet was full of entries. "It just made me cry seeing it, because that showed to me that this was very real," French said. That night he created a similar Google spreadsheet for UT Austin students to post the things they need or things they could help with. Students at over a dozen universities have started similar spreadsheets, Facebook groups and resource documents. As more campuses close across the county, these resources continue to grow.
Coronavirus pandemic spotlights inept preparedness
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: To repeat myself, politicians tend to be adept at reactive, tactical political thinking but inept at long-term strategic policy thinking. I wrote about this recently with regard to lack of well thought out, long-term strategies for flood control, transportation and water/sewage infrastructure, and trauma care. So, here we go again with the coronavirus. The President and other top politicians initially reacted with political tactics. The virus, of course, ignored this and continued its inevitable creep across the globe and into the United States. Subsequent steps to combat the virus have also been reactive. Meanwhile, the U.S. is ill prepared to deal with this pandemic. ... Ironically, the military had a long-term strategic plan in place to respond to a pandemic. Orders to execute this plan were issued last week. The rest of us must wait for the reactive, tactical political plan to be figured out and implemented.

Mississippi State basketball coach on coronavirus cancellations: 'Difficult for everybody'
Ben Howland lowered his cellphone and turned to face the back of the bus. He saw his players, many of them with headphones on, mentally preparing for the practice they had ahead of them. Or the one they thought they had ahead of them. The practice that would get them ready to make a serious run through the SEC Tournament. There was some chatter, but soon there was silence. Howland told the team what the world found out moments later --- big news that ultimately served as one of many falling dominoes. The 2020 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament had been canceled. "To get that phone call from my boss was really heartbreaking," Howland told the Clarion Ledger. "I was just in shock. It was hard to keep my emotions under check."
Bulldog coach, players regret not having chance to finish what they started
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Mississippi State's Ben Howland has coached college basketball for 37 years, 24 as a head coach. Only once before has he conducted a team meeting as emotional as the one last Thursday in Nashville when he told his Bulldogs their season was over. "At Pittsburgh in 2001, our first meeting after what happened on 9/11 was extremely emotional for all involved," Howland said Monday. "We had players and assistant coaches who had lost both family and friends. It was a really painful time for all of us." That Pittsburgh team went on to be a Top 10 team, reach the NCAA's Sweet 16 and finish with a 29-6 record. What made last Thursday's meeting so emotional for Howland and his Bulldogs was that they will never find out how far they might have gone. "We were playing our best basketball," Howland said. "We had played ourselves into the position of having a double bye in the SEC Tournament. We only had to win three games to win the tournament. Honestly, I thought we had a really good chance to do that." ... Last Thursday, the team was already on the bus to ride to one final practice in Nashville when Howland received a cellphone call informing him that the SEC Tournament was canceled and the season was over. It was then his task to inform his team.
Analysis: With 2020 season in the books, Mississippi State women should return to Final Four contenders next March
It wasn't supposed to end this way. Just a week ago, a confident Vic Schaefer sat at the podium at Bon Secours Wellness Arena and expressed how proud he was of the growth his youthful Mississippi State team had demonstrated in the SEC Tournament and what that would do for the Bulldogs heading into the NCAA Tournament. Now nine days on from Schaefer's exchange in a time frame that has felt more like a decade than just over a week, the MSU women's basketball season has come to an abrupt halt due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. And while it remains uncertain what the path going forward for women's college basketball will be, the outcries for extra years of eligibility have begun. For spring sport athletes, the NCAA has already granted them. Winter athletes are still awaiting a decision that may not come for weeks. But with that puzzle still being solved, it's worth taking a look at what the roster could bring a season from now when the Bulldogs are again poised to make a run at an SEC championship.
Gerry Logan to step down as Starkville parks director
Gerry Logan will step down at the end of the month from his position as Starkville Parks and Recreation executive director, Mayor Lynn Spruill announced Friday. Logan's last day will be March 30, and he has accepted a position as Mississippi sales representative with MUSCO Sports Lighting, according to his letter of resignation he submitted to the city on Feb. 27. "Family comes first, and it is because of them that I have decided to take on a new challenge," he wrote in the letter. Logan was chosen as executive director in July 2018 and previously served as director of recreation and sports. He replaced Herman Peters, who lost his job after he and four other parks employees were arrested for embezzling from the department. Peters later pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the state. Logan expressed gratitude in his letter to the department staff and credited them for the development of new programs and Starkville's selection to "host tournaments and events at the highest rate in our history."
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum closed until at least April 4
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will be closed to the public through at least April 4, 2020. In line with the other museums in the LeFleur Museum District and across the state and country, the MSHOF will adhere to the safe practices outlined by the Governor and Mayor until the threat of COVID-19 has passed. "With many of our volunteers being senior citizens and many of our visitors being elementary school-aged children, we believe the most prudent course of action is to close short term." said Museum Executive Director, Bill Blackwell. Anyone with events scheduled at the museum may contact the museum offices at 601-982-8264 for more information. Updates will be provided through MSFAME.com and the Museum's social media pages.
'It's an empty feeling, for sure': Will Southern Miss baseball play again in 2020?
Southern Miss coach Scott Berry was able to accomplish things he has never had the chance to do on a spring weekend during his 36 years of involvement with college baseball. "Well, I've done a lot of yard work," Berry said Monday during a phone interview with the Sun Herald. "I killed a turkey on opening day of the (hunting) season on Saturday morning. Those are things I've never been able to do because of baseball, at least not a whole lot. I've never been an avid turkey hunter, but I guess I've turned into an avid turkey hunter." Berry, along with every other college baseball coach and player, is in limbo following the suspension of competition across all of Division I athletics due to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Conference USA, which includes USM, announced the suspension of sporting events Thursday for an indefinite period of time. With each passing day, it appears less likely that any college baseball team will be playing games this season.
USM Athletic Director Jeremy McClain discusses plans in wake of coronavirus crisis
Video: University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Director Jeremy McClain discussed the plans for athletics after Conference USA canceled all spring sporting events to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. All play for basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, golf, cross country, track & field, tennis, volleyball and beach volleyball will not proceed as scheduled. McClain said he's proud of the way Southern Miss has responded to the coronavirus crisis as they continue to navigate uncharted waters. Information about ticketing will be released as soon as it becomes available.
Ole Miss AD Keith Carter: 'We feel like spring is probably finished'
Still operating under a cloud of ambiguity, the Ole Miss athletics department is acting as if the spring sporting period is all but over and will not be coming back. It's been four days since the NCAA made the declaration that they would be canceling all winter and spring championships, including the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournament. It's been three days since the Southeastern Conference pushed their potential restart date for spring sports until April 15. Now on Monday night, Ole Miss and athletics director Keith Carter seem like they're moving forward under the assumption that spring sports will not be happening whatsoever. "With championships closed down and us recommending our student athletes to stay home and shutting down our facilities, it doesn't really lend itself for us to continue playing in the spring," Carter said. "We feel like spring is probably finished." Carter and other athletic directors from across the conference are holding a conference call every morning at 11 a.m. right now, trying to map out the future.
'Just devastation:' How Ole Miss baseball team reacted to coronavirus cancellations
Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco was on a treadmill when it became evident he'd have to give his team a heartbreaking speech for the third time in less than 24 hours. Bianco was on a bus driving back from a game in Monroe, Louisiana, on Wednesday night when he had to tell his players they'd be playing their next three weeks without fans in attendance. He was getting ready for practice the next morning when he had to tell his players that the next three weeks of games had been canceled. Each blow hit harder. The players were crushed, but they practiced hard Thursday morning believing that the season would pick up where it left off on March 31 and the Rebels would continue their pursuit of a College World Series berth. Until that stopped being possible. Around 3 p.m. last Thursday, Bianco was working out on a treadmill and watching ESPN when the news came through. The NCAA had canceled the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, along with all winter and spring championships, including the College World Series. So Bianco walked to the weight room where his players were all working out, blissfully unaware of the bombshell their coach was carrying.
SEC at odds with NCAA over coronavirus response
It's too early in the aftermath of the worldwide suspensions and cancellations of sporting events due to the coronavirus outbreak to say whether the NCAA acted too quickly March 12 in suspending all of its championships for the spring semester. It is not too early to say that the NCAA's announcement Thursday morning not only caught conference commissioners and constituents off guard, it also rankled them. Various SEC personnel who spoke late last week, including SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek, South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner and others did not hide their frustration with the NCAA's lack of communication in the process. Sankey's remarks on the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum Show on Thursday were not hostile, but they also weren't complimentary. After saying there had been plenty of "surprising statement or events" in the previous 36 hours that had made him a bit numb, he added, "[I'm] surprised that we've made a decision now in mid-March to not play baseball or softball national championship events. So I look forward to learning what informed that decision." NCAA president Mark Emmert has been criticized at various points during his nearly 10 years as NCAA president for various reasons, with inadequate communication ranking among them.
LSU's Scott Woodward: players will be taken care of, no changes in employment amid coronavirus concerns
In the midst of a global pandemic, in the sequence of days in which events and festivals and scheduled social gatherings were canceled nationwide because of the spread of coronavirus, as collegiate players and coaches and administrators were banned from any sporting activities, LSU athletic director Scott Woodward caught himself reflecting on the Nigerian town of Oran. Oran, once a French port on the Mediterranean coast, was the subject of a philosophical novel written by Albert Camus in 1947 called "The Plague." Woodward read the novel in a political science course when he attended LSU in the mid-1980s, and its contents, its analysis of how a community takes action only after a serious epidemic has undeniably taken hold, was memorable. It was relevant enough that Woodward used it when talking to his senior staff about coronavirus and the stranglehold it has on society. "We are pressing people to be empathetic and really be concerned about how we treat our fellow human beings, in particular our LSU family," Woodward said. "I couldn't be more emphatic about that point. People are going to be going through trying, tough times right now, whether it's health or employment or financial or mental or whatever."
CDC recommendation, UGA going online further jeopardizes spring football
The most optimistic timeline for a reboot of sporting events was met with a different reality after new government guidance for the gatherings. The Centers for Disease Control on Sunday night recommended organizers cancel or postpone events of 50 people or more over the next eight weeks as a way to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. That would run through May 10, two days after the University of Georgia was scheduled to hold commencement. In a White House news conference Monday afternoon, the number for gatherings was curtailed to no more than 10 people for at least the next 15 days. The future of a Georgia spring football game appears in serious jeopardy and any start of spring football practices for the Bulldogs remain clouded in uncertainty. Especially after the University System of Georgia announced Monday night that classes would be online only for the rest of the semester. G-Day was originally scheduled for April 18 in Sanford Stadium. The SEC on Friday said athletic team activities would be suspended until April 15, but the CDC guidance took that nearly four weeks past that.
Texas A&M's Chennedy Carter weighing WNBA draft option amid uncertain sports landscape
Texas A&M All-American guard Chennedy Carter is weighing the options of returning for her senior season or declaring for the WNBA Draft. "We've talked about it both ways," A&M coach Gary Blair said. "She is the best guard in the WBNA draft that can do what they want them to do, and that's put the ball on the floor and create her own shot." The WNBA draft is scheduled for April 17 in New York. The deadline for underclassmen is April 7. Training camps open April 26 and preseason games start May 1 with the season starting May 15. Those dates, though, could change because of the coronavirus. "I think they might have to extend that deadline a little later in the semester," said Blair, adding that underclassmen probably want to be assured the WNBA season won't be postponed or canceled before they declare. Oregon senior guard Sabrina Ionescu is projected to be the first pick, going to the New York Liberty.
'We would have won the national championship,' Kentucky coach John Calipari says
Sympathy for a team denied by fate from reaching college basketball's grand stage? Bravado that will forever be immune from the need to back up words with deeds? Whatever the prompting, John Calipari declared Kentucky the uncrowned national champions of 2020. "We would have won the national championship," the UK coach said on his radio show Monday night. "But, you know, fate intervenes sometimes. And it's something you have to deal with." Of course, fate came in the form of the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA Tournament was canceled. The victory at Florida had Calipari thinking about a national championship. Even with floor leader Ashton Hagans not making the trip and leading scorer Immanuel Quickley fouling out with 9:04 left, Kentucky overcame an 18-point deficit. The players that Calipari had long said needed to be contributors -- Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang and Nate Sestina -- came up big in Gainesville. "And we won a game we had no business winning," Calipari said. "Which tells you we had a full team going into the tournament. I can't tell you the buzz when we got back." For perspective, and like Calipari surely having no fear of ever being contradicted, Kansas Coach Bill Self spoke confidently of the Jayhawks being primed for a championship run.
Coronavirus not delaying Memphis basketball's NCAA infractions case
The Memphis basketball program's infractions case will continue uninterrupted despite the steps being taken across the country to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. A source familiar with the investigation told The Commercial Appeal the Independent Accountability Resolution Process will proceed along its normal course. If circumstances regarding precautions related to the coronavirus change, those handling Memphis' IARP case will adjust, the source said. NCAA and IARP officials, as well as Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway and the school's athletics director, Laird Veatch, have declined to comment on any specifics of the investigation. The NCAA announced Memphis' case was accepted by the Infractions Referral Committee on March 4, marking the first time one would be handled via the IARP. The IARP was instituted in August 2019. The investigation concerns the school's handling of former star player James Wiseman, who played in three games in November despite being found ineligible by the NCAA.
The Run for the Roses will go on: Kentucky Derby postponed to September
Churchill Downs confirmed Tuesday that the Kentucky Derby will be postponed until September because of concerns about the coronavirus. The Louisville racetrack will hold the premier race for three-year-olds on Sept. 5, officials said. The iconic Thoroughbred race, which is one of the oldest continuously held sporting events in the nation and the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, has traditionally been run on the first Saturday in May. The news came a day after Keeneland announced it also would cancel its entire spring meet rather than race without fans. The Kentucky Derby, held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, draws more than 150,000 fans. Over the week leading up to the event, including Kentucky Oaks Day on Friday, the Louisville track draws more than 350,000 -- good weather and bad. The Kentucky Derby has run consecutively every year since 1875. The last time the Kentucky Derby was not held in May was in 1945, during World War II, when it was held on June 9.
Cowboys put franchise tag on QB Dak Prescott
The Dallas Cowboys have placed their exclusive franchise tag on Dak Prescott, securing the rights to their star quarterback for an estimated $31.5 million while the sides continue working on a long-term deal. The Cowboys announced the decision on their website on Monday, about an hour before the deadline for teams to designate the franchise tag. By using the tag on Prescott, the Cowboys will keep working to get a deal with Amari Cooper as the receiver gets set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts, currently planned for Wednesday. The Cowboys and Prescott, the former Mississippi State standout, have been working on a deal for about a year. The two-time Pro Bowler was one of the best bargains in the NFL last season with a base salary of $2 million as a fourth-round pick in 2016. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said repeatedly he considers Prescott his franchise quarterback, and it's just a matter of time before a deal gets completed.
Tom Brady won't re-sign with New England Patriots in historic NFL move
Tom Brady will be taking a historic step in his football career. The six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback and three-time NFL MVP announced Tuesday he will not return to the New England Patriots after a 20-year run with the franchise. Brady did not reveal which team he would sign with or anything else about his plans beyond his intention to move on from the organization. Brady, 42, is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career on Wednesday, when the new league year officially begins. The Patriots will incur a $13.5 million dead salary cap charge by not re-signing him. Brady's options in free agency are unclear, though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers are among the notable teams that had been linked to him as possible destinations.

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