Friday, March 20, 2020   
IHL Board approves Blackjack Road agreement
The county's ongoing Blackjack Road project took another step forward Thursday morning, with the approval of an interlocal agreement between Mississippi State University and Oktibbeha County. The agreement was taken on consent at the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning meeting Thursday morning in Jackson, and will allow the county and MSU to work cooperatively to improve Blackjack Road. The university will also transfer $1.2 million to the county for the project, and the county and the university will work together to attempt to get a $2 million bond for the project during the 2020 legislative session. If the bond is obtained, the county will reimburse $900,000 to MSU. The total project cost is estimated to be approximately $10 million.
MSU Extension staff member in Pike County tests positive for COVID-19
A Mississippi State University Extension staff member in Pike County has tested positive for the coronavirus. This is the first MSU-affiliated staff member confirmed with a case of COVID-19. The staff member left the Pike County Extension Office in Magnolia after feeling ill. He received test results on Wednesday. Staffers and colleagues are now under self-quarantine. The office will be temporarily closed. MSU will provide a professional cleaning and disinfection procedure for the Magnolia Extension Office in addition to following all applicable COVID-19 response guidelines.
MSU students prepare for online broadcasting class
Mississippi State University students announced all classes will move online starting Monday, but students from one broadcasting class found it a little challenging to stay away from their new studio. The students of Take 30 News are currently still out on spring break. But right now students and teachers are preparing to communicate through a computer screen. "It's making for a difficult process for us but we're adjusting with smiles because we're making the best of what we can do," said Communications Department Head Terry Likes. Students being away from their newly opened television studio may present a challenge. "Obviously the students can't be here live in the studio. Luckily we were able to lay a foundation for the better part of the semester where we were here on campus," said Likes. But how can a class that demands interaction like this possibly move online? "So now it's going to be more individual projects that they can shoot with their phones off campus, submit the work to the professors for critiques," said Likes.
Easy meals to cook from frozen food
As cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) grow across the United States, many families are cooking at home. Natasha Haynes, a family and consumer science agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said freezing meats and other items is a great way to keep a supply of perishable foods on hand. However, she reminds people to follow U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for safe thawing when it comes time to use the items. "Don't thaw meats and poultry on the counter or in hot water," said Haynes. "Put these items in the refrigerator a day or two before you plan to use them. If you need to thaw items quicker, you can put them in a sealed plastic bag and submerge the bagged item in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to maintain a safe temperature. You can also use the microwave's defrost feature. Be sure to cook the items immediately after thawing if you use the cold water or microwave method."
Cotton District Arts Festival officially postponed
With the continued spread of the coronavirus across Mississippi and the transfer of all Mississippi State University spring semester courses to online, the Starkville Area Arts Council and Cotton District Arts Festival members have officially postponed the event. At the moment, SAAC President John Bateman said they are unable to confirm potential dates but are working with the city of Starkville and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership on options. "The goal is to continue to plan the festival as much as we can, which means identifying the musicians, food vendors, artisans, volunteer groups and sponsors so that when we have an all-clear we can proceed without starting from scratch," Bateman said. This postponement is not something that happened in this last week alone, Bateman noted, but is the result of meetings regarding the festival over the last three weeks. "There are so many things that go into planning a festival, and we were already looking into this as early as when South by Southwest canceled their festival in Austin, Texas," Bateman said.
Local gyms change policy, close over virus concerns
Workout and exercise facilities are among businesses taking precautions to limit the spread of germs as the entire globe battles the coronavirus pandemic. Three local gyms, all located on University Drive, are taking different precautions to prevent the potential spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). HOTWORX, located at 310 University Drive, is one of many facilities reducing hours, closing now at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. Manager Hayden Anderson said outside of reducing hours, they are greeting patrons with signs about washing hands and sanitizing equipment and are limiting their sauna session to one person per session compared to the two to three maximum usually enforced. While HOTWORX remains open with reduced hours, TaylorMade Fitness: Home of Starkville CrossFit, located at 306 University Drive, is keeping their precautionary measures to sanitation policies. In contrast, OrangeTheory Fitness, located at 401 University Drive, is temporarily closing.
School districts navigate 'uncharted waters' of delivering remote education
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is not the first disaster Cherie Labat has dealt with in her educational career. The Columbus Municipal School District superintendent said she was prepared for this thanks to her experiences teaching on the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and guiding CMSD through the aftermath of the February 2019 tornado in Columbus. School closures statewide extended to April 17 with an order from Gov. Tate Reeves on Thursday morning. Administrators and teachers now have to plan a month's worth of curriculum online and try to help students without broadband internet at home access the same materials as their peers. Legislators have already approved a bill that will allow school district employees to receive full pay during the closure. CMSD, LCSD and the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District already use online learning platforms. Delivering an entire curriculum remotely instead of in person is the main thing teachers have to adjust to doing, CMSD Curriculum Coordinator Debbie Murray said. SOCSD teachers will be available to answer questions from students and parents via email, phone or video call for two hours per day at least three days per week starting March 30, according to a Thursday press release from Superintendent Eddie Peasant.
Multiple Northeast Mississippi COVID-19 cases reported
There are now 80 known presumptive cases of COVID-19 cases in Mississippi, after the State Health Department reported 30 new cases Friday morning. Multiple Northeast Mississippi counties have cases included among the latest Health Department data, including one case in Lafayette, one in Lee, one in Marshall, one in Monroe and three in Tippah. With a previous case reported out of Monroe, that county now has two presumptive cases. The other counties with new presumptive cases reported Friday are Adams, Coahama, DeSoto, Franklin, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Jackson, Lawrence, Leflore, Madison, Pike, Rankin and Webster. Harrison County on the Gulf Coast now has the most reported cases, at eight. Hinds, Leflore and Pearl River counties have seven each.
UMMC, Health Department setting up operations at Jackson fairgrounds
The University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state Health Department and other state agencies are setting up operations at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in Jackson in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak in the state. Trailers and tents going up in the parking lot, but the agencies are not immediately providing additional information about the project. "The tent deployment currently in progress at the Mississippi Fairgrounds Complex is a UMMC-led effort with support from a number of partners, including MSDH, MEMA, DPS, the state Department of Agriculture and Commerce and MDOT, said Marc Rolph, UMMC spokesman. "The planned activities for that location are part of the Medical Center's response to the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Mississippi. This is a big project with many moving parts, which are not ready to be communicated fully. More information about this project will be shared tomorrow." In other locations across the state, coronavirus testing centers are opening, including a drive-through facility in Starkville and a testing facility in Hattiesburg.
UMMC Experts Offer Advice on Dealing with COVID-19 Stressors
You're not sounding the alarm to friends and family just yet, but you're down to a six-pack of toilet paper, and you're kicking yourself for not stocking up when it was on shelves two weeks ago. It's just one more stress to juggle during the current COVID-19 outbreak, with health experts advising Mississippians to hole up at home, and fears about contracting the highly contagious virus a great motivator for seclusion. Take a step back and focus on what's in your power, not what isn't, experts at the University of Mississippi Medical Center say. "I don't have control over whether there will be toilet paper in the store. All I can do is make reasonable attempts to get it, and if worst comes to worst, come up with a plan B," said Dr. Daniel Williams, division chief in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and associate director in the Office of Well-being. "When people don't have things, they get very creative." No matter what is upsetting you, your feelings are normal and nothing to be ashamed of, Williams said. "These are unprecedented times. What we are experiencing is abnormal, and we're having anxiety that we normally wouldn't have," he said. "We need to recalibrate and recognize this as a period of uncertainty, and we need to adjust."
More Young Adults Becoming Sick with Coronavirus
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of those hospitalized with the coronavirus are between 20 and 54. Dr. Christian Weaver, is an infectious disease expert at the Sonny Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson. He says information about the virus is constantly evolving. "Right now we do see some folks that unfortunately are young and have no health issues whatsoever that are getting severe disease. So, again it's very important for to stay away from each other as much as possible and practice good social distancing and hand hygiene," said Weaver. Pediatrician Dr. Morgan McLeod is with the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She says children and some young adults who are infected with the coronavirus may not have any cold or flu-like symptoms. But McLeod says they pose a threat to those around them. According to the CDC the rate of deaths is highest among those 65 and older. Weaver says Mississippi has a sicker population which puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus. He doesn't think enough people are taking the threat of the coronavirus seriously.
Health officials advise postponing elective surgeries
Officials are working to ensure that hospitals and other healthcare facilities in Mississippi are prepared to treat coronavirus patients as the virus spreads. The Mississippi State Department of Health is advising that all elective medical procedures and non-essential medical visits must be postponed at this time in an effort to free up resources. In a news release, the MSDH stated that the following measures should be taken: Physician, hospitals and medical centers must defer elective surgical and diagnostic procedures until COVID-19 spread has been diminished and the supply of protective medical equipment is restored. Physicians and providers should reschedule non-urgent medical appointments for a later date. Dentists must delay non-emergency or routine dental procedures. Patients should reschedule any non-essential procedures, surgeries or medical visits until the threat of COVID-19 is diminished. These measures will protect patients and healthcare professionals by minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19 and preserving valuable protective equipment.
States, schools work on health worker shortage due to virus
States and medical organizations are taking steps to prevent health care workforce shortages, which could emerge because those on the front lines are among the most at risk for contracting COVID-19. Loosening licensure requirements is a big part of these efforts in many states. Half of the U.S. residents exposed to confirmed COVID-19 cases were health care workers, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data issued last week. Medical students, residents and pharmacists are all looking at ways to increase their involvement in combating the pandemic. Medical students may conduct follow-up calls on post-operative patients or staff phone lines for people seeking COVID-19 information, or check in by phone with self-quarantined patients. "Our schools are continuing to evolve and develop new, really meaningful ways for our students to contribute," said Alison Whelan, chief medical education officer for AAMC. She said schools are looking to balance teaching clinical care with public safety.
'Deeply disturbing': Coronavirus impact on Mississippi's economy
Mississippi's economy could take up to a $6.6 billion hit this year as the coronavirus crisis continues to deepen, according to a report referenced in the state's pandemic plan. The plan mentions a 2007 report by the nonprofit group Trust for America's Health that estimates a severe flu pandemic would likely cost the Magnolia State's economy about $3.5 billion to $4.9 billion --- 6% of the its annual gross domestic product. After calculating for inflation, that figure today is as much as $6.61 billion. State economist Darrin Webb wrote on Twitter this week that while there's "much we don't know," it's clear the country is headed into a recession. He declined an interview with the Clarion Ledger, saying officials "are trying to get a good estimate of the impact," but it remains a "moving target." "This is a prescriptive recession, meaning it is necessary to stop the spread of the virus by shutting down significant portions of the economy," Webb wrote. He added the current thinking among experts is the country could begin emerging from recession in early 2021 -- but with a slower recovery rate for Mississippi.
Toyota Mississippi worker tests positive for COVID-19
An employee for Toyota Mississippi tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday night, and production was suspended immediately. The employee last worked at the plant on Saturday, March 14, and since then has been off under the care of their personal physician. Toyota did not say where the employee lives. "Once informed of the diagnosis, Toyota Mississippi's onsite physician immediately contacted public health authorities and followed appropriate protocols. The affected employee, as well as all team members who have interacted with the individual, remain in self-quarantine," the automaker said in a statement. Production at the plant has been suspended until April 6. All 2,000 employees will continue to get paid and retain their benefits, Toyota said.
States scramble for their fair share of federal pandemic aid
While it has not yet triggered a war between the states, the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to set up a competition among them as they scramble for limited federal resources. As it becomes clearer the country doesn't have the equipment it needs to test for or treat COVID-19, state and local officials are urging Congress and administration to prioritize funding and supplies to sustain a continued public health response. The Strategic National Stockpile, a program managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, allots supplies to states and four large metropolitan areas --- New York, Los Angeles County, Chicago and the District of Columbia --- based on population figures from the 2010 Census. But states seeking equipment like respirator masks, gowns and gloves for health care workers who treat potential COVID-19 cases are already reaching their full allotment, exposing a difficult aspect of the pandemic. "That's what the challenge is going to be," said Juliette Kayyem, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Public Policy and former assistant secretary for Homeland Security in the Obama administration. "How do you have a united approach with 50 states vying for limited resources?"
U.S. Orders Up To A Yearlong Break On Mortgage Payments
Homeowners who have lost income or their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak are getting some relief. Depending on their situation, they should be eligible to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months. Federal regulators, through the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are ordering lenders to offer homeowners flexibility. The move covers about half of all home loans in the U.S. -- those guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie. But regulators expect that the entire mortgage industry will quickly adopt a similar policy. Under the plan, people who have suffered a loss of income can qualify to make reduced payments or be granted a complete pause in payments. Homeowners can't just stop paying their mortgage. "They need to contact their servicer -- that is the lender that they send the check to every month," he says. "That lender will work with them to be able to work out a payment plan. Obviously, we hope to get them back on their feet as soon as possible."
UM commencement postponed, classes to remain online for the rest of the semester
In a campus-wide email, Chancellor Glenn Boyce confirmed the inevitable: students will not return to campus for the remainder of the semester. Boyce also announced that commencement ceremonies will be postponed, not canceled, with the hope that they can be postponed to a later date in the summer. "This is a sad but necessary decision for our university community," Boyce wrote. "A final decision will be driven by public health considerations, depending on how the virus spreads. One way or another, we will find a way to recognize and celebrate the significant achievements of the members of the class of 2020." Boyce's announcement comes as other universities across the south are canceling commencement ceremonies altogether. Both the University of Georgia and University of Florida canceled commencement yesterday. Among other Southeastern Conference schools, Mississippi State University is also postponing commencement with the hope of rescheduling. Boyce also announced that the university is developing an "appointment-based system" to allow students who left belongings in their residence halls to retrieve them at a later point in the semester. He added that the system is not complete and that the timeframe for the appointments will be based on public health considerations.
Second Jackson State University student positive for COVID-19
A second Jackson State University student has tested positive for COVID-19, university officials said Thursday. The first student was one of the first diagnosed in Mississippi. The second was confirmed this week. Mississippi health officials said Thursday that there are 50 COVID-19 cases in the state. JSU officials said the student who most recently tested positive is isolated at a residence hall on campus and is being closely monitored by the university's medical staff and state health officials. Officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health have spoken with those who may have been in contact with the student. JSU extended spring break and the university is moving to online instruction.
Q&A addresses coronavirus concerns for Auburn students, parents
Auburn University has many unknowns in its future: the rest of the spring semester, summer classes and graduation, among a few. The Auburn University Parent and Family Association held a Facebook Live meeting Wednesday evening to try and answer questions and shed light on the unknowns. Lady Cox, assistant vice president for student engagement, and Torey Palmer, program administrator for the Auburn University Parent and Family Association, took questions from parents on the Facebook Live Chat. Parents could tune in and drop their questions in the comment section while Palmer and Cox tried to get through as many as possible. "We appreciate y'all spending the time and talking with us tonight," Palmer said. "It's our hope that we can continue to deliver information and feedback for you as we all go through this together. We're in an unprecedented time in the history of this university."
U. of South Carolina postpones May graduation, students to learn online for rest of semester
As a result of the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, students at the University of South Carolina will not resume in-person classes for the remainder of the semester, and traditional May graduation ceremonies will be postponed. The Thursday afternoon announcement comes after Gov. Henry McMaster announced that all public K-12 schools, colleges and universities would close statewide due to the spreading coronavirus. USC had already decided to extend its spring break and pivot to online learning, which will start as planned on Monday. Online learning will continue through the completion of final exams in May. The university is "committed to and actively exploring options for rescheduled in-person ceremonies when it is safe to host them," according to a news release. The decision on commencement ceremonies will not affect students' ability to complete their degrees.
UGA says member of Honors Program tests positive for COVID-19
An undergraduate in University of Georgia's Honors Program tested positive for the novel coronavirus the school released in a campus-wide email on Thursday. Per the email, the student had not been on campus since March 7, the Saturday before UGA's spring break, and was advised to self-isolate at home, which is not in Athens. This individual is the first UGA student known to have COVID-19, but the identity of the student is not released to ensure anonymity during the outbreak. The university email, sent out to the student body, faculty and staff, asked for those who know the person involved to respect their privacy so they can focus on their health. The University of Georgia will not have students on campus for the rest of the spring semester after the University System of Georgia announced on Monday that all of its 26 universities will have online classes. On Tuesday, UGA announced that graduation commencement is canceled.
Republican Senate plan differs with Democrats' over help for student borrowers
Senate Republicans and Democrats on Thursday unveiled plans to help students saddled by debt during the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis, but a rift quickly developed over how. Meanwhile, the Republican proposal, released late Thursday afternoon, also left Terry Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs for the American Council on Education, "deeply disappointed." At first glance, the plan does not include enough aid to help colleges and universities survive the economic effects of the crisis, he said. Some public and private university presidents are worried their institutions might close, he said. The trillion-dollar Republican package aimed at boosting an economy disrupted by business closures most notably would give $1,200 to Americans who qualify based on income. But it also proposes to give student loan borrowers a break from making payments for up to three months, without interest increasing. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would be allowed to extend the deferments another three months, if she thinks it's necessary. The Republican approach differed fundamentally from the plan proposed by Senate Democratic leaders. As first reported Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, the Democratic plan unveiled Thursday proposes that the federal government pay down borrowers' loans.
Coronavirus upends college: Students in online classes, no graduation
In the span of roughly two weeks, the American higher education system has transformed. Its future is increasingly uncertain. Most classes are now being held online, often for the rest of the semester. Dorms are emptying across the country. Some universities are even postponing or canceling graduation ceremonies scheduled months out. This is all the more surprising given most universities have a reputation for being reticent to change, especially in a short amount of time. Colleges have tried to react quickly to enact measures that would help to stop the virus' spread. On America's campuses, professors and students, many of them international, work in close proximity for long periods of time. Dorm rooms are often shared between multiple individuals, making social distancing next to impossible. All of those changes could threaten colleges' existence. Parents and students are demanding refunds for shortened semesters in the dorm. The value and quality of an elite college education is under scrutiny as universities pivot to makeshift online classes. And it's unclear how students will view colleges once the crisis is over and they're welcomed back on campuses.
'Panic-gogy': Teaching Online Classes During The Coronavirus Pandemic
As colleges across the country pivot online on very short notice, there are a host of complications -- from laptops and Internet access to mental health and financial needs. Digital learning experts have some surprising advice: do less. In a time of virtual reality classrooms and AI-enabled automated tutoring programs, why are the experts in digital teaching calling for professors to simplify? Robin DeRosa is director of the Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. She says, "I think the first thing is we are not building online courses or converting your face to face courses to online learning. Really, what we're doing is we are trying to extend a sense of care to our students and trying to build a community that's going to be able to work together to get through the learning challenges that we have." "The idea here is really to help our students feel included in the process of rethinking education for a challenging time."
Coronavirus origins: genome analysis suggests two viruses may have combined
In the space of a few weeks, we have all learned a lot about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it: SARS-CoV-2. But there have also been a lot of rumours. And while the number of scientific articles on this virus is increasing, there are still many grey areas as to its origins. In which animal species did it occur? A bat, a pangolin or another wild species? Where does it come from? From a cave or a forest in the Chinese province of Hubei, or elsewhere? In December 2019, 27 of the first 41 people hospitalised (66%) passed through a market located in the heart of Wuhan city in Hubei province. But, according to a study conducted at Wuhan Hospital, the very first human case identified did not frequent this market. Instead, a molecular dating estimate based on the SARS-CoV-2 genomic sequences indicates an origin in November. This raises questions about the link between this COVID-19 epidemic and wildlife.
COVID-19 disrupts international student exchange in both directions
For international students studying at U.S. universities that suspended in-person classes, the last week has not been easy. The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that international students can take classes online without it adversely affecting their visa statuses. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities to partially close their campuses, many unanswered questions remain. The American Council on Education and six other major higher education associations wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf on Monday raising some of those questions. Among them: whether there is a possibility to extend the status of students whose visa statuses are set to expire but whose home countries are under health-related travel advisories, making them unable to go home. Another question is how the State Department plans to adjudicate student visa applications if consulates and embassies in countries affected by the outbreak are closed for extended periods. U.S. embassies and consulates in China and India -- two countries that together account for about half of all international students in the U.S. -- have announced disruptions to regular visa services, and the State Department said on Twitter that it is suspending routine visa services in most countries due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Match Day Celebration Will Be Clouded With Coronavirus Concerns
The national tradition known as Match Day is normally a festive celebration for medical students and graduates, who tear open envelopes on stages across the country while hundreds of friends, relatives, and faculty members cheer. On Friday, as more than 40,000 medical students learn where they'll spend the next three to seven years training as residents, Match Day 2020 is likely to be tinged with worry. As they celebrate the next milestone in their careers, they'll also be contemplating their role in battling the Covid-19 pandemic. At noon, Eastern time, students will open emails, rather than envelopes, and are likely to be doing so at home and sharing their news with selfies on Twitter. Residents, or doctors in training, often spend 80 or more hours a week in teaching hospitals, which typically treat some of the nation's poorest and sickest patients. It's a stressful time under normal circumstances. This year, residents may be working even harder as the nation's aging pool of physicians is exposed to infected patients and may need to self-isolate.
A New Normal
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in Mississippi State University's Shackouls Honors College, writes: School systems across the world are now navigating an unprecedented situation. While there have been regular instances where the flu virus has closed schools for days at a time, never since the development of today's modern school systems have the institutions been faced with this level of crisis. In times like these, it becomes clear that schools are so much more than brick and mortar buildings where students go to learn. ... In these schools are educators, administrators, educational support staff, clerical workers, maintenance workers, transportation providers, safety officers, and health care workers (in most settings). Much like large corporations, school systems, regardless of their size, provide a community within the community.

How coronavirus pandemic has affected Mississippi State AD John Cohen
John Cohen usually loves this time of year. He arrives on campus at 6:30 a.m., just before the sun begins to creep over the horizon. Sunrays glisten off the rippling water of Chadwick Lake, which wraps around the Bryan Building that houses Cohen's office. He sees magnolia flowers in full bloom and green leaves beginning to sprout on trees scattered around the plot of land he roamed as a student from 1988-90. He meanders it now as Mississippi State's athletic director. A sports fan at heart, Cohen never tires of seeing the cross country team out for a morning jog. He craves the sound of crisp contact of rackets colliding with green tennis balls. He relishes in the clanking of metal bats connecting with softballs and baseballs that are sent soaring over the boundaries of their ballparks. This week, the former baseball coach has heard none of that. Not a sound. Not with the novel coronavirus sending more than 300 of Mississippi State's 370 or so student-athletes away from campus in a measure to try to stop the spread of the virus that has affected thousands of people across the world.
Darius Slay gets his wish with trade to Eagles
Darius Slay got what he was waiting for -- a trade out of Detroit and a big new contract. The Lions have agreed to trade Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, ending the standout cornerback's seven-year stint in Detroit. The 29-year-old Slay played at Itawamba Community College and Mississippi State. Agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed the trade Thursday and that Slay has agreed to a three-year, $50 million extension with Philadelphia. The Lions drafted Slay 36th overall in 2013, and he earned All-Pro honors in 2017. Slay wanted a new contract before last season and did not attend Detroit's mandatory minicamp. He ended up reporting to training camp and played well enough to earn a third Pro Bowl nod. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was Detroit's coach when Slay was a rookie in 2013.
MUW's Jason Miller discusses education and more during National Athletic Training Month
Jason Miller found his calling in Carol Shackelford's 11th-grade English class at Union High School. Assigned to write a research paper on a career he might like to pursue after graduating, Miller already had an idea. His brothers John and Scott went on to play college baseball -- Scott at Belhaven University and John at nearby East Central Community College -- but Miller knew he wouldn't follow the same path. Not exactly, anyway. "I knew I wasn't going to be an athlete at the time, but I wanted to be around something where I could still interact with athletes," he said. For the subject of his research paper, Miller picked athletic training. He researched the subject, interviewed some local trainers and "just fell in love with it," he said. Now the head athletic trainer at the Mississippi University for Women, Miller, 40, has stayed in the career he fell in love with more than 20 years ago. March is National Athletic Training Month, and Miller discussed the ins and outs of a field that is often misunderstood. "Athletic trainers are there as the first line of defense for many people," he explained.
Coronavirus cut this USM player's career short. Now, he may join the fight vs. disease.
While some Southern Miss baseball seniors will likely be given a shot to return for another season, at least one has decided it's time to move on from the sport and enter the medical profession during a difficult time for the industry. Senior right-hander Alex Nelms, a product of Gulfport High School, and the rest of the USM baseball team found out on Monday that Conference USA canceled sporting events for the rest of the spring due to the new coronavirus outbreak. The NCAA announced that it will grant an extra season of eligibility to those seniors who want it, but Nelms already has other plans for the 2020-21 school year. "Right now, I've decided to pretty much forego that last year and go ahead and start my journey with medical school," Nelms said in a phone interview with the Sun Herald on Tuesday. "I love baseball, but it's my dream to get through med school and start a career in a field that I love. That's the plan right now." Nelms, 21, was accepted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson in October. With COVID-19 growing into a worldwide pandemic, Nelms has gained a deeper respect for the health profession. He also realizes that he'll be entering a challenging environment as he begins his medical studies.
LSU's training room remains open amid coronavirus concerns; 'we're here if they need anything'
The LSU athletic training facility is quiet, real quiet. On any normal March morning, the room might have a casual bustle: a handful of athletes receiving treatment for recent bang-ups and injuries, other healthy players just sitting around, their voices filling the room with jokes and chatter and laughter. Instead, the facility is nearly empty. About four to five athletes from all LSU's sports will trickle in during the morning, LSU athletic training director Jack Marucci said, and maybe four to five more will come through in the afternoon. That's all that's left after the spread of the novel coronavirus forced the NCAA, the collegiate athletic conferences and their member schools to shut down all athletic activities a week ago. The athletic training facility is one of the only remaining outposts for athletes who have stayed behind. This despite what LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said on a conference call Monday that although the school has advised students to return home. But since some students might not have stable homes, there are some athletes that "staying here is in their best interest," and the training room would remain open so athletes can get medical attention and medical care.
Greg Byrne lends insight into how Alabama planned, responded to COVID-19
It's been a dizzying whirlwind the past week -- a domino effect of cancelations as the sports world adapted to the health crisis gripping our planet. For Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne, that's meant a consistent stream of meetings and conversations to organize efforts with staff members and coaches scattered instead of in a central office location. Byrne spent almost 30 minutes Thursday answering questions from local reporters about the new realities brought on by the coronavirus. First off, the health of athletes and coaches. Has anyone tested positive for COVID-19? "There are no student athletes at the University of Alabama that I am aware of," Byrne said. Byrne was cautious answering a question about how many athletes had been tested. Citing legal reasons, Byrne said he wasn't comfortable discussing specifics.
Bryant-Denny Stadium renovation continues, on schedule
In a spring break ghost town, the most noise in Tuscaloosa this week came from the western fringe of the Alabama campus. Construction crews were still working on the Bryant-Denny Stadium renovations and the handful of residential buildings going up in its shadow. Coronavirus-related statewide restrictions on gatherings have not impacted the work on Alabama's 101,821-seat football stadium. "The construction continues," Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said Thursday afternoon. "We're on schedule. It's been a wet spring but I can tell you we've had a regular conversation with our general contractor to make sure they're taking necessary steps during this new reality we're in." Byrne, on a teleconference with local reporters, was later asked if could see a point where the outbreak worsened to a point construction would be halted. "Obviously, the health and wellness has been a driver here," Byrne said.
College football facing big puzzle
One week of coronavirus suspensions has those connected to college football considering just about every scenario imaginable. Included is the one that no one really wants to contemplate at this early stage: The possibility of having no more practices before the traditional start of training camps in early August. Beyond that, will concerns over the spread of the virus disrupt the 2020 college football schedule? No one knows the answer to those questions yet. For SEC schools like the University of Arkansas, the current mandates call for no spring game and no practices until at least April 16. For Coach Sam Pittman and the first-year staff of the Arkansas Razorbacks, spring drills obviously loomed large in implementing new schemes, verbiage and the Pittman culture. "I'll let you know Sept. 5," Yurachek said, adding levity to an otherwise business-like news conference. "But obviously it's something Coach Pittman and I have had discussions about..."
UF, Dan Mullen working on contract extension
After going 21-5 and leading the Florida Gators to consecutive New Year's Six bowl games in his first two seasons in Gainesville, head football coach Dan Mullen is due a raise and a contract extension. He's going to get both. It's just a matter of when now. UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said last week that he's been in discussions with Mullen's agent about a contract extension, but does not have a timetable for closing the deal. "I don't know," Stricklin said. "I expect Dan to be here a long time." There were indications from Stricklin and Mullen at the end of the 2019 regular season in December that a contract extension and raise would be coming for Mullen. At that time Mullen's name had come up as a possible candidate for several NFL jobs, mainly Dallas, where the Cowboys' quarterback is Dak Prescott, who Mullen coached and developed at Mississippi State. Mullen said he was flattered by the perceived interest from the NFL and considered it a compliment, but had no intention of leaving UF at this stage of his coaching career.
Texas A&M athletes cope with season losses amid coronavirus concerns
With two consecutive wins over No. 17 Auburn and Arkansas, trajectory was high for the Texas A&M men's basketball team as it hit the road for the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville. However, before they could even take the court for pregame shoot around, the whole tournament was called off due to concerns with the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, leaving plenty of student-athletes, especially seniors, in various states of emotion. "I think it was frustration because we were playing our best ball," Aggie senior guard Mark French said. "I think we finally found the structure and the roles and a formula for how we could win. That was frustrating that we got to that point and it gets cut off." A range of emotions has become a side effect of the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. It's a battle A&M sports psychologist Ryan Pittsinger has been fighting for approximately a month with many Aggie student-athletes.
Inside the booth with Tom Hart as SEC reaches standstill
Tom Hart watched the sports world come to a standstill right in front of his eyes. As a play-by-play commentator for SEC Network, Hart makes a living by understanding and communicating games in real time. The Columbia native arrived in Nashville last Tuesday for the Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament, a trip that was supposed to be bookended by calling games for the XFL. The tournament was set to start Wednesday night, but Hart arrived a day early to prepare for the first round. After settling into his hotel, Hart made the four-block walk to Bridgestone Arena to watch teams practice ahead of the annual event. The novel coronavirus had yet to make its engulfing impact on the country. "Everything was normal. It kind of came up with some of the coaches, but not really," Hart said of discussions about COVID-19 at the practices. All was status quo later Tuesday night as well, as several different SEC groups ended up at the same restaurant three blocks away. But it proved to be the last night of normalcy since.
A chat with Paul Finebaum: What sports shutdown means for Knoxville, Vols
Sports are closed for the foreseeable future, as the nation deploys social distancing efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic. It's unsure when sports will return. It might be several months. The manner in which sports will return is also unclear. "People really are hurting, and they're struggling with this," Paul Finebaum, host of "The Paul Finebaum Show" on the SEC Network and ESPN Radio, said Wednesday during an interview with Knox News. Finebaum offered an optimistic outlook on what sports will mean when the faucet is finally turned back on. "I think they'll return bigger in some ways," Finebaum said. "... Until you don't have something, you don't realize how much you miss it or appreciate it."
Questions around NCAA eligibility extension
Bennett Gagnon said he couldn't sleep the night the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced that its leaders would discuss allowing spring athletes to continue competing, even if their eligibility expires in 2020. Gagnon, a fifth-year track and field runner for Gonzaga University, lay awake thinking about what the extension could mean for him and his teammates. He had already taken out a $30,000 loan to pay tuition for a one-year master of business administration program to continue his education and be eligible to run outdoors this spring, a season that was canceled by the NCAA because of the coronavirus pandemic. Could he afford to forgo another year without a full-time job, take out another loan to pursue a third degree and continue the dream he signed up for at age 17? Gagnon and other college athletes are consumed with questions for the NCAA and its divisional leadership on how exactly an eligibility extension would work for students who play baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse and other spring sports that did not get to compete this year. Athletics directors and coaches are confronting the possibility that if allowed by the NCAA to grant more scholarships, they might not have enough funds to give both to seniors who would be granted an additional year and to freshmen who are starting their collegiate careers.
Saints' Sean Payton tests positive for coronavirus, says he's 'feeling better'
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he announced Thursday after receiving his results. Payton is the first person in NFL circles to come forward about testing positive for COVID-19. Payton told ESPN and the NFL Network that he didn't feel well starting on Sunday, took the test Monday and received the results Thursday afternoon. It is not known at this time where Payton obtained his test. The Saints' skipper has not been hospitalized, and does not have a high fever nor any respiratory issues. He is currently quarantining at home for four more days and he said he's "feeling better" now than he was earlier in the week. Payton, 56, posted a selfie with one of his dogs to Twitter on Thursday, saying he appreciated the well-wishes he received after ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news of Payton's positive test.

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: March 20, 2020Facebook Twitter