Monday, March 23, 2020   
MSU Professors Prepare To Begin Teaching Classes Online
Starting Monday all classes at Mississippi State University will be taught online. Students and faculty have spent the past week preparing for the big change. Chris Misun is a broadcast instructor at MSU and admits, having to switch online presents a unique situation for the broadcasting department. However, it's a challenge they're taking head on. Misun said he's taking advantage of resources on campus and he's even having to get creative. While this transition is new to some departments, others are accustomed to being online. The Center for Distance Education has over 50 programs online. Due to their expertise, they've held two dozen training sessions this week to ensure students and faculty have all of the tools they need to be successful. "Mississippi State has done a phenomenal job in thinking about so many aspects of what is needed," said Dr. Susan Seal, executive director for the Center for Distance Education.
Starkville passes restrictions on restaurants, gatherings
Starkville aldermen voted unanimously Friday mandating restaurants to serve customers via takeout, drive-through and delivery only, and restricting social and business gatherings to 10 people or fewer in an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. "I don't think any of us here takes this lightly because we know that when we do this, we're impacting individuals' wages, their jobs, their well-being," Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk said in the special-call meeting. "We recognize the potential damage that's going to come to the business community by doing this, and this is as somber a vote as I believe this board has taken." The resolution is effective immediately and will stay in place for 30 days unless the city or state extends it. Violators would serve a maximum of 90 days in jail and pay a maximum fine of $1,000, and Starkville Police Chief Mark Ballard said enforcement would happen after a few warnings.
MDAC releases new guidance on pesticide applicator certification and licenses
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson announced that the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) is releasing new guidance regarding the testing, certification and licensure of all pesticide operators and applicators regulated in Mississippi in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency. "At this critical time when our farmers are getting ready to plant their crops, it is vital that we make available all resources to them so they can continue providing our food and fiber without disruption. We appreciate the Mississippi State University Extension Service for working with us," said Gipson.
Local auto shops taking precautions, seeing less business due to coronavirus threat
Many businesses in the area are taking extra precautions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, among them automotive shops. With now well over 100 cases of the novel coronavirus in Mississippi, several auto shop owners told the Starkville Daily News they were taking extra precautions to protect their employees and customers. Some of the shop owners also spoke to a drop in customers and business since the start of the pandemic. William Wells, owner of William Wells Tire & Auto in Clayton Village, said he was taking more sanitation precautions including wiping down doorknobs and other surfaces periodically, and providing his employees gloves for tasks done inside of vehicles. "We wipe the door handles inside and out, wipe the windshields, spray Lysol in it, let it set and then we'll work on it," Wells said. Wells also encouraged vehicle owners to focus on essential maintenance and keep elective work on their vehicles to a minimum for the time being.
Hotels 'barely keeping the lights on' during outbreak
Shanqunni Smith's life went from stable to unstable very quickly, she said. "I really had everything mapped out (with) my bills, and now I've got to figure out how I'm going to pay everything," said Smith, a single mother of four. She used to work more than 40 hours per week and now works about 25 as a housekeeper at LaQuinta Inn and Suites in Starkville. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic makes travel inadvisable and all sporting events are canceled for the foreseeable future. Smith and other local hotel employees relied on both for a steady paycheck. Hotel staffing is mostly based on occupancy, and their workers have either had their hours significantly reduced or been laid off entirely. The Starkville Holiday Inn lost about 15 groups, both teams and fans, that would have stayed there for Mississippi State University sporting events, general manager Frederick Chase said. "We're just trying to stay afloat through this crisis and we're trying to carry our staff through the best we can," Chase said.
Kroger adjusting store hours starting Monday
Kroger will be adjusting store hours at its Delta Division stores starting Monday, March 23. Stores will be in operation from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. until further notice. This applies to Kroger stores in West Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Paducah and Murray, Kentucky and Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Seniors 60 years and older and other higher-risk customers as defined by the CDC are invited to shop during the first hour of business, Monday through Thursday, until further notice. Associates will assist anyone who needs additional help while shopping. Kroger is also hiring for immediate store and distribution center openings in the Mid-South area.
249 cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi
There are nearly 250 confirmed cases of COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Mississippi, including two new cases in Lowndes County and three in Oktibbeha County. Mississippi State Department of Health reported 249 cases this morning, a jump of more than 100 from Saturday when the department reported 140 cases. There are six cases in Lowndes County, five in Oktibbeha and one in Clay. The counties with the most cases reported are Hinds (24), De Soto (23) and Harrison (21). Both Columbus and Starkville have passed restrictions on businesses and public gatherings amid the growing number of cases. Restaurants in both cities are now limited to serve customers via takeout, drive-through or delivery only, and all gatherings are restricted to 10 or fewer people. Columbus also imposed a curfew from 10 p.m.-6 a.m., excepting essential travel by those over 18 years old.
How COVID-19 is changing the way funerals are held
The new coronavirus has brought a new dynamic to the business of death. "Now, less is better," said Steve Holland, owner of Holland Funeral Directors in Tupelo. More families are choosing to have small private services, rather than large public ones. "And some have decided not to have a service at all," Holland said Thursday. "They're saying their goodbyes at home privately. Some are going for graveside only." Holland said families began postponing funerals about a week and a half ago. "We do a lot of cremations, so you can wait longer to have a service – we're used to that," he said. "But last week was the first time someone said it was because of the coronavirus." Holland said his business sees a lot of foot traffic and he's walking a tightrope right now. "I'm not personally saying, 'You can have 10 people and no more at a visitation,' but we are encouraging limited numbers," he said. "At our funeral home, we're all huggy and kissy. Now we're distancing ourselves."
Some furniture manufacturers suspending operations
Thousands of furniture manufacturing employees will be idled in the coming days as the coronavirus continues its march. On Sunday, Behold Washington CEO Lyle Harris said the company would stop production at least through Friday. In addition, Southern Motion and Fusion Furniture said they would not open Monday. The companies said results came back positive for one employee on Saturday. He had last been at the Fusion plant Thursday. Southern Motion acquired Fusion last year. "We have been taking every necessary precaution and following every protocol, including daily sanitizing and disinfecting that is being performed several times a day throughout all key areas of the building," Southern Motion posted on Facebook. "In order to properly assess the situation and to protect the health and safety of all of our associates, we made the decision to shut down operations on Monday, March 23 at all Southern Furniture Industries' locations (Southern Motion, Fusion Furniture, Cushions to Go, Recline Design, and Premier Foam)," the company said.
Mississippi gov seeks to help unemployed amid virus outbreak
Confirmed coronavirus infections climbed to more than 200 in Mississippi, and the governor announced plans to provide quicker access to unemployment benefits for residents affected by the outbreak. The more than 200 cases were reported as of 6 p.m. Saturday, according to state health department figures updated Sunday. A single COVID-19 death has been reported in the state. Gov. Tate Reeves on Saturday took action to help relieve burdens on the state's workforce, according to a news release. He signed an executive order instructing the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to expedite payments to unemployed workers and relax collection requirements on employers. "Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and their employees are the people who keep our economy going," the governor said in an announcement made on Facebook Live. "We have worked very closely with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to help employees of small businesses that are having a difficult time keeping their doors open in these challenging times."
Working-class Mississippians were already living hand to mouth. Then along came coronavirus
Shortly after Michelle Duke learned that the restaurant where she works as a bartender, Georgia Blue, had laid off all employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she sent a message to all her coworkers offering to help them apply for unemployment. Filing a claim on a cellphone is near impossible and many don't have desktop computers at home. Plus, navigating the website is tough and some are more savvy than others. Duke has answered questions from 14 of her coworkers, all facing the same conundrum: no income and no idea when they can expect to go back to work. "We're a family," Duke said. "I see them more than I see my family." Duke's coworker Amber Rials visited Duke at home Saturday to use her tablet. With Duke's help finding the right web page to create an account, Rials entered her information but her login attempts failed. When she tried to reset her password, the site could not process the request. When she tried to create another account, it said she already had one and when she tried to login again, her account locked. They called the hotline and spent 35 minutes on hold before deciding to try again later. "We're at a standstill," Rials said. Mississippi doesn't know yet how many people have lost work due to the coronavirus, and the difficulty many face in securing help only adds to the uncertainty.
Mississippi coronavirus: Is a shelter-in-place order coming?
Gov. Tate Reeves is hosting a Facebook live Q&A Monday afternoon, and many Mississippians are already asking what drastic actions the state will take -- and how soon. A post announcing the Q&A quickly garnered more than a thousand comments, many asking about a potential statewide lock down. A spokeswoman for Reeves said he would answer questions about a potential lock down. A statewide lock down or shelter-in-place order seemed otherworldly just weeks ago, but the spread of the coronavirus has quickly created a new reality for America, which had more than 35,000 confirmed cases and 471 deaths as of Monday morning. About a quarter of Americans are currently under a shelter-in-place order, according to the news site Axios, though only one of Mississippi's neighbors -- Louisiana -- has issued such an order. These orders exempt essential businesses, generally meaning grocery stores, pharmacies and banks.
Coronavirus places uncertainty on state budget for legislators when they return
State revenue collections, which have been on an uptick during the past couple of years, are expected to take a dive in the coming months because of an economic slowdown caused by COVID-19. As businesses close to slow the spread of coronavirus and workers lose their jobs or at least their paychecks, the state's two primary sources of revenue could be impacted, the 7 percent sales tax collected on most retail items and the income tax. Other smaller sources of revenue, such as taxes on casinos earning, also will be significantly impacted. House Pro Tem Jason White, R-West, said during a Rules Committee meeting before the session was suspended last week because of coronavirus concerns that state revenue is going to significantly decline "we are thinking in April, May and June." Before the coronavirus hit, legislators, buoyed by the revenue collections which had been improving, were planning to provide teachers a pay raise of at least $1,000 annually, costing about $78 million per year, and also were planning to give state employees a pay raise of a still unspecified amount. But when House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, decide to reconvene the Legislature, presumably sometimes before July 1, the dynamics will be much different.
Analysis: Mississippi wise to close Capitol because of virus
The Mississippi Capitol is a germ and virus factory during any normal legislative session because of all the glad-handing, back-slapping and random hugging. It was clearly in line to become more perilous than usual during the coronavirus pandemic. Legislators voted last week to suspend their session until at least April 1, acting on the recommendation of the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs. "It's been said that the full Legislature is a hub for this disease," Senate President Pro Tempore Dean Kirby, a Republican from Pearl, told his colleagues. "Let's try to keep this situation under control as much as we can. ... This is a tough situation we're in right now. It's a crisis and we all know it." Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people mingle in the Capitol on any given day when the House and Senate are in Jackson. In addition to the 174 legislators, the regulars in the building are legislative staffers, lobbyists, journalists and tour guides. It's a place where social distancing is difficult.
Mississippi collects more than $27M from lottery in 3 months
Revenue from the Mississippi Lottery continues to increase. The state has collected more than $27 million from the lottery that started operating in November. The Mississippi Lottery Corporation said Friday that it deposited $11.6 million into the state treasury. That is the net proceeds from lottery games played during February. The state received $8.4 million from lottery games played during January and $7.6 million from lottery games played during December. Mississippi legislators voted in 2018 to create the games of chance as a way to generate money for infrastructure. Mississippi was one of six states without a lottery, but people from the state were driving to Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee to buy tickets.
Fear of coronavirus keeping some employees away from already understaffed Parchman prison
Fears of the coronavirus are running so high at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman that some employees are staying away, renewing concerns about low staffing at the prison, which is already under investigation by the Justice Department. Lucinda Addison, a case worker, said she has stayed away from Parchman for a week out of fear of catching COVID-19 because she already suffers from diabetes. Experts say those suffering from diabetes may be at higher risk for complications from the disease. Her absence from the prison has stoked fears among inmates and family members that someone at the prison already has tested positive for the novel virus. "It's what we're most afraid of," said J. Cliff Johnson, director of the University of Mississippi's MacArthur Justice Center. "Jails and prisons are America's land-based cruise ships, crammed full of millions, and this disease could infect many of them."
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith joins effort to assist rural hospitals amid COVID-19 pandemic
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith has joined an effort to assist rural hospitals in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday, Senator Hyde-Smith helped to introduce bipartisan legislation to relieve the growing financial crisis facing an overstressed rural health care system with the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). The Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act (S.3559), introduced by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), was offered as negotiations continue on new, massive legislation to continue addressing the health care and economic fallout from COVID-19. "The stress on rural hospitals in Mississippi and across the country was critical before the coronavirus hit, and that stress will only get worse going forward. This new legislation is specifically-intended to help hospitals and other providers to stay open as the pandemic runs its course," Hyde-Smith said. Rural hospitals will be affected as federal and state governments suspend elective surgeries to accommodate mounting coronavirus cases. While medically necessary given the pandemic, these orders could force widespread closures among rural hospitals that rely disproportionately on elective procedures to keep their doors open.
President Trump appears to waffle on shutdown as Congress pursues aid
President Donald Trump expressed qualms Monday about extending the current 15-day shutdown recommended by the federal government, even as his officials warned that the coronavirus crisis is deepening and Congress and the White House struggle to complete a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package. "I didn't expect to be starting off my week with such a dire message for America," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on "CBS This Morning." "Things are going to get worse before they get better. We really need everyone to understand this." Yet only hours earlier, Trump suggested that the remedies may be more harmful than the outbreak in a tweet contradicting the advice of medical experts across the country. In all capital letters, he tweeted: "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go."
'I'm going to keep pushing.' Anthony Fauci tries to make the White House listen to facts of the pandemic
Anthony Fauci, who to many watching the now-regular White House press briefings on the pandemic has become the scientific voice of reason about how to respond to the new coronavirus, runs from place to place in normal times and works long hours. Now, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has even less time to sleep and travels at warp speed, typically racing daily from his office north of Washington, D.C., to his home in the capital, and then to the White House to gather with the Coronavirus Task Force in the Situation Room. He then usually flanks President Donald Trump addressing the media---and when he isn't there, concerned tweets begin immediately. Shortly before he planned to head to the White House for a task force meeting today, he phoned ScienceInsider for a speedy chat. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Coronavirus upends the battle for the House
The impeachment furor that consumed Washington for nearly a year has dissipated amid a far more urgent political storm: the coronavirus outbreak. Any trace of President Donald Trump's impeachment has vanished from Capitol Hill, cable news and the campaign trail. And long gone is the pervasive sense of anxiety that once gripped vulnerable Democrats after their votes to impeach Trump, which they feared could cost them their seats and possibly control of the House. Instead, the battle for Congress is more likely to be redefined by a highly infectious and mysterious virus that has spread into every state, pulverized the economy and thrust lawmakers into a crisis-governing mode unseen since the Great Depression. Campaigning has all but ceased in the traditional sense: Fundraising is down, and campaign officials on both sides say they're being more careful about when and how to attack their opponents.
Federal Reserve Unveils 'Extensive New Measures' To Bolster U.S. Economy
The Federal Reserve says it will buy bonds and mortgage-backed securities "in the amounts needed" to keep markets working smoothly, unveiling a plan that also includes measures to make sure credit is available to businesses and consumers. "While great uncertainty remains, it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions," the Federal Reserve said as it revealed the plans. "Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate." The open-ended plans escalate an earlier emergency move that called for the Federal Open Market Committee to buy at least $500 billion in Treasury securities and at least $200 billion in mortgage-backed securities. The move by the central banking system lifted Dow Jones Industrial Average futures, but the index still stumbled by roughly 3% in early trading, sinking below the 19,000 mark within the first 10 minutes.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul tests positive for COVID-19
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced Sunday. "He is feeling fine and is in quarantine," Paul's office announced. "He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person." Paul, a Republican from Bowling Green, Kentucky, said he was not aware of direct contact with anyone infected and expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine ends, according to his office. Paul is the first U.S. Senator to test positive for COVID-19, but the third member of Congress, according to the Washington Post. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, previously tested positive.
Mississippi college students react to graduation postponements
As cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise in Mississippi, college students across the state are grappling with the disruption and disappointment of their final semester on campus. To be a senior means spending countless hours pulling all-night study sessions and enjoying college life before entering the real world. For many seniors, however, they will not able to enjoy the final moments face to face with their friends. Major universities across the country and the state of Mississippi have shifted to online instruction and postponed commencement ceremonies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In November, Rachel Dumke walked across the football field in front of more than 50,000 fans at Davis Wade Stadium to be crowned homecoming queen at Mississippi State University with homecoming king, Spencer Kirkpatrick. Dumke never thought in her wildest dreams she would be removed from all the things she cherishes on campus four months later. "It's really a bittersweet and bizarre feeling because you do your classes for four years and then it is supposed to be a culmination to the years of hard work," she said.
Making sense of Wall Street: UM chair of economics explains stock market situation
Jon Moen, professor and chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Mississippi, is parsing some of the financial terms zinging around the news amid the COVID-19 pandemic and offering insights into the state of Wall Street during an unprecedented plummet -- one he does not believe is comparable to the Great Recession in 2008. Moen earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago, where the economics program is ranked in the top 1 percent in the nation. He joined the Ole Miss faculty in 1990, after serving as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, one of 12 regional branches of the Federal Reserve System, the country's central banking system. Moen is the author of more than 35 scholarly articles. His most recent research study – "How J. P. Morgan Picked the Winners and Losers in the Panic of 1907: Resolving Adverse Selection and Restoring Surplus to a Frozen Deposit Market" – was accepted for presentation at the 2020 Annual Conference of the Economic History Society at St. Catherine's College at Oxford University.
U. of Alabama seniors lament lack of ceremony
The University of Alabama's announcement last week that all spring activities, including graduation ceremonies, are canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic left thousands of students disappointed. Among those disappointed students were four chemical engineering majors who planned to participate in spring commencement exercises: Eric Sahli of Louisville, Kentucky; Elizabeth Hartmann of Leesburg, Virginia; Tristan Lupinski of Michigan; and Alexis Behrle of Limerick, Pennsylvania. The four students participated in a UA ritual on Thursday, taking photos of themselves in front of the President's Mansion while they wore their graduation cap. They, along with thousands of other potential graduates, will not be able to walk across the stage unless something drastic changes in the guidelines for public gatherings. Right now, university has closed the campus completely and will conduct the rest of the scheduled classes online. No campus gatherings of any kind will take place for the rest of the spring semester as the university does its part to help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Auburn students will have option at end of semester to convert grades to satisfactory, unsatisfactory
After it was announced that students will not return to campus for the remainder of the spring semester, Auburn University Provost Bill Hardgrave said students will have an option to convert their course grades to an "S" for satisfactory or "U" for unsatisfactory at the end of the semester. According to the email, students will be able to opt into "S/U" grading on a course-by-course basis by working with their academic advisors. Standards and requirements for academic progression will still be in effect. Hardgrave also said the course withdrawal deadline had been extended to the last day of classes, April 24.
UGA to refund students amid virus shutdown
The University of Georgia and other state public colleges and universities will refund students millions of dollars in housing charges, meal plan costs and other fees. UGA will begin issuing the refunds March 30, according to a message on the office of UGA's Bursar & Treasury Services. For most fees, the refunds are 46 percent of the fee amount -- not much more than $100 for most students. But refunds for students in UGA dorms and on meal plans will be much larger. Students living in UGA residence halls can also get about half what they paid to live in the dorms -- between roughly $3,000 to $4,000 per semester, depending on the hall. Students on meal plans will get similar refunds of 46 percent of the costs, between about $1,900 and $2,100.
U. of Tennessee employee tests positive for coronavirus
On Sunday, the Knox County Health Department confirmed that an employee at the University of Tennessee has tested positive for coronavirus. In a statement, Chancellor Donde Plowman said the employee was last on campus March 16 during spring break. UT administrators and the health department are reaching out to anyone with whom the employee may have come into close contact. The employee is recovering at home in self-isolation. For privacy reasons, UT will not identify faculty, staff, or students diagnosed with COVID-19. Plowman said that the university expects to "learn of more cases among members of the campus" and that some members of campus community who suspect they may have COVID-19 are self-isolating and awaiting testing and results.
Outbreak rules mean a Match Day at home for Texas A&M med students
Concerns over the coronavirus made for an unconventional Match Day for about 170 future doctors at Texas A&M's five medical school campuses. Rather than gathering together at the Hilton College Station & Conference Center, the 172 students learned Friday morning where they would be doing their residency via email. "In about a four- to five-day period, we went from having something in person to having to decide on alternatives," said Dr. Gary McCord, executive associate dean for student affairs for the Texas A&M College of Medicine. Concerns over COVID-19, though, limited meeting sizes to 250, then to 50 people and finally to just 10 people. Typically, the ceremony gathers 800 to 1,000 people, including friends and family, to celebrate as students open their envelopes to find where they will be doing their specialized postgraduate residency training. "It's generally a very joyous time," McCord said. "There's a lot of anticipation going up to the time of opening that envelope."
U. of Missouri halts lab research amid COVID outbreak
The expanding shutdown of University of Missouri operations because of the coronavirus pandemic includes halting most lab experiments. Some experiments will be continued, particularly those that have required a lot of time and money and are close to being completed, Mark McIntosh, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development said Friday. In a directive to researchers, McIntosh laid out rules for access to labs, directing that any employees continued as essential should stagger the times they are in facilities. Animals will be fed and provided veterinary care but no new animal experiments will be initiated, McIntosh wrote. The research that will continue will primarily be immunology and virology experiments using live cells, McIntosh said. MU isn't conducting any coronavirus-related research, but plans are in the works, McIntosh said.
UCF picks Missouri chancellor Alexander Cartwright as next president
University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright has been selected as the next president of the University of Central Florida. Cartwright will become UCF's sixth full-time president, taking an office that has been held for 13 months by Interim President Thad Seymour. Cartwright was selected Friday after a nearly year-long search that was suspended for a while last year because the university still was going through political fall-out from a spending scandal that had cost the last leader, former President Dale Whittaker, and others at the university their jobs. Earlier this month UCF's presidential search committee had narrowed a search from 45 applicants to three finalists. But two of those finalists withdrew. In the midst of that series of events, Cartwright emerged as a late-entry, someone whose candidacy was kept under wraps until Wednesday. "I'm excited to be where we are," Cartwright said Friday in a video hookup from Missouri. Yet he arrives at a time of major crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has forced UCF and all other Florida state universities to shut down their campuses and go to distance learning for all classes for the foreseeable future.
Help for student loan borrowers stalls Senate stimulus bill
A $1.6 trillion stimulus proposal from Republicans to help the economy during the coronavirus crisis stalled in the Senate over a number of objections by Democrats, including that the proposal didn't do enough to help those saddled with student debt. The bill was hindered as well by five Republican senators putting themselves in self-quarantine, including Kentucky's Rand Paul, who announced Sunday he has tested positive for the virus. A procedural vote only to move forward with debate fell far short of the needed 60 votes, 47 to 47. Democrats had raised a number of objections to the Republican plan, from the amount of funding to businesses to a lack of help for hospitals and states. But a Democratic aide emailed that among them is concern a six-month moratorium on borrowers repaying student loans wouldn't provide enough relief. While negotiations were continuing as of press time, associations representing colleges and universities were also distressed that the Republican proposal to provide $6 billion, spread out among all public and private universities and for emergency grants to students, as well as an additional $1.3 billion for research institutions, is far from enough.
Amid COVID-19, Scientists Rush to Save Research
Every year for the last half-century, scientists have gone to sea to collect ocean data as part of the Northern Gulf of Alaska Long Term Ecological Research Project. Now, because of the novel coronavirus, the five-decade-long project faces potential data gaps. Russell Hopcroft, project leader and oceanography professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, says the status of three research cruises planned for 2020 is unclear even as the first is scheduled to depart in five weeks. The research team already decided to replace non-Alaskan team members with Alaskan scientists to reduce the amount of travel involved and drive, rather than fly, to the vessel's launch point in Seward. If they can continue, all team members will actively monitor their health for 14 days before boarding, self-quarantining and taking their temperatures regularly. But if the vessel doesn't sail, the project will see gaps in the physical and biological data scientists have been carefully collecting for decades. "You hate to miss a data point because you never know what any given year is going to look like and whether it's going to be an important year where something odd has happened," Hopcroft says.
'Nobody Signed Up for This': One Professor's Guidelines for an Interrupted Semester - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Brandon L. Bayne was trying to plot out a plan for a disrupted semester when he took a big step back. Like many faculty members around the country, Bayne, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, recently learned that he would soon be teaching his face-to-face courses remotely, as colleges shut down in-person instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic. For Bayne's students, the crisis is just the latest and most dramatic disruption of their college experience. Over the last couple of years, he says, they have faced two hurricanes, two water-main breaks, and a lot of upheaval over the controversy surrounding the university's well-known Confederate monument, Silent Sam, which was toppled by protesters in 2018. Bayne was planning to revise the assignments for "Religion in America," a course with 120 students, predominantly juniors and seniors. But he realized that he first wanted to write out some guiding principles. He came up with five, including "the humane option is the best option" and "we cannot just do the same thing online." Each principle has several subparts. Though he drafted the list for his own use, Bayne decided to share it with his students -- and on social media, where it has resonated with instructors of all kinds who are working to connect with students under the same unprecedented circumstances.
As campuses empty, officials in college towns worry students will be missed by census
The U.S. Census Bureau confirmed it will count the student population from now-shuttered dormitories, but some officials in large college towns remain concerned that campus closures because of the coronavirus could result in undercounting. "If the disruption to college life caused by the coronavirus undermines an accurate count of college students where they otherwise would have been counted, cities will have to live with consequences for the next 10 years -- and that could really hurt them," said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former congressional staffer on census oversight and a consultant to cities on census issues. Undercounts could diminish funding and political representation apportioned on the basis of population. Albert Fontenot, an associate director at the Census Bureau, said Friday that census officials intend to work with universities, the U.S. Department of Education and social media platforms to remind off-campus students to count themselves in their college towns.
'Maybe we'll realize that we are better together'
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: As we hunker down in fear of the coronavirus, not all must be gloom and doom. The wonderful Facebook blog "Motherhood and Muffin Tops," written by my wife's cousin Joni Miller, last week provided us with an enlightening perspective. Here are key excerpts from her poignant blog entitled "A Time to Embrace and a Time to Refrain from Embracing."
Legislators discuss legalizing medical marijuana in effort to keep out of Constitution
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: By the time competing proposals to legalize medical marijuana appear on Mississippi's November general election ballot, it could already be the law of the land -- of the state anyway. Earlier this year, legislators passed a medical marijuana alternative to put on the ballot alongside the citizen-sponsored initiative. Supporters of the citizen-sponsored initiative cried foul, saying the alternative was meant as a decoy to kill both by splitting the vote of those who support medical marijuana. But Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, the sponsor of the alternative, said he offered the alternative not because he opposed medical marijuana, but because the citizen-sponsored initiative did not provide enough regulation and oversight. ow there is some talk in the Legislature of considering an effort to take up a bill that would be designed to change state law to legalize medical marijuana. Granted, passing such a bill this session would be a long shot at best. It would take a two-thirds vote in both chambers because the deadline has passed to consider such bills.

Vic Schaefer sends 'real life' message to Mississippi State players during coronavirus crisis
John Cohen needed a pick-me-up. The Mississippi State athletic director walked into his house after 8 p.m. Monday night after another long day of phone calls and meetings. He searched for something to take his mind off the turbulent times the COVID-19 pandemic has induced across the globe. The world has been put on pause for sports fans with every major league experiencing some sort of coronavirus-related postponement or cancellation, but the irony of the situation is that for folks like Cohen, daily chores have gotten far more taxing. When he was finally able to look at something other than emails, schedules and important memos on his phone, he turned to Twitter. The accounts Cohen follows were blowing up about UConn, and Cohen knew that had to mean one thing. March 31, 2017. American Airlines Center. Dallas, Texas. Mississippi State 66, Connecticut 64. Final (OT). Without live sports to broadcast, ESPN2 was showing a replay of the 2017 Women's Basketball Final Four game. You know, the one where Mississippi State shocked the world and snapped UConn's 111-game winning streak on Morgan William's buzzer-beating floater?
'This is an unprecedented time right now in the history of our world': Vic Schaefer copes with the abrupt end to the Mississippi State women's basketball season
Humphrey Coliseum stands bare and empty. On a weekend in which 10,000 maroon-and-white-clad fans were scheduled to pack the 45-year-old arena for the first and second rounds of the NCAA women's basketball tournament, Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer remains in Starkville as his entire 12-player roster has headed home due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. "I'm extremely disappointed for my players, my coaches," Schaefer told The Dispatch on Friday. "I know how hard they've worked throughout the course of the season and this is what you work for. I felt like this was a team that just like, in the past years, we could get hot and make a run." Now eight days removed from the NCAA's decision to cancel both the men's and women's NCAA tournaments, the Bulldogs' season has come to an abrupt halt. And while Schaefer remains adamant that basketball is far from the most important thing at the moment, there's a level of disappointment that his 27-6 squad couldn't cap off a resounding "rebuilding" year.
Why Vic Schaefer is excited about next season's Mississippi State team
Vic Schaefer didn't have his suit jacket on this past weekend at Humphrey Coliseum. It's not because he took it off in frustration as he usually does while coaching his Mississippi State Bulldogs. He simply didn't wear it because he hasn't had to for well over a week. If circumstances were ideal, Schaefer would have just led his team through the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. If all went to plan, he'd be preparing for a Sweet 16 game later this week. But the situation isn't normal, of course. Instead of gathering with 10,000 folks inside Humphrey Coliseum, Schaefer spent the weekend in self isolation. "I'm just really trying to do what we've been recommended to do, which is staying away from people and staying out of public places," Schaefer told the Clarion Ledger. "These are unprecedented times, and they call for unprecedented measures." He'll likely pass the time hunting, fishing and making sure his family, friends, players and assistant coaches are as focused on flattening the COVID-19 curve as he is. The sooner the coronavirus crisis passes, the sooner Schaefer can replace his rod with a whistle and his fishing shirt with a suit jacket. Here's what to look for when the Bulldogs are able to get back to basketball sometime this year.
Analysis: A look ahead to the 2020-2021 Mississippi State men's basketball team
The speculation will go on for months, but no one will really know if Mississippi State had one last run in it at the SEC tournament to get into March Madness. One day before the Bulldogs were scheduled to play a quarterfinal matchup against the winner of Florida and Georgia, the college basketball season was abruptly canceled amid concerns about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It's unfortunate, but the story of the 2019-2020 Bulldogs is over. However, it's never too early for a look ahead to next season. Yet, the makeup of the team could vary drastically depending on decisions several key players will make this offseason. Here's where the Bulldogs stand.
Magnolia State takeover: SEC Network to feature Mississippi State, Ole Miss for a day each
Are you in need of a heavy dose of sports from your favorite university? The SEC Network has you covered if you're a fan of Ole Miss or Mississippi State. The network has planned to feature each of its 14 universities for one day over a two-week period, which began on Sunday, March 15. The takeover for each school starts at midnight eastern time and continues all day with games or shows featuring a particular university. Ole Miss is scheduled for Monday, March 23. Mississippi State is scheduled for Tuesday, March 24. The school-specific content starts locally at 11 p.m. central time. For Mississippi State, the men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, tennis and football teams have featured games. Three of the notable matchups include Mississippi State's game earlier this month against the Ole Miss men's basketball team at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday; the Bulldogs' win against Kentucky in football last year at noon Tuesday; and the 2019 Egg Bowl at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Former Mississippi State baseball star Jake Mangum announces new podcast
Former Mississippi State baseball star Jake Mangum is launching his own podcast, Mangum tweeted Sunday evening. The Jake Mangum Show will focus on "current events, all sports, life and everything in between," Mangum said. The podcast will feature guests and be recorded in both audio and video formats, Mangum said. "This show will not just be MSU sports," Mangum noted in a reply to an interested fan. "It will be for fans of any team and/or university!" Mangum, 24, was drafted by the New York Mets in the 32nd round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and had 45 hits and a team-leading 17 stolen bases for the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones in 53 games.
No football would 'shake the foundation of college athletics,' Florida AD says
College athletics is shut down by the spread of the coronavirus. On Sunday, Florida athletic director Scott Strickland told the Orlando Sentinel that if COVID-19 continues into college football season, "it will shake the foundation of college athletics." He, of course, was referring to the financial aspect of athletics. "For right now, it's all manageable," Stricklin said, "but the question your mind goes to really quickly is if this lasts into another school year. From a financial standpoint, if we're not playing football games in the fall, it will shake the foundation of college athletics. As everyone knows, football pays for the enterprise to go forward." Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne has talked about the financial hit of missing out on the NCAA tournament. Auburn athletic director Allen Greene said the construction of the football facility is full steam ahead. However, neither of them has talked about the idea of a missed football season.
NCAA committee will vote on eligibility relief for spring athletes on March 30
An NCAA council will discuss and vote March 30 for eligibility relief for collegiate athletes who had their seasons cut short because of the cancellations amid the spreading coronavirus, the NCAA announced Friday afternoon. The NCAA Division I Coordination Committee has already agreed that relief should be given to spring sports, such as baseball and softball, and the committee now supports giving schools a framework where the individual schools can "make their own decisions in the best interest of their campus, conference and student-athletes," a news release said. "The coordination committee recognizes that this local decision-making is made more challenging by the implications of COVID-19," Division I Council chair Grace Calhoun said in the statement. "However, providing a broader regulatory relief framework will allow campuses and conferences to make decisions they believe are in their collective best interest."
Keep connected: Auburn's teams are still teams even in isolation
Bruce Pearl wants to get more practice in on his grill. He has a Big Green Egg he's trying to master, and now is just as good a time as any as he and the rest of Auburn adjusts to social distancing. Gus Malzahn chuckled when he was asked if he's driven his wife crazy yet by being home so much more. He has answered the call to isolate himself as much as he can, too, and it's made for a major adjustment. It's a major adjustment across the board. Auburn athletics director Allen Greene has heard it said this way: "We're flying the airplane while we're building it." And that goes for everyone, from Pearl and his men's basketball program to Malzahn and his football program --- and across Auburn's shut-down campus now pivoting to online learning for the rest of the semester. But in that, there's at least one certainly as Auburn sports plummets into the unprecedented and the unknown: Everyone is in this together.
Doing downtime: Family often fills void in Arkansas coaches' schedules
Nate Thompson's smile, prompted by a nice-sized bass in his hands on the edge of a pond, was nearly as broad as that of two of his daughters, Nevaeh and Natalie. "No baseball. No school. Let's go catch the biggest fish in the pond!" Thompson wrote to accompany the picture on his Twitter account last week, noting one daughter hooked the fish and the other reeled it in. Thompson, the University of Arkansas baseball team's hitting coach and recruiting coordinator, normally would never have time on a weekday afternoon in March to fish. The suspension of athletic activities by the SEC in an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic made the fishing tale with his kids come to life. There are many negative repercussions to the coronavirus issue -- financial, professional and otherwise -- but the increase in family time for many people across the nation is not one of them. A men's track Coach Chris Bucknam got a big kick out of a tweet posted by new Mississippi State football Coach Mike Leach, whose sense of humor could survive a lot worse than the coronavirus. The tweet reflected the tremendous amount of hours coaches spend in the office or otherwise working, recruiting or traveling. Leach posted a message early last week that read: "Day 2 without sports. Found a lady sitting on my couch. Apparently she's my wife. She seems nice." Said Bucknam: "I have to tell you that tweet from Mike Leach was a riot a couple of days ago. I just thought that was hilarious."
How the NFL is handling the coronavirus pandemic during its offseason
Unlike the NBA and other major sports, the most popular league in America hasn't yet needed to face tough decisions about whether to postpone games or cancel the rest of its season. The NFL instead has moved through its offseason without much disruption, nearly six months from the start of games in September. But it's not exactly business as usual for the NFL in the age of COVID-19. And the league doesn't consider itself lucky because of the timing of the outbreak in U.S., said Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer. "This is a global health crisis, and we in the NFL, as a major part of the fabric of American life, are extremely concerned about this," Sills said. "We take very seriously our responsibility in these times." That includes how it will conduct the NFL draft, how it recommends tests for the coronavirus and how business is conducted in the offseason.
New Coronavirus Test Could Help Sports Leagues Resume Play Sooner
Legal analyst Michael McCann writes in Sports Illustrated: There will be many hurdles for the NBA and other leagues to resume play once the coronavirus pandemic is under control. One challenge will be the leagues' capacity to test players, coaches and referees in as close to real-time as possible to ensure they're not infected. Current tests for COVID-19 take at least a day, and often several days, for results to become known. For instance, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart waited five days between the day of his test and the day he learned he was infected. On Saturday, the possibility of real-time COVID-19 testing became much more possible. Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company based in California, announced it had received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a diagnostic test that takes only 45 minutes to determine if a person is infected with COVID-19. The prospect of COVID-19 tests that indicate a result in 45 minutes could save lives, boost public health and restore the public's confidence. With such results, health care providers could supply much more timely treatment to the infected, who in turn would be quarantined and less likely to infect others.
Andy Kennedy returns to coaching -- and 'just the way he's wired' -- at his alma mater, UAB
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Just my opinion: Given time, experience and more exposure, Andy Kennedy might have been the next Dick Vitale, TV's face of college basketball. Kennedy was that glib, that good behind the microphone. Next opinion: Kennedy's broadcasting future was so bright mainly because he understood there's no need to shout to get his point across. (Unsolicited advice to any TV and radio sports announcers reading this: Wit wins over annoying volume 100 times out of 100.) But Kennedy, the Louisville native and former Ole Miss basketball coach, has chosen to return to coaching at his alma mater, UAB, where he will try to revive that once-proud program in Conference USA. UAB made the hire official Friday afternoon. Good for AK. That's what he wants to do. It's not necessarily what most of us would have done. It most certainly is not what I would have done.

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