Thursday, March 19, 2020   
MSU students gain free eTextbook access in midst of COVID-19 outbreak
Free access to online eTextbooks is available to Mississippi State students through the remainder of the spring semester. The university's bookstore, Barnes & Noble Education, Inc., is teaming up with digital textbook provider VitalSource and leading publishers to help ensure that MSU students are equipped to learn, wherever they are, during the six weeks remaining in the academic year. "We are most appreciative of Barnes & Noble for providing these resources to our students during this unprecedented disruption," said David Shaw, MSU's provost and executive vice president. "Thanks to the support of Barnes & Noble, our faculty and staff, and so many others in the Mississippi State family, we are very confident that our students will be able to finish the semester successfully, earn full credit for their classes, and continue to make academic progress toward earning their degree."
Governor closes public schools through April 17
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Thursday morning that public schools in the state will remain closed through April 17 as part of increasingly heightened efforts to impose social distancing and stem the spread of COVID-19. "I made this decision because I believe it is in the best interest of all Mississippians," Reeves said, announcing he executive order by a live video on social media. Reeves called this action "perhaps the hardest decision I have ever had to make" in his years of public service. School districts will continue to receive all funds from the state as calculated by the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Teachers will also be paid per usual, the governor said.
Mississippi coronavirus: Schools to close until April 17
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Thursday morning that public schools throughout Mississippi would remain closed until at least April 17 due to the spread of the of coronavirus. Reeves, who is currently in self-quarantine following a trip to Spain, made the announcement in a live video on Facebook. "This is not a decision I take lightly," Reeves said. "...It is perhaps the hardest decision I've ever had to make... I know it is difficult for Mississippi families when schools are shut down." The state is navigating "unprecedented, uncharted waters," Reeves said, but school officials are already finding innovative ways to make sure children continue to learn, including delivering school supplies to children's homes and using "distance learning." "I know our teachers and administrators will step up during these challenging times," Reeves said.
Courts remain open for business amid pandemic
As businesses truncate or close altogether due to the spread of COVID-19, area court systems have remained open to the public and plan to stay that way -- with some caveats. Following President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency Friday, the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down an emergency administrative order mandating that courts have to remain open and "should continue normal business hours as much as possible." However, the Court also ordered judges and clerks to minimize spreading the virus by implementing measures such as limiting court proceedings to only the public and making sure jurors who may have been exposed to the virus don't come into the courthouse. Individual judges have the discretion to control their dockets or postpone trials scheduled through April 10. In response, area circuit courts -- which handle felony criminal cases and some civil matters -- and chancery courts -- which handle divorces, land issues and custody issues -- have remained open and still plan to hold court, at least for now.
Local jails suspend inmate visitations
While COVID-19 spreads throughout the United States and public officials try to limit the amount of direct contact between individuals, jail inmates have even fewer ways to meet with family and loved ones. Both Lowndes County Adult Detention Center and Oktibbeha County Jail have suspended all visitations that aren't online for the next few weeks. In Lowndes County, where inmates have not been able to meet face-to-face with family members for the last year, that simply means closing down the kiosk in the jail's front lobby, where loved ones could speak to inmates through a Skype-like program. It's a different story in Oktibbeha County, where family members traditionally could come speak with inmates through a glass or meet with them in person, said Sheriff Steve Gladney. "We're just trying to limit as much contact with the public as possible," Gladney said. Gladney said inmates are not congregating in large groups anymore, except for outside exercise for an hour each day. For the most part, he said, they are in their cells or pods, areas with a limited number of inmates.
Mississippi coronavirus: UMMC warns of 'tidal wave' of patients
A nurse at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is among those who have tested positive for the COVID-19 strain of the novel coronavirus. It's the second positive case of the virus at the center and medical campus. The center reported on Sunday that a student tested positive. A Jackson State University student was reported as positive the same day. Both the nurse and the students are being self-isolated. UMMC officials made the announcement about the nurse at a revealing press conference on Wednesday where they said the center was preparing for a worst-case scenario with the virus, but admitted that might not be enough. "This is a rapidly-spreading situation ... a tidal wave of patients are about to hit us," said Dr. Alan Jones, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. The center is preparing for a surge in patients. Given the scope of the expected outbreak, the center will receive an allocation of supplies based on its size, said Dr. Lou Ann Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
UMMC doctors issue COVID-19 warning
Doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are issuing a stern warning to the public. Dr. Alan Jones said the COVID-19 outbreak is a historic moment in time. "This something that none of us in our lifetime have seen. This is not to be taken lightly," Jones said. UMMC officials said the spread has started in the Jackson metro area. "We are ramping up all of our contingency planning to be prepared for a tidal wave of patients that we know is about to hit us," Jones said. Hospital officials said they're concerned about the supply chain of personal protective equipment, known as PPE. UMMC is conserving masks, gloves and eye shields needed by doctors who treat critically ill patients. Doctors said people with symptoms should not go to the emergency room. They should first call their health care provider and stay at home. Physicians are also asking people to abide by the guidelines from the White House to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
UMMC health experts preparing for 'tidal wave' of patients
With the number of coronavirus cases climbing daily, a team of health experts with The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) are taking action now to prepare for what's to come. "We are bringing to bear the full force of resources that we have to address this," said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine. UMMC is preparing to face the virus the best way they know how, but the bottom line is health experts say it's nearly impossible to prepare for a pandemic. "This is truly something that in 50 years school aged children will be reading about this," said Dr. Alan Jones, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine So far one UMMC student and one UMMC nurse has tested positive for the virus. Both are at home recovering. Right now, there are currently no patients at UMMC being treated for the virus but that could quickly change.
Mississippi researchers working on another coronavirus test
Leaders at the University of Mississippi Medical Center said Wednesday that physicians and researchers there are working to develop a test for the new coronavirus amid high demand for test kits nationwide. Many Mississippi government agencies, meanwhile, are limiting activities because of the global pandemic. The state reported 34 confirmed cases of the virus as of Wednesday, up from 21 Tuesday. The state Health Department said 513 people had been tested in Mississippi by Wednesday. Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said it will likely be a couple of weeks before teams there develop test kits. UMMC's top executive, Dr. LouAnn Woodward, said the medical center is working to increase telehealth capacity to screen patients remotely.
Coronavirus in Mississippi: 16 new cases reported, total jumps to 50
The state Health Department on Thursday announced another 16 cases of the novel coronavirus in Mississippi, with new cases in DeSoto, Forrest, Harrison, Holmes, Jackson, Jones, Pearl River, Smith, Walthall, Wilkinson, Winston and Yazoo counties. The state's total now stands at 50, with no deaths reported so far. The department said it has tested 602 people as of Thursday. The first case was reported in the state on March 11. The virus has now been reported in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. Tennessee and Louisiana have confirmed multiple cases. There were 347 cases in Louisiana with eight deaths reported as of Thursday morning. So far, there have been 98 cases in Tennessee, according to the state's Department of Health.
Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson Provides Update on MDAC Functions
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson provided an update on the functions of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce during this COVID-19 emergency. Commissioner Gipson assures the public that essential functions of the department continue without disruption in order to support farmers and ensure the flow of commerce with no interruptions of supplies. While MDAC office buildings are closed to the public, many employees are working from home, or they are at home on administrative leave. In response to COVID-19, the Commissioner announced the establishment of a task force within the agency to work on immediate issues relating to the emergency that impact farmers and industry. "I have created a COVID-19 Taskforce to look at ways we can work with all those we serve and regulate to ensure commerce continues while protecting public health. Members of that Taskforce are already working with farmers and industry to find creative ways keep commerce moving while still abiding by state and federal laws," said Commissioner Gipson.
Toyota Mississippi suspending production Monday, Tuesday
Toyota is temporarily suspending production at all of its automobile and components plants in North America, including Canada, Mexico and the U.S., closing Monday and Tuesday and resuming production on Wednesday, March 25. "This action is being taken to help ensure the health and safety of our employees, and due to an anticipated decline in market demand related to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," the automaker said. "We will conduct a thorough cleaning at all of our manufacturing facilities during the shutdown. This also will allow Toyota employees to prepare and adjust family plans in relation to regional directives to close schools." Toyota Mississippi, which began production in 2011, employs some 2,000 team members. The automaker said it will continue to offer full pay to all of them during the down time on Monday and Tuesday.
Coast brewery planned to make a hard seltzer, but they made hand sanitizer instead
Lazy Magnolia Brewing has been on the Mississippi Coast for 15 years. They're known for their ales, but as cases of the new coronavirus began to rise in Mississippi, co-owner Leslie Henderson saw something distilleries across the country were doing to help their communities. The brewery had been looking at making flavored seltzers, thanks to the popularity of White Claw and other hard seltzers over the past year. But that project was put on hold. Instead, they decided to use those materials to make something the community needed during the COVID-19 pandemic -- hand sanitizer. "We had a drum of denatured food-grade alcohol," Henderson said. "We found a recipe from the World Health Organization to make an effective hand sanitizer." The project was announced on the brewery's Facebook page Monday afternoon. When Henderson arrived 45 minutes before the doors opened, people were already lined up. "I honestly thought I'd be making a couple gallons a day, and giving it to friends, family and some employees," Henderson said. "It was completely unexpected. It recoups cost of materials, keeps people employed, and gives the community something it needs."
Mississippi ABC OKs temporary curbside liquor store sales, no curbside cocktails
The impact of precautionary closures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is widespread among small businesses, but Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control has taken steps to lessen the blow on liquor stores. With restaurants shuttering their dining rooms across the state, and many transitioning to drive-thru or curbside pickup only, liquor stores in Mississippi are now able to complete on-premises curbside delivery to customers age 21 and over. Payment may be processed via phone or electronically, according to the amendment. The temporary amendment, which went into effect March 16, will go into effect for up to 120 days. Alabama ABC announced a similar measure this week, as a response to the state closing all its state-owned and controlled package stores. Mississippi does not have state-owned package stores, but according to ABC Deputy Chief of Enforcement Pat Daily, the measure was still seen as a necessity to keep privately owned liquor stores afloat.
Pearl River Resort temporarily suspending gaming operations
Pearl River Resort is temporarily suspending operations at gaming properties, it was announced Wednesday evening. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) Tribal government officials and Pearl River Resort Executive leaders have made the decision to temporarily close all Pearl River Resort properties due to nationwide COVID-19 virus concerns, the Tribe said in a release at 6:20 p.m. "It is important to note that no cases of COVID-19 have been detected or reported at any of the Resort properties or on MBCI Tribal land," the release said. The temporary suspension of gaming operations will be effective March 18, 2020 thru March 31, 2020. Hotel operations will also be suspended effective at noon on March 19, 2020 thru March 31, 2020. The Pearl River Resort properties impacted include: Silver Star Hotel and Casino, Golden Moon Hotel and Casino, Bok Homa Casino. Not affected by the closure are the Dancing Rabbit Golf Course, Dancing Rabbit Inn, Pearl River Graphics Printing and the Welcome Center.
Attorney: Mississippi jails not prepared for virus pandemic
Mississippi jails are not prepared to handle a coronavirus outbreak, and judges should consider releasing people who are waiting for trial on nonviolent crimes but cannot afford to post bail, a human rights attorney said. Cliff Johnson is director of the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi law school. The center tracks jail and prison conditions, and it released new figures Wednesday showing a continued pattern of thousands of people remaining in Mississippi jails for months because they cannot afford to post bail. Johnson said jails could become more dangerous as the new virus spreads. "Mississippi sheriffs will be the first to tell you that they don't have the expertise or the resources to deal with a pandemic like COVID-19," Johnson said Wednesday.
Sports legend's Madison County horse ranch being paid for by nonprofit at center of welfare embezzlement firestorm
Mississippi welfare officials wanted to give state residents a hand up, not a hand out. For some Mississippi children, that meant offering them a chance to spend time with a 1980s-era star running back. For Marcus Dupree, it meant covering the mortgage on his 15-acre ranch, which includes a five-bedroom home, in Madison County. Through a Mississippi Department of Human Services initiative called Families First for Mississippi, run by two nonprofits, the state chose to use welfare dollars to heavily emphasize parenthood and fatherhood as opposed to providing direct assistance to families. Human Services spokesperson Danny Blanton said the department had no information about Dupree's foundation or any programs held on its property. "We can't find anything. I think that just goes to show how shady MCEC's reporting was. Obviously they withheld information," he said.
Governors brace for coronavirus budget cliff as tax dollars evaporate
A plunging stock market. Restaurants, gyms and movie theaters shutting their doors. Workers losing more income each day. It's an unprecedented public crisis, and it's also billions of dollars in state tax revenue that's evaporating quickly -- and scrambling the economic equation for governors and mayors across the nation. The cascading impacts of the novel coronavirus come just as governors, state lawmakers, mayors and city councils would normally be hammering out their budget plans for the coming year. But with no telling how long the coronavirus pandemic will shut down everyday life, a crystal ball may prove as effective as economic formulas for the fiscal year ahead. Governors of both parties are now calling on President Donald Trump and Congress to step in with billions in federal aid and reductions in red tape. They'd also be wise to dust off their playbooks from more than a decade ago when the Great Recession last caused revenues to nose-dive with little notice.
Farm group warns of 'bare shelves' without expedited work visas
Agricultural employers warned of "bare shelves in grocery stores" in a letter to the State Department if it does not find a way to expedite its review of visa applications for foreign agricultural workers as U.S. farmers prepare for spring planting. The Agriculture Workforce Coalition said it welcomed the State Department's decision to review some applications for H-2A agricultural visas after saying on Monday that it was suspending action on all visa applications at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and U.S. consulates throughout Mexico. However, in a Tuesday email, the embassy notified H-2A and H-2B visa applicants that the consulate in Monterrey will give priority to processing people who have held H-2A or H-2B visas in the past 12 months, are seeking to renew those visas and qualify for a waiver from the requirement of an in-person interview. But the coalition said in its letter Tuesday that only a portion of visa seekers will qualify for priority. The employers argue the decision comes as farmers need workers and will delay the arrival of labor on farms. Under the program, workers sign contracts for seasonal work for U.S. growers and enter under H-2A visas sponsored by the growers.
There's little risk of catching COVID-19 through takeout or delivery, health experts say
Not only is it safe to eat takeout during the coronavirus pandemic: It's patriotic. "Help save America," Lori Ann Post, director of Northwestern University's Institute for Public Health and Medicine, says when asked what she would tell people who are reluctant to order food during the current crisis. According to Post, so long as the person receiving food takes reasonable precautions, there is no possible scenario in which he or she would end up contracting the coronavirus. Most importantly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday confirmed that "foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission." That means even if an infected line cook coughs on your sandwich while making it, eating the sandwich won't make you sick (or at least not sick with the coronavirus. Other illnesses, such as norovirus and salmonella, are carried by food.)
How long will Americans be fighting the coronavirus?
In a matter of days, millions of Americans have seen their lives upended by measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. Normally bustling streets are deserted as families hunker down in their homes. Many of those who do venture out try to stay a safe distance from anyone they encounter, even as they line up to buy now-precious commodities like hand sanitizer. Parents juggle childcare as schools close, perhaps for the rest of the school year. And restaurants and bars sit empty as more and more convert to delivery-only options. How long will this last? Scientists say there isn't a simple answer. "In many ways, this situation is unprecedented – we're trying to take some actions to curb the spread and timing of this pandemic," said Stephen Morse, a disease researcher at Columbia University in New York.
U.S. coronavirus growth rates show many states could be close behind Italy and New York
The state of New York now leads the nation in people who are confirmed to have COVID-19. "I don't believe we're going to be able to flatten the curve enough to meet the capacity of the healthcare system" New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned in a press conference on Monday. While the state contemplates more extreme measures to combat the rising flood that is beginning to overwhelm the state's hospitals, other states with fewer confirmed cases may be just days or weeks behind New York. The exponential nature of the growth of viruses like coronavirus means that the trajectory, or curve, of the number of people who have COVID-19 is even more important than the total number when trying to understand the potential risks of the outbreak. States that have few reports of people with the virus but are following the curve of places like New York and Washington, could soon find themselves in a similarly dire situation without strong preventative measures.
Millennials may be at a higher risk for catching coronavirus
A top official on the White House coronavirus task force issued an ominous warning on Wednesday, declaring that more millennials in Italy and France had gotten sick than anticipated because they failed to heed warnings about large gatherings after initials warnings than focused on the elderly. "There are concerning reports coming out of France and Italy about some young people getting seriously ill, and very seriously ill, in the ICU," Dr. Deborah Birx said at the White House daily briefing on the pandemic. Part of the cause may be that health officials worldwide may have minimized the risk to young people compared to the elderly. "We think part of this may be that people heeded the early data coming out of China and coming out of South Korea about the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions were at particular risk," Birx said. "We cannot have these large gatherings that continue to occur throughout the country for people who are off work to then be socializing in large groups and spreading the virus."
CDC analysis shows coronavirus poses serious risk for younger people
Early data analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that younger Americans are at substantial risk of experiencing serious medical problems from the coronavirus sweeping the globe. That data runs counter to some of the early messaging from public health officials in other parts of the world. A new CDC analysis of more than 2,400 cases of COVID-19 that have occurred in the United States in the last month shows that between 1 in 7 and 1 in 5 people between the ages of 20 and 44 in the sample of those who are confirmed cases require hospitalization, a level significantly higher than the hospitalization rates for influenza. "Lots of young people are getting hospitalized, a lot more than we're messaging, and, yes, maybe you don't die, but living with a damaged lung or damaged organ is not a good outcome," said Prabhjot Singh, a physician and health systems expert at Mount Sinai Health System and the Icahn School of Medicine.
Alcorn State is the latest Mississippi university to postpone graduation ceremonies
Universities across Mississippi are postponing their spring commencement ceremonies because of the coronavirus. Alcorn University is the latest to announce the postponement, saying in a letter to students Wednesday, "this was not an easy decision as we are keenly aware of the importance and significance of this day for our graduates and their families." According to the letter, the Institute of Higher Learning has recommended that "traditional commencement exercises be indefinitely postponed." Jackson State also said Wednesday the university has indefinitely postponed its undergraduate and graduate commencements originally scheduled for May 1 and May 2. Mississippi State University announced Tuesday it would postpone all of its spring commencement ceremonies as a result of the coronavirus outbreak "Commencement is one of MSU's most meaningful and cherished traditions, one that our students and their families have earned. As an institution, MSU remains committed to celebrating our graduates at a safe and appropriate time," the release said. The University of Southern Mississippi said that it would likely hold its commencement ceremonies during the latter part of the summer.
Alcorn postpones spring graduation, alumni weekend events
In a letter to the "Alcorn State University Community" Wednesday, Alcorn State President Felecia Nave announced the school's annual Alumni Reunion Weekend and spring commencement have been "postponed until further notice." The move is in response to the threat posed by the spread of the COVID-19 virus and follows similar announcements by a number of universities and colleges throughout Mississippi.
JSU Cancels All University-Sponsored Events, Postpones Spring Commencement
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Jackson State University's Acting President Thomas K. Hudson announces that all university-sponsored events are canceled for the duration of the semester and said this decision will affect spring commencement ceremonies. Hudson said, "It is also with great consideration that we have decided to indefinitely postpone graduate and undergraduate commencement initially scheduled for Friday, May 1, and Saturday, May 2. Information regarding the conferring of degrees will be communicated at a later date." He reiterated the safety of the entire campus. "It is our sole intent to insulate our students, faculty, staff and extended JSU family from this pandemic. The best way to ensure everyone's safety is through the elimination of events where large groups are likely to congregate. We will do our best to reschedule a full participation commencement for the Golden Class of 1970 and the Spring Class of 2020. We will continue to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mississippi State Department of Health and the State Institutions of Higher Learning," Hudson said. While the University remains open with housing and food services available, JSU strongly encourages students to return home.
Mississippi Valley State University postpones spring 2020 graduation ceremony
In response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi Valley State University has postponed its May 2020 graduation ceremony. "This was an extremely tough call to make but it was necessary as we continue to abide by the recommendations from the Institutions of Higher Learning, State Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control," said MVSU President Dr. Jerryl Briggs. Despite the postponement, the university remains committed to celebrating with graduates when it is safe to do so. "While we understand that this is certainly disappointing for our students, we're looking forward to celebrating with our graduates and their family and friends hopefully later this year," Briggs said. Updated plans to celebrate MVSU Spring 2020 graduates will be announced at a later date.
U. of Alabama closes for semester, cancels commencement
The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has made the call to complete the spring semester online, and on-campus commencement ceremonies for graduating seniors have been canceled. Since the university's decision to go online for a short period of time was released, cases in Alabama have almost tripled -- three of which are in Tuscaloosa County. UA stressed in the announcement that students should not return to campus after spring break and are to follow a "staggered plan" for move-out to ensure social distancing, according to the statement. "We are actively exploring and hope to provide alternative means of recognizing the significant achievements of graduates and students earning honors, but it is too early to make those plans firm," according to the statement.
Despite coronavirus campus closure, Auburn University will continue to pay workers
Even if they can't come into work, all Auburn University employees -- including student employees -- will be paid during the campus closure caused by the spread of coronavirus, according to an email from Auburn University Human Resources. The email stated that Jay Gogue asked all employees to be paid "at their regular rate of pay through the spring term, even if they are unable to perform their normal job responsibilities." Auburn University HR stated that "this guidance may change as we consider the University's response to this pandemic."
Spring break kids mob Alabama beaches despite fears
It was another beautiful day in Orange Beach Wednesday as hundreds of tanned and toned spring breakers congregated under the shadow of the Perdido Pass Bridge, as they had done over the previous couple of weeks. Thousands more lounged along Alabama's private and public access beaches, while the rest of us desperately scoured grocery stores for toilet paper and questioned if six feet really is enough social distance. But this beach, as every decal in the parking lot said, is the Salt Life. Things are different here. "The only corona here is the one I'm drinking," said Scotty Grier, who was enjoying the day with his girlfriend and friends. Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon told Tuesday he would like to close the public access beaches to ensure his community remains unaffected. However, Governor Kay Ivey has so far resisted those calls. She said during a press conference that closing the beaches was being considered.
Bryan, College Station officials close bars, restaurant dining rooms
Bryan and College Station leaders ordered bar and restaurant dining rooms to close and prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 people as of Wednesday night -- a change that has some local owners shutting their doors as others scramble to find new ways to deliver food. The rules, a joint statement states, follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement comes after both cities issued declarations of disasters on Tuesday. The orders will be in effect as long as the declaration of disaster remains in place. Wednesday's decision was a collaborative effort between city officials, the Brazos County Health District and the newly established Bryan-College Station Independent Restaurant Group, which represents dozens of restaurants that employ more than 1,000 people.
Mizzou leader, a highly anticipated last-minute candidate, advances in UCF president search
A highly sought-after candidate interviewed for the University of Central Florida presidency on Wednesday, just two days before trustees are expected to fill the post vacated more than a year ago when Dale Whittaker resigned. Though the candidate, University of Missouri chancellor Alexander Cartwright, was not publicly revealed until Wednesday, members of a search committee had been pursuing him for weeks, in a process their consultant described as "rather tenacious, on the verge of stalking him." Committee members, who were tasked with narrowing the applicant pool to a handful of finalists, interviewed Cartwright by teleconference on Wednesday morning and, after a brief discussion, decided unanimously he should move forward in the process. On Friday, UCF's Board of Trustees plans to interview Cartwright and another finalist previously selected by the committee and choose one to be the university's next president. The other contender is Cato Laurencin, professor and former dean of the University of Connecticut's school of medicine.
U. of Missouri asks undergrads living in campus housing to make other plans
The University of Missouri has asked undergraduate students living in university housing to make other plans. "Because public health officials have instructed us to reduce the density of on-campus housing, we are implementing a plan to depopulate Residential Life facilities," said William Stackman, MU vice provost for student affairs, in an email to students. "Unfortunately, we must now ask you to start making plans to move out of university housing." MU will work with students to set departure dates, Stackman said in the email. Students without other housing options, including international students, can work with MU to make arrangements. "We do not want to have any student in a situation where they are searching for housing during this crisis, so it's a matter of, if you have a place to go, please go home," MU spokesperson Christian Basi said. "If you have nowhere else to go, tell us, and we're going to work this out. We will make sure that you have a place to be." Basi estimated Tuesday that about 75% of students living in on-campus housing had left.
Direct coronavirus payments not enough for student loan borrowers
Even though Senate Republicans and President Trump are reportedly considering legislation that would send many Americans $2,000 as part of a new coronavirus stimulus package, advocacy groups say those struggling with student loans need more significant help weathering the economic fallout of the crisis. The advocates suggest measures such as allowing students to defer loan payments. And indeed, Senate Democrats propose the federal government go further and cover student loan payments for financially distressed borrowers. The suggestions are emerging as lawmakers discuss what to include in a new stimulus package, even as the Senate on Wednesday approved the $100 billion measure passed by the House Saturday to require insurers and government health-care programs to provide free coronavirus testing to those who need it and to pay for a new requirement that the federal government and small businesses provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for employees who fall ill from the virus. But speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that bill "has real shortcomings. It does not begin to even cover all of the Americans who will need help in the days ahead."
As Coronavirus Spreads, Universities Stall Their Research to Keep Human Subjects Safe
A basic calculation governs research on human beings: How do the benefits stack up against the risks? The coronavirus pandemic doesn't much alter that calculation for studies that can directly improve the health of seriously ill participants, such as trials of new cancer treatments. But the pandemic could stall other researchers: neuroscientists who put people in MRI scanners to study normal brain functions, business professors who gather them for focus groups, oral historians who take their testimonies, criminal-justice scholars who interview people coming out of prisons. Those kinds of studies, which didn't previously expose the participants to any risk, could now sicken them with Covid-19. That reality is prompting research institutions including Columbia University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the California Institute of Technology to suspend much face-to-face human-subjects research.
Librarians advocate closing campus libraries during coronavirus pandemic
As institutions scale down face-to-face operations to essential personnel only during the pandemic, librarians on some campuses say they're recklessly being put into that group. Rutgers University's faculty union, affiliated with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, for instance, demanded Wednesday that campus libraries be shut down and move entirely to online access. "We have been arguing with Rutgers management for days about closing the libraries, but can no longer wait," Rebecca Givan, associate professor of labor studies and employment relations at the New Brunswick campus and the union's vice president, said in a statement. According to a running list of Association of Research Libraries members, 71 institutions have closed their libraries entirely. Some 21 -- including Rutgers -- have moved to restrict library access to university ID card holders only, and 33 have limited their hours. As of Wednesday evening, five member institution libraries were open with no change in hours: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and the Universities of British Columbia, Chicago and Wisconsin at Madison.
Mass testing, school closings, lockdowns: Countries pick tactics in 'war' against coronavirus
The United States and Europe have stopped hitting the snooze button. After 2 months of mostly waiting and seeing while the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) alarm sounded ever more loudly, many countries have suddenly implemented strict measures to slow the spread of the disease, which the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared a pandemic on 13 March. Thousands of events have been canceled; schools, restaurants, bars, and clubs have been closed; and transit systems are at a standstill. "This is bad," U.S. President Donald Trump finally acknowledged on 16 March. "This is war," his counterpart Emmanuel Macron told the French people the same day. But how to fight that war is still under discussion. The hastily introduced measures vary widely between countries and even within countries. There's little doubt that social distancing---keeping people from getting physically close---can greatly reduce virus transmission: It was essential to bringing China's raging epidemic under control in a matter of weeks.
As Coronavirus Closes Colleges, the Campus Tour Goes Virtual
When a cardboard virtual reality headset from University of Oregon arrived in the mail earlier this year, high school senior Risa Carter saw the device as an interesting attempt by one university to stand out from others at a time when students start to weigh their college choices. Now, the marketing gimmick, used by U of O since 2018, has taken on new importance. COVID-19 fears have caused hundreds of colleges to cancel classes, according to a count by education consultant Bryan Alexander. For U of O, which has canceled campus tours through April 18, those headsets are a new lifeline to students like Carter -- who might have to use digital and online tools to help decide where to attend college in the fall. "I'm looking at the schools I applied to and how they're dealing with the situation," says Carter, a student at Saratoga High School in California. "Are they taking care of their students? Is my college going to take care of me?"

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey 'optimistic' about football season in wake of coronavirus outbreak; eligibility, fall baseball remain fluid
Life for Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey has changed swiftly. Less than two weeks removed from sitting courtside at the SEC women's basketball tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, as renowned acrobat Red Panda performed a halftime show during a semifinal matchup between Mississippi State and Kentucky, Sankey had clearly shifted his attention swiftly by Wednesday as he fielded questions regarding the SEC's approach to the growing coronavirus pandemic on a conference call with media members. "Last Wednesday, literally at this time, we were sitting in a athletics directors meeting in the midst of a discussion about the impacts of the coronavirus," he said in his opening statement. "Our imaginations at that time hadn't gone to the extent we've experienced over the last week -- although we had any number of contingency plans." Sankey also said that his focus remains on going forward with football season as planned when asked if there was a timetable or protocol in which the SEC could cancel football games in bulk, rather than take things week by week.
When will Mississippi State, Ole Miss spring football practices start?
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey held a conference call with the league's baseball coaches in the wake of the cancellation of all SEC spring sports due to the intensification of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the novel coronavirus has greatly affected the livelihood of everyone on that call. It's affected Americans' way of life across the country. In light of it all, Sankey still saw an opportunity for at least a little levity. "I said I'd much rather be talking to some of y'all about baseball umpiring problems over the weekend than what we're talking about now," Sankey told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. "But as we adjust to this new normal, we're going to be talking about a lot of things." The Bulldogs and Rebels were supposed to begin spring football practices this week. A month's worth of work could have culminated in the Maroon and White Game on April 11 and the Grove Bowl on April 18. Those games will no longer take place as previously scheduled.
Greg Sankey addresses immediate future of SEC sports
Optimism is hard to find in college athletics of late. That extends to the Southeastern Conference offices, one day after the league officially canceled all regular season and postseason games, spring football games and pro days for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year. The one notable option left on the table was some form of practice, particularly spring football practice, after the SEC's current suspension of all activity through April 15. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said on a teleconference Wednesday morning that while possible, the likelihood of spring football practice is not high. "If you look at the national public messaging about no gatherings above 50, it's certainly difficult to conduct any football practice under that limitation, and even small numbers have been communicated. 10 has been referenced, thereby making it impossible into May, as has been stated," Sankey said. "I'm not going to be overly optimistic about the return to practice. We haven't fully closed that opportunity, but I think practically, that window's pretty narrow." Sankey's teleconference with media, roughly 40 minutes long, was wide in scope.
Spring football practice could resume, Greg Sankey says, but the 'window is pretty narrow'
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said Wednesday that the league's suspension of athletic activities through April 15 amid concerns of the spread of coronavirus doesn't rule out that spring football practice could resume, but the "window is pretty narrow." The conference canceled all athletic competitions for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic calendar on Tuesday, which included all regular season games, championship events, pro days and spring football games. LSU was scheduled to play its spring football game April 18 at A.W. Mumford Stadium. That scrimmage, per the SEC's suspensions, will not happen. But Sankey said the league still hasn't canceled practices in any sports, including football, beyond April 15. "That doesn't mean we'll be back to normal or practice activities April 16," Sankey said on a conference call Wednesday. "It was just a date certain that allows our administrators to communicate with our coaches, our coaches with our student-athletes that has resulted in the departures from campus."
Georgia Athletic Association staff member tests positive for coronavirus
A University of Georgia Athletic Association staff member tested positive for the coronavirus and is being treated at a local hospital, according to an internal email sent Wednesday. Athletic director Greg McGarity told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he could not discuss the matter. "I can't comment on anything," McGarity said. "The statement stands on its own. I'm not at liberty to discuss anything about it other than what's been announced by the University of Georgia." March 6 was the first day of UGA's spring break. McGarity said federal medical privacy laws such as HIPAA prevent Georgia from revealing the identity of this individual. Also, any employees who traveled out of the country over spring break were also asked to "self-quarantine" for a period of 14 days. Football coach Kirby Smart is among Georgia's athletics employees who are known to be on self-quarantine.
Tennessee Vols coaches preach understanding, health before sports to athletes
Kellie Harper tie-dyed shirts with her son, Jackson, on Monday as part of "creative mom" mode for the Lady Vols basketball coach. The 6-year-old Jackson is home from school for spring break but will be home longer with schools closed due to the coronavirus. "He feels very confident he understands the coronavirus pretty well," Harper said Tuesday. "He says he might not be affected but could affect other people." Amid all the emotions and uncertainties stemming from the coronavirus' effect on sports, Vols coaches are most focused on their athletes understanding what Harper's son already gets. "It's not about us, it's about our country," Vols basketball coach Rick Barnes said. "It's about the safety of our country. It's about making sure we don't do anything -- and again I hope young people understand that. They don't do anything that is going to bring harm to other people by being careless." Barnes preached perspective Tuesday -- a major pause in life being used for reflection, but also understanding priorities.
Hogs' AD Hunter Yurachek: Deficit to close fiscal year
The University of Arkansas stands to lose potentially millions of dollars related to athletic event cancellations prompted by the coronavirus, Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek told UA System trustees Wednesday. At the same time, the university plans to refund its season-ticket holders for the spring sports events have been cancelled, a cost of $1.75 million. Yurachek won't know for a few weeks just how much revenue will be lost from diminished Southeastern Conference distributions, he said, but right now schools are looking at losing $2 million to $3 million each. Prior to cancellations, Yurachek expected about $45 million from the SEC. The university will break even on refunds and possible repayment of sponsorships when factoring in less money spent traveling and conducting other activities, Yurachek said. But it will have a deficit overall because of the loss of SEC funds.
Mizzou, SEC press for eligibility answers
The Southeastern Conference is pressing the NCAA for clarification on granting winter and spring student-athletes an extra year of eligibility. Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk is at the front of the line. Sterk wrote in a letter to the Tigers' fan base Wednesday morning that the 14 SEC schools are hoping for the NCAA's decision on eligibility to be made swiftly "for the well-being of affected student-athletes." "I would expect that a decision on this topic may be rendered by the middle of next week," Sterk wrote. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Wednesday during a conference call that he's open to extending eligibility for impacted athletes. The league compliance office has shared eight pages of analysis and guidelines to help inform NCAA decision-makers. The NCAA announced last week it was exploring rule changes that would provide avenues for Division I student-athletes in spring sports to regain lost eligibility.
Former SEC Network reporter Kaylee Hartung on having coronavirus: 'I knew something was wrong'
Kaylee Hartung hopes her story is a "reality check" for those with mild symptoms. The former SEC Network reporter, who now works for ABC News, tested positive for coronavirus and shared her story with "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. Hartung was in Seattle for a week covering the COVID-19 outbreak for ABC News. Four days after, Wednesday of last week, she developed a runny nose. "Last Thursday, you know when you wake up and you know something is wrong immediately?" Hartung said. "You just feel it in your body. I've had the feeling before when I had the flu. I knew something was off." Hartung described her symptoms as "mild." "No dry cough," she said. "No shortness of breath. No pressure on chest. It was easy for me to say it was nothing to be concerned about." Doctors have told Hartung to rest, hydrate and isolate for 14 days "from the day my symptoms presented." She encouraged all to practice social distancing.
Texas A&M's Dave South content with decision to retire after baseball season canceled
In his 50th year of broadcasting, Texas A&M radio play-by-play man Dave South said he was excited to broadcast all 56 games of Aggie baseball without absences for men's basketball games. Due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, South and the A&M baseball program will miss that mark by 38 games. The Southeastern Conference canceled all spring sports Tuesday, and South, who announced on Feb. 14 he would fully retire from play-by-play duties after this baseball season, said he will stick to his plan to hang up his headphones. "This was my 50th year of collegiate broadcasting," South said. "If all I had to do was one game, that was the goal, to make this 50th year. There's something that had a good sound about 50 rather than, well, 49. So when I got to that first game back in February, I reached my goal." South said he had no hesitation in keeping with his decision to retire when the SEC canceled the season.
AP sources: MLB could skip draft; service time big issue
Major League Baseball is considering skipping its amateur draft this year and putting off the next international signing period as a way to preserve cash while games are affected by the new coronavirus, people familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press. Talks between management and the players' association are ongoing and include the contentious issue of major league service time, which determines eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration. Scheduling has been left open since there is no way to determine when the season could start. With the prospect of expected cash not coming in from tickets, broadcast and sponsorship contracts, teams have told the commissioner's office they are fearful they may have to lay off administrative staff. Signing bonuses for amateur players total about $400 million annually. Baseball moved the first round of the draft to Omaha, Nebraska, ahead of the College World Series in June, but the CWS was canceled last week.
Popular area races determined not to cancel
The organizers of Northeast Mississippi's most popular spring 10-kilometer races are all in wait-and-see mode. There are no plans at this time to cancel the 2020 editions of those events. The Double Decker Spring Run in Oxford, scheduled for April 25, signals the start of three-consecutive Saturdays with popular 10K races in the region. The Corinth Coca-Cola Classic 10K is set for May 2, followed by Tupelo's Gum Tree Run on May 9. And right now, plans for all of those dates remain up in the air. "It's very complicated," said Kenneth Williams, founder of the Coke 10K. "Things are changing by the hour. ... We don't want to rush into making a decision any faster than we have to." In Tupelo, race director Jennifer Martin said she is determined not to cancel the event. "We're sitting and waiting and watching and hoping we don't have to cancel. This year's race may look different, but we're eager to hold the event." This would be the 43rd Gum Tree Run, which includes a 10K race and 2K fun run.

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