Wednesday, March 25, 2020   
T.K. Martin Center turns to telehealth due to coronavirus
The Mississippi State University T.K. Martin Center for Disability and Technology continues to serve its students remotely, even with its building shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While its building is closed, the center is continuing to reach the special-needs population it serves in its IMPACT Preschool and other programs using video conferencing, Webex software and other technology. Telehealth services began Monday for several areas, after the center received permission from the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. A waitlist will be made for those requiring services from the center that cannot be delivered by telehealth. The center is still waiting on approval from the Mississippi Department of Health for delivering early intervention services via telehealth, but that some guidelines from the department had been released.
MSU student from Milan shares about Coronavirus outbreak in Italy
"Their will is very hard to break, and I'm sure they'll get out of it even stronger," Andrea Melchiorre, an MSU graduate student from Milan, Italy, said of Italy and their citizens' fight against the COVID-19 virus currently tearing through their country. Melchiorre spoke of his family's experience with the spread of the Coronavirus in Italy and the implications it has for the virus's spread in the United States. "Lombardy, the region where I'm from, is the most hit region in Italy," Melchiorre said. Melchiorre said the virus started affecting daily life in Italy much like it has been affecting the U.S. so far. That is, it began with a progressive shutdown of public gatherings. Melchiorre urged his peers in the U.S. not to be fearful but to do their part in flattening the curve and protecting their nation from such an unprecedented and deadly threat. "I think that we can't be scared, but we definitely should be aware of it, check on reliable sources of what to do, follow basic hygiene practices and definitely do our part and help each other and build each other up," Melchiorre said.
Aldermen say no to closing non-essential businesses; city still has no set curfew
Starkville aldermen shot down a measure during a special-call meeting Tuesday to expand restrictions on "non-essential" businesses in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. The proposed updated resolution would have closed any establishments with a high "likelihood of close person-to-person contact," including but not limited to shopping centers, community centers, parks, bars, gyms and beauty salons. The mandate would have lasted 15 days so the board of aldermen could revisit the topic at its April 7 meeting. It would have added to restrictions the city has already imposed due to the spread of the virus, including limiting restaurants to serve customers via takeout, drive-through and delivery only; and restricting social and business gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 3 Alderman David Little, Ward 6 Alderman and Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against Tuesday's resolution. Sandra Sistrunk of Ward 2, Jason Walker of Ward 4 and Hamp Beatty of Ward 5 voted for it.
Oktibbeha COVID-19 cases rise to 7, no cases admitted at OCH
Two new cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed for Oktibbeha County, bringing the county's total number of confirmed cases to seven as of Wednesday morning. The latest numbers come from the most recent report from the Mississippi State Department of Health, as the total number of cases in Mississippi jumped to 377 as of Tuesday, up from 320 the previous day. While the overall totals have risen for Oktibbeha County, OCH Intensive Care Unit Medical Director Dr. Cameron Huxford confirmed to the Starkville Daily News Wednesday morning that the hospital has yet to admit any patients with confirmed COVID-19 cases. Around the region, Choctaw County also saw its number of cases climb to three, while both Clay and Lowndes totals stay unchanged. Oktibbeha County currently has the highest number of confirmed cases among Golden Triangle counties, but OCH Regional Medical Center has not admitted any patients to be treated for the virus since the pandemic began.
Starkville sees uptick in sewer calls from wipes, other non-flushable items
The city of Starkville is asking its residents to be mindful of what they flush down the toilet with toilet paper being sometimes difficult to find during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Starkville Utilities General Manager Terry Kemp said his department was beginning to see more blockages in the city's sewers, which can be traced to people flushing items not meant to be flushed down the toilet. "It's not an emergency type thing, but we have seen an uptick in sewer calls, and based on investigation, we're finding in some cases, it's a result of things being put down into the sewer that aren't meant to be, and it's causing blockage." Kemp said the problem wasn't unique to Starkville, with communities across the state seeing increases in sewer issues.
Guns, ammo, garden supplies, liquor among items still flying off shelves during pandemic
Despite social distancing measures and limited in-person shopping, co-ops, pawn shops and liquor stores in Columbus and Starkville have continued to thrive. At the Oktibbeha County Co-op in Starkville, only 10 customers are allowed in at once as the store attempts to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people. A sign outside the front door warns patrons to stay six or more feet apart to encourage social distancing. Marilyn Laird Henley of Starkville, who came to the co-op Tuesday afternoon to buy rose food, said she's noticed fewer people outside and less traffic on the roads. Her visit was part of an effort to make all her errands in a single trip. With plenty of frozen food and canned goods at home already, she said she's "not as bad off as some people might have been," but she also picked up extra milk, juice, bread, eggs and other perishables at Kroger. "I think we all have gotten some extra things," she said. The same increases hold true at local liquor stores as well. Scott Gault, owner of Scotty's Wine and Spirits on Highway 12 in Starkville, said his business, which had a huge February and is following up with a solid March, is on pace to beat last year's sales numbers.
Farmer: 'We've got work to do'
Farmers farm when it's hot, cold, dry, wet and bug infested. So they say they're not going to let a COVID-19 outbreak come between them and their job. "Coronavirus or no coronavirus, we've got work to do," said Rep. Vince Mangold, R-Brookhaven, who raises cattle and chickens on his family farm in Lincoln County. Mangold spent Tuesday morning picking up supplies for his chicken houses and will have chicks arriving this week. Those won't be ready for months though. He's working now, to ensure food will continue to be produced. "We haven't missed a beat," said Mangold, who is on a temporary hiatus from the Legislative session during the virus outbreak. "If I stop what I'm doing, if the farmers quit, then you're talking about a pandemic." U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a proclamation Tuesday -- National Agriculture Day -- recognizing the importance of America's farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers. Training for new private applicator certification will be handled by Mississippi State University Extension Service through the Lincoln County Extension Office. "That was an important move because many of those producers, their licenses may be expiring this month. They still need to be able to purchase restricted-use pesticides on their farms," County Agent Rebecca Bates said.
Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson Recognizes National Ag Day Tuesday and Announces Second Wild Hog Challenge
On Tuesday, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson recognized hard working farmers and ranchers in celebration of National Ag Day. To coincide with National Ag Day, he kicked-off the 2020 Spring Commissioner's Wild Hog Challenge to help protect Mississippi agriculture from nuisance wild hogs. "There is no better time than the present to take a moment to recognize our farmers and ranchers for their hard work and to thank them for supplying food, fiber, and shelter, not only for our families right here at home but also for the entire world," said Commissioner Gipson. "Farmers are critical to our food supply chain. Simply put, without farmers, we don't have food. Up until the last few weeks, we have taken for granted seeing full shelves at the grocery stores. The good news during the COVID-19 emergency is that our food supply is plentiful -- all thanks to our American farmers and ranchers." In addition to recognizing the importance of farmers and ranchers, Commissioner Gipson took the opportunity to invite the public to participate in the second Commissioner's Wild Hog Challenge. Wild hogs are non-native, nuisance animals that cause more than $60 million in property damage in Mississippi each year, with substantial damage caused to row crops, pastures and forestlands.
Tornado hits Tishomingo Tuesday afternoon
The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado hit near Tishomingo Tuesday afternoon. Tishomingo Police Chief Mike Kemp reported minor injuries as of now. He also reported several structures were damaged. He said the Dollar General store received major damage. He also said there are a lot of trees down. Dr. Barrett Gutter, an assistant professor at Mississippi State University, recorded video of the tornado near Tishomingo. He and state climatologist Mike Brown were heading east on Highway 30 toward Tishomingo.
East Mississippi students, teachers adjust to online classes
Alexis Crawford didn't expect her classes to go completely online during her first year of college. "I do miss being in class," said the Meridian Community College freshman. "I loved my English class." Crawford isn't alone. She's one of many students around East Mississippi adjusting to online work as schools and colleges have temporarily closed their doors during the COVID-19 crisis. To continue serving their students, K-12 teachers and college instructors are using online tools such as Google classroom, Zoom, Seesaw and Canvas. While Crawford misses discussions in the classroom, she's adjusted to the change, noting that she has more time to finish her work. "I feel much less stress with the extended time to complete my class assignments," she said. At MSU-Meridian, Terry Dale Cruse, head of campus, said students have access to the computer lab at the College Park campus and internet access at the MSU Riley Center.
Meridian plans to close non-essential businesses Friday
Meridian Mayor Percy Bland announced plans Tuesday to sign an executive order, closing non-essential businesses at 5 p.m. Friday, March 27 for two weeks, unless they comply with federal and state health guidelines and are not open to the public other than by curbside to go, drive thru, telework or other means to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The order could change based on decisions at the state level, officials said. The city said examples of non-essential businesses include personal care and leisure services, such as theaters, gyms and recreation centers, museums, bowling alleys and skating rinks, sporting and concert venues. Businesses may seek exemptions. At a news conference Tuesday, Bland said he was trying to balance the safety and welfare of citizens and impacts to businesses. "Most paramount, has and always will be the safety and welfare of our citizens," Bland said. He asked citizens to do their part.
Paccar halts production at Columbus plant through April 6
Paccar Engine Company became the first local industry to close operations in response to the COVID-19 virus. In a "business update" released through the company's Bellvue, Washington, headquarters, the company announced it would close all worldwide truck/engine production until April 6. The shutdown went into effect Tuesday morning. The shutdown will temporarily cease production at the engine manufacturer's Lowndes County plant, where 600-plus workers are employed. In the company's announcement, Paccar CEO Preston Feight assured the company was in good financial order. "Paccar's excellent balance sheet, experienced leadership team and outstanding employees will contribute to the company successfully managing through this difficult period," Feight said. The announcement did not include information on the employment status or compensation for its workers.
Mississippi has second coronavirus death
A Holmes County man is the second Mississippian known to die from the coronavirus, the state Health Department announced Wednesday. Mississippi's total count of known COVID-19 cases now stands at 377, with 57 new cases also reported Wednesday by the Health Department. Lee County's numbers have climbed again and now stand at 14. Other counties in the region now also have additional known cases, including Calhoun, Marshall, Oktibbeha and Union. Prentiss County now also has its first reported case. The newest known victim of COVID-19 in the state was between the ages of 60 and 65 and had underlying health conditions, according to information released by the state Health Department. He died while hospitalized.
Coronavirus: 2nd Mississippi death confirmed by Health Department, cases rise to 377
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported a second person in Mississippi has died from coronavirus. The case was a male 60-65 years old from Holmes County with underlying health conditions. He died while hospitalized. "We knew that more deaths would be inevitable, just as we expect numerous new cases. It is a very sad update to report, regardless," said MSDH State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. "Please do your part by practicing all preventive measures. It is vitally important that we all do what we can right now to help slow the spread of this virus." As the coronavirus outbreak continues in Mississippi, the number of cases rose from Tuesday's report by 57 to 377 in 61 of the state's 82 counties as of Wednesday morning. Three counties reported their first cases of coronavirus since the state's first case was reported March 11 in Forrest County. The state has reported two deaths, The first occurred in Hancock County a week after the state's first case was announced. The newest counties to report coronavirus cases are Amite, Calhoun and Prentiss.
Mississippi governor bans most gatherings of 10 or more
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday issued an executive order that further restricts people's physical interactions to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but he is not mandating that people stay at home. He did not specify whether any steps will be taken to enforce the things he is ordering, including a ban on "nonessential" gatherings of 10 or more people until April 17. Health care facilities, grocery stores, pharmacies and airports are allowed to have more people, but Reeves suggests social distancing. "Understand that we are not at the end of this pandemic. In fact, we may still be at the beginning stages of this fight," Reeves said during a news conference Tuesday outside the Governor's Mansion. Reeves, a Republican, said he is encouraging --- but still not mandating --- that people remain home. He said the ban on gatherings includes funerals, weddings and church services.
Governor Issues Executive Order to Restrict Social Contact
Governor Tate Reeves announced he's issuing an executive order to advise people to follow the state health officer's guidelines. The order includes no gatherings of more than 10 people and no dining in at restaurants or bars. "It will direct Mississippians not to visit hospitals, nursing homes, or long term care facilities, again working to protect the most vulnerable population," said Reeves. At a news conference yesterday, Reeves said there are cases of people not practicing social distancing who have been infected with the coronavirus. State Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs talked about the issue. "If you're piled-up outside of a retail store trying to get supplies, that's not social distancing. Please do everything you can to stay out of congregated groups. We have reports of people still congregating en masse around weddings, around funerals and still going to church," said Dobbs.
Gov. Tate Reeves: Abortions must be canceled during coronavirus pandemic
Gov. Tate Reeves promised to take action against the state's lone abortion clinic if it continues to provide abortions during the coronavirus pandemic. Reeves has worked for years to limit and end abortion in Mississippi. He told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that he considers abortion an elective and unnecessary procedure. The Mississippi Department of Health has ordered all elective medical procedures and non-essential medical visits to be postponed as health care providers prepare for what could be tidal wave of coronavirus cases. To Reeves, that means abortions in Mississippi must end. The state's top health official appeared less certain about the future of abortions in Mississippi. "That's something I was not familiar with," said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, State Health Officer, during the Tuesday news conference with the governor. "And before I would make any comments, I think we have to review the situation a bit more." The clinic is still open, according to Kelly Krause, spokeswoman for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy nonprofit that represents the Jackson Women's Health Organization. Abortion is an "essential, time sensitive" healthcare service, Krause said.
Mississippi governor vows to stop abortions during coronavirus outbreak
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) vowed he would take action against his state's sole remaining abortion clinic if it provides abortions during the coronavirus outbreak. Reeves said at a press conference that abortions should be included among elective medical procedures and nonessential medical visits, both of which were postponed by the Mississippi Department of Health as it braces for a flood of COVID-19 cases. Reeves later appeared to veer away from the politics of abortion, saying elective procedures are halted to "protect our [personal protective equipment], our masks ... and other supplies for anyone who gets infected by this virus." The remarks come after Texas and Ohio both moved to prevent health care providers from performing abortions by classifying them as elective procedures. "No one is exempt from the governor's executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement Monday. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, rebuked Paxton's remarks, saying the procedure is "essential" and maintained that it is complying with the state's rules on preserving personal protective equipment for health workers.
Mississippi has nation's 12th highest COVID-19 infection rate
Based on total confirmed cases, Mississippi currently has one of the nation's highest COVID-19 infection rates. As of the afternoon of March 24, Mississippi -- the 35th largest state by population -- ranks 12th among states for novel coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. However, numbers are fluctuating near-constantly and how quickly cases grow or slow across the nation in the coming weeks will affect per capita rates on a daily basis. As of Tuesday, Mississippi has 11 cases for every 100,000 residents. Neighboring Louisiana (population 4.6 million) ranks third with approximately 30 confirmed cases per 100,000 people and 1,388 total. New York, where nearly 20 million people live, leads the nation with 132 cases per 100,000 residents and 26,665 total. Testing is expected to ramp up this week, and with it the number of cases, as University of Mississippi Medical Center and MSDH partnered with C Spire internet provider to launch a statewide screening app that will screen symptomatic patients and connect those who UMMC providers deem appropriate with testing at a new drive-thru testing pop-up at the Mississippi state fairgrounds in Jackson.
Some state employees forced to use vacations days, and possibly unpaid leave, amid COVID-19, despite paid leave orders
Some public employees say they're stuck choosing between their health, family and pay. Despite executive orders and legislation to protect Mississippi's government employees from losing paychecks during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, not all workers have access to the additional paid leave ordered by Gov. Tate Reeves. Chris Harper works in the Brandon office of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, where he reviews applications and determines if a person is eligible for the public health insurance program. In light of the growing coronavirus health emergency, which will result in an uptick of Medicaid applicants, he is considered an essential employee and must continue reporting to work. But his two children, ages 4 and 7, are out of school and their grandma, who has her own health issues, can only care for them in the morning. To manage, Harper is taking off half the day, every other day. Asked how he addresses some employees having to take personal leave to care for their children amid the pandemic, Reeves responded, "I'm not aware of anyone who fits that category ... I'll certainly look into that."
Rural America watches pandemic erupt in cities as fear grows
The social distancing rules repeated like a mantra in America's urban centers, where the coronavirus is spreading exponentially, might seem silly in wide-open places where neighbors live far from each other and "working from home" means another day spent branding calves or driving a tractor alone through a field. But as the pandemic spreads through the U.S., those living in rural areas, too, are increasingly threatened. Tiny towns tucked into Oregon's windswept plains and cattle ranches miles from anywhere in South Dakota might not have had a single case of the new coronavirus, but their main streets are also empty and their medical clinics overwhelmed by the worried. Residents from rural Alabama to the woods of Vermont to the frozen reaches of Alaska fear the spread of the disease from outsiders, the social isolation that comes when the only diner in town closes its doors and economic collapse in places where jobs were already tough to come by.
Supreme Court justices' perks revealed in new report
When Supreme Court justices speak at public universities across the country, they often travel in style -- and, at times, at taxpayer expense. The justices' travel perks have included private plane trips, blocs of fancy hotel rooms and VIP dinners where they rub elbows with large-dollar university donors. Those findings come from a new report by the nonpartisan advocacy group Fix the Court that looks at what public universities pay for a visit by a Supreme Court justice. Supreme Court justices fill out annual financial disclosures that list when a private entity or school gives them more than $390 in meals, lodging or transportation. But those reports don't include dollar amounts. To get that, Fix the Court filed public records requests with individual universities where the justices spoke or taught. Over a third of the justices' events at colleges and universities since 2015 were held at public institutions, raising concerns about the cost of some of those events at public universities. Justice Clarence Thomas appears to have taken the University of Florida's private plane when he traveled there for a week to co-teach a property law class in 2016, according the report. The records obtained by Fix the Court didn't list a cost for those flights, but the group estimated the cost at $3,800 per roundtrip.
Senate to vote Wednesday on $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill
The Senate plans to vote Wednesday afternoon on a $2 trillion stimulus package that is designed to flood the U.S. economy with money in an effort to stabilize households and businesses that have been floored by the coronavirus outbreak. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced the breakthrough on the Senate floor around 1:30 a.m., after a long day of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other administration officials. The Senate reconvenes at midday, and a vote could come shortly after that. "This is a very important bipartisan piece of legislation that is going to be very important to help American workers, American business and people across America," Mnuchin told reporters early Wednesday morning. "We couldn't be more pleased." The legislation, unprecedented in its size and scope, would send $1,200 checks to many Americans, create a $367 billion loan program for small businesses, and establish a $500 billion lending fund for industries, cities and states.
Virus Brings States to a Standstill: Sessions Halt, Budgets Crater, Plans Wait
The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on statehouses across the United States, derailing policy agendas, forcing legislators to set aside plans for spending on education, road construction and opioid addiction, and draining state coffers with startling speed. Already, the fiscal damage from the virus is acute, legislative leaders in a dozen states say. Vast numbers of businesses have been forced to close their doors and millions of Americans face unemployment, creating a sudden need to spend on virus-related assistance, the certainty of sharp drops in tax collections and a turning of once optimistic budget projections upside down. The outbreak has forced at least 22 state legislatures to close or postpone sessions at the busiest time of the year, when lawmakers typically pass legislation and negotiate budgets. But the toll on state policies and spending appears likely to extend far beyond a single legislative season. The crisis has brought state policymaking to a standstill regardless of partisan control. Any legislative proposal with a price tag appears endangered.
Retired Doctors And Medical Students Step Up To Fight COVID-19
When Dr. Judy Salerno, who is in her 60s, got word that the New York State health department was looking for retired physicians to volunteer in the coronavirus crisis, she didn't hesitate. "As I look to what's ahead for New York City, where I live, I'm thinking that if I can use my skills in some way that I will be helpful, I will step up," she says. Public health experts say the United States is in for a shortage of health care workers in many places soon, as cases of COVID-19 escalate. First, the ranks of front-line health workers will be stretched thin, as hospitals fill. And if health care workers have to scramble to care for sick patients without enough protective gear, they will get infected with the virus and fall ill, too. To address the coming shortage, states from Hawaii to New Hampshire are loosening their licensing rules to give those with clinical skill the ability to pitch in. There's another pool of people at the very start of their medical careers who would like to help out: medical students. With most med students now sidelined from the hospital, many have been brainstorming ways they can help immediately. Some med students at Harvard, for example, are making infographics and explanatory videos for the general public, which they share on instagram.
Southern Miss closing campus housing due to COVID-19 outbreak
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Southern Mississippi is closing all campus housing and limiting other services. All classes for USM were already moved online and May commencement ceremonies canceled. Now, students have until 9 a.m. Friday to get their essential belongings out of their dorms. After that, students will have to make an appointment to get back into the dorms to pick up any items left behind. Students were not expecting their semester to end this way. "It just feels like a waste of time and a waste of money," said USM student Mylz Love. "I hope the school refunds my money, but you never know with what's happening." For now, students are trying to get what they can out while they still have access. "Basically, just making sure we have what we need at home, said Jacob Gautier, a freshman at Southern Miss. "Moving all the essential equipment. Stuff that we need for the rest of the year." Campus dining and other services will be available on a limited basis going forward. Students with extraordinary housing circumstances can file an exception to remain on campus by noon March 26. You must also provide supporting documentation.
Auburn University Housing organizes early move-out days for residents
In an email sent by Auburn University Housing Director Kevin Hoult to students and obtained by The Plainsman, Hoult said that students can pick up their items from their dorms any weekend between March 27-29 to June 26-28. On those weekends, he said, residence halls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is no longer a need a need for a request form, according to Hoult. For those unable to move-out by June 28, the University will store their items until they can be retrieved at a later date, he said "Our email earlier today about early move-out caused understandable concerns by many of you. Please know that we heard you," Hoult said. "We apologize for the confusion and ask that you please disregard the previous information about move-out dates. University Housing will allow students to move out of residence halls early over the next two weekends to gather any possessions they may have left behind, per an email obtained by The Plainsman that was sent to current on-campus residents. The move comes after an announcement from Provost Bill Hardgrave that remote instruction will continue for the remainder of the spring semester.
Former Walmart executive set to fill U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville's finance job
Ann Bordelon, a former Walmart executive, has been hired as the next top finance officer for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Bordelon, a certified public accountant, starts July 1 as vice chancellor for finance and administration. She will manage financial affairs for a campus with a 2019-20 budget of about $546.8 million in operating revenue, including self-supporting auxiliary units. But UA already is feeling economic effects from the covid-19 outbreak. Hunter Yurachek, the university's athletic director, last week said a deficit was likely for his department, which, according to budget documents, anticipated about $125.6 million in revenue. Housing for most students closes April 3, with UA yet to say if reimbursements will be given, just that it is "awaiting guidance" from the UA System and trustees. "Ann's impressive career has given her the background, the leadership experience and financial acumen, to advance our largest division on campus," Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said in a statement.
U. of Florida tells 'nonessential' employees to work from home
"Nonessential" UF employees who cannot work remotely will be given 10 days of paid leave – but what happens after is unclear. UF is reducing its on-campus personnel to "essential" employees only in accordance with Alachua County's emergency order to shelter in place after concerns from COVID-19. On Tuesday, there were 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alachua County. The change was announced Tuesday morning by UF Human Resources and goes into effect today. Essential employees are encouraged to practice social distancing while working on campus, according to the email. Nonessential employees have been instructed to work from home and may be eligible for the paid sick leave if they are unable to work from home. This includes certain faculty and staff, hourly workers, postdoctoral and graduate assistants. It is unclear what positions have been determined essential, and by whom. UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in a text message that UF will provide more information in the next few days, and that the university intends to follow Family Medical Leave Act guidelines.
Researchers making progress in coronavirus tests and treatment drugs, scientists say in summit
In a furious race against time, scientists around the globe have identified promising new ways to test and treat COVID-19, discoveries that eventually could help slow the contagion's spread and make it less deadly. But sorting out which drugs work will take time, with a vaccine still more than a year away. These were some of the messages from an international summit Monday of leading researchers. Co-organized by a virologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, the meeting highlighted the frantic pace of scientists as they try to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. While cases in China are on the decline, the United States has seen exponential growth in recent days, prompting an official with the World Health Organization to predict the United States could soon be the disease's epicenter. Amid this grim news, top researchers met on a video link Monday to discuss their latest advances, a global summit organized by Mike Schmidt, a professor of immunology and microbiology at MUSC, and the American Society for Microbiology.
Texas A&M to offer prorated credits for housing, dining; critical operations to continue
Texas A&M President Michael K. Young announced Tuesday that the university is offering its students prorated credits or refunds for housing and dining as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and the university said that critical operations such as health services, to-go food services, residence halls and janitorial and maintenance services would remain operational during the county-wide shelter-in-place order that went into effect at 9 p.m. Tuesday night. Young and other Texas A&M officials participated in a virtual town hall hosted by the university's Student Government Association on Tuesday afternoon and answered questions about the school's protocols and plans in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. During the town hall, A&M leaders said that though the university has been urging students on campus to return to their family homes in advance of the shelter-in-place order, those who chose or needed to remain would be supported by operational services. Young said that no decision has yet been made about the format of A&M summer classes.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos halts collection of defaulted federal student loans
The Trump administration has stopped seizing the wages, tax refunds and Social Security benefits of people who are in default on their federal student loans, an administration official confirmed to POLITICO on Tuesday. The Education Department is putting a stop to collecting on defaulted federal student loans amid the coronavirus pandemic and ordering private collection firms to stop pursuing borrowers "until further notice," according to the official and a memo sent to the companies. The department plans to make the policy retroactive to March 13, the day President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, the official said. The new executive actions, which the Trump administration is expected to announce this week, provide a reprieve for the more than 9 million federal student loan borrowers who are in default on their debt. Borrowers default on those loans by failing to make a payment for roughly a year.
College leaders chip away at growing list of urgent coronavirus response tasks
To give a glimpse into the virtual meeting rooms of college leaders responding to the new coronavirus, Larry Ladd, a senior consultant at AGB, laid out a hypothetical. "Let's say you're a president," he said. "You have to keep the urgent and the important both balanced in your head -- and that's not easy to do." "Urgent" matters, according to Ladd, are decisions leadership teams have to make within hours or days, such as determining where students will ride out the remainder of the semester, migrating classes online or canceling them outright, managing staff and payroll, and monitoring liquidity. "Important" decisions, relegated to tomorrow or coming weeks, include refunding room and board costs, planning for summer terms, nailing down fall enrollments and hiring for open faculty and administrative positions. Very little can be tabled indefinitely. "There isn't much that goes on at a college or university that isn't related to the financial condition of a place," Ladd said. In other words, if any thread comes loose, the entire institutional fabric threatens to unravel.
Pivot to online raises concerns for FERPA, surveillance
Most colleges and universities across the country have pivoted to remote learning in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus sweeping the globe. While the sudden change is necessary, some privacy experts worry about the unintended consequences. Ensuring the software colleges are now using doesn't violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is one key issue, according to Amelia Vance, director of youth and education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum. Another issue is the potential for increased surveillance of students as colleges switch from in-person classes to virtual ones. FERPA is technology neutral, according to Leroy Rooker, a senior fellow at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Colleges are allowed to use contractors and consultants for services -- including for online instruction -- but the contracts need to include stipulations to protect student privacy under the law. Most importantly, if the vendor collects any data on its users, the college has to be the owner of that information. This means that the data can only be used or redisclosed at the college's direction. Colleges should be thinking about whether any FERPA-protected information will be revealed in their pivots to remote learning, said Joanna Lyn Grama, associate vice president at Vantage Technology Consulting Group.
How the coronavirus has upended college admissions
For seniors, the wave of school shutdowns has come at a particularly difficult time. It has disrupted college tours and canceled standardized tests. Students planning to enroll at community colleges are in many cases just starting their applications, sometimes without access to the internet at home. And with high schools closed, students can't get in-person guidance from counselors, leaving many to make big decisions about their futures on their own. That has put pressure on colleges to extend deadlines by which students must decide if they'll attend. Given the uncertainty, some universities have decided to push back their admissions-deposit deadlines from May 1. Oregon State University was one of the first to extend its deadline by a month to June 1; more than 150 other institutions have followed suit. Some schools argue that they need to adhere to current deadlines in order to keep things like orientation and housing running smoothly. Standardized testing has also been thrown into disarray.
'There's a lot we don't know': U. of Washington researchers look at how coronavirus turns body against itself and kills
Last Tuesday, a scientist working in a secure upper-floor laboratory in the University of Washington Medical Center's South Lake Union campus cracked open a vial containing one of the first samples of live SARS-C0V-2 virus, with a goal of better understanding how and why it kills. The disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, has proven particularly lethal to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, and the scientists at the school's Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease have been tasked with trying to understand why in these cases the new virus overwhelms the body's natural defenses, while in most people it causes only moderate or even mild illness. The new virus has some unusual characteristics that haven't been seen in other SARS outbreaks, both in the way it attacks the lungs and how it can infect people quietly, where they will have few or no symptoms for days or weeks but still spread the disease, said Michael Gale, a professor of immunology at the UW and the center's director. "There's a lot we don't know," Gale said.
Researchers are tracking another pandemic, too -- of coronavirus misinformation
When five researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, launched the new Center for an Informed Public back in December 2019, they had no idea what was coming. The center aims to study how misinformation propagates and use the findings to "promote an informed society, and strengthen democratic discourse." Now, just a few months later, the coronavirus pandemic is generating a tidal wave of information -- some of it accurate, some not so much -- that has saturated social and traditional media. Two of the center's founders -- sociologist Emma Spiro and crisis informatics researcher Kate Starbird -- are watching closely. By monitoring news reports and scraping massive amounts of data from social media platforms, they are examining how misinformation is spreading during the pandemic, and how scientific expertise factors into public perceptions. "We're trying to think about questions of how data and statistics are being used and debated in these conversations online, and what is the impact of that on public understanding and the way that people make decisions and take actions," Spiro told ScienceInsider this week.
As the Coronavirus Hit, Most Colleges Sent People Home. Liberty University Is Welcoming Them Back.
As colleges nationwide have urged students and faculty members to stay home after spring break, Liberty University, in Virginia, is welcoming thousands of students to return to their residence halls and to meet face to face with faculty members. In an interview on Tuesday, the university's president, Jerry L. Falwell Jr., defended the decision to allow anyone who wants to return to campus to do so, despite a statewide order issued on Monday by Virginia's Democratic governor, Ralph S. Northam. That order, prompted by a growing number of Covid-19 cases across the state, bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs all nonessential businesses to close by Wednesday morning. Apparently responding to the outrage from some faculty members, Falwell said on Tuesday that professors would be permitted to record their classes from home and that "any faculty member who believes he or she is at risk may request a waiver and it will be granted." In a statement on Monday, the university outlined the steps it was taking to keep the campus safe, including sanitizing surfaces hourly, spreading out seating, and setting up a tent for students to pick up meals.
Coronavirus fears over farmers markets could hit new growers hard -- just when Americans need them most
The familiar sight of weekend shoppers brushing shoulders at farmers markets across the U.S. is under threat from the coronavirus and fears of its spread. In Seattle, farmers markets have been suspended altogether. In New York state -- the epicenter of the U.S.'s fight against the virus -- they remain open, but residents are being warned against gathering in groups and told to practice social distancing. Such uncertainty is likely to hurt so-called "beginning farmers" -- typically smaller-scale, start-up operations. As an expert in diversified farming systems, I can see vulnerable farmers closing down as a result of this crisis, and this could have a knock-on effect on the long-term food supply chain. Beginning farmers form a vibrant and diverse part of the U.S. farming community. However, they are also among the most economically vulnerable of farmers. Since they are just starting out, they are often still formulating business plans, balancing farm finances, creating new marketing opportunities and establishing their farms' viability.
Economic impacts of COVID-19 will strain Mississippi's bulging 'rainy day fund'
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: A lot of Mississippians are lying awake at night these days, worried about their loved ones, worried about their health, worried about their jobs and businesses, and worried mightily about the future of the U.S. economy and what impacts that will have on Mississippi. For sleepless policy wonks, the Mississippi Legislative Budget Office offers a budget terminology resource that will put you to sleep faster than Nyquil or scotch whiskey. I visited the web page recently and read the terminology used to formally identify one of the late Gov. Kirk Fordice's lasting marks on state government -- the Working Cash Stabilization Fund. ... I remember the feisty Fordice's brief description of his concept back in the early 1990s: "Mississippi shouldn't spend every damn dime they take in." Fordice believed that families should save, businesses should save, and that government should save, too. ... Then we were all introduced to the coronavirus and the new reality that economists and health care experts alike are coming to agree upon.

'It's not ideal, but it's kind of what we're dealing with': How former Mississippi State players, now minor leaguers, are dealing with the delayed season
As former Mississippi State catcher Dustin Skelton sat at a Marriott in Jupiter, Florida, an ominous tone fell over the room. After Skelton and fellow Southeastern Conference products JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt), Zach King (Vanderbilt) and Kameron Misner (Missouri) spent their two prescribed off-days at the beach, the contingent of Miami Marlins minor leaguers were gathered for a meeting by team officials. Congregating at the team hotel near the Marlins' facility, the group on-hand was informed spring training had been canceled due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. "I was just getting my feel back," Skelton told The Dispatch. "I was getting the feel back of being comfortable in the (batter's) box and just hearing that news it was obviously devastating." One of a number of former Mississippi State products playing minor league baseball, Skelton and his fellow Bulldogs have had their aspirations of making major league rosters put on hold in recent weeks. And while Major League Baseball has bumped opening day from March 26 to no earlier than April 9, the intermittent time has forced players to get creative in their preparations for a season that's start date remains fluid. "It's just kind of confusing," SEC hits leader and current New York Mets minor leaguer Jake Mangum told The Dispatch.
Mississippi State's Jessika Carter, Rickea Jackson collect WBCA All-Region honors
Mississippi State forwards Jessika Carter and Rickea Jackson were each selected as a region finalist for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-American team. Carter, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Waverly Hall, Georgia, led the Bulldogs with 8.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game and totaled 11 double-doubles. She was also second on the team in scoring at 13 points and topped the Southeastern Conference shooting 65 percent from the field. Jackson led MSU averaging 15.1 points and reached double figures 23 times. The 6-foot-2 freshman from Detroit, Michigan had eight 20-point performances during SEC play and scored a career-high 34 against Auburn. It is the third straight season coach Vic Schaefer had multiple players chosen to the WBCA All-Region II team and has had nine players picked overall while with the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State lands Vanderbilt transfer quarterback Allan Walters
Mississippi State's quarterback room has gotten a little more crowded. Former Vanderbilt quarterback Allan Walters announced his commitment to MSU via Instagram late Monday night. "With my remaining 3 years of eligibility I will be continuing my athletic and academic career at Mississippi State University," he wrote. "Thank you Coach Leach Coach (Eric) Mele, and the entire Mississippi State staff for the opportunity. Cannot wait to represent the great state of Mississippi down in StarkVegas, time to get to work." A former three-star recruit in the class of 2018, Walters completed two of nine passes for 36 yards in three games for the Commodores. He's expected to join the Bulldogs as a walk-on and sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Ex-Vanderbilt QB transferring to Mississippi State
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach already had one transfer quarterback coming in and now has another signal caller packing his bags for Starkville. Former Vanderbilt QB Allan Walters announced on Tuesday that he too will be transferring to the Bulldogs to join the mix along with Stanford's K.J. Costello. Costello is a graduate transfer and is eligible to play immediately while Walter will have to sit out next season unless the NCAA grants him a waiver. "Excited to finally be apart of the @HailStateFB family, can't wait to get to Starkville and help build something great!," Walters tweeted. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Chatham, New Jersey appeared in three games as a redshirt freshman for the Commodores last season. Walters completed 2 of 9 passes for 36 yards and one interception. Walters entered the transfer portal in January and has three years of eligibility remaining.
Mississippi State lures Vanderbilt transfer quarterback to Starkville
Mississippi State's quarterback room got even more crowded this week. Head coach Mike Leach inherited a roster with four quarterbacks and added another last month in graduate transfer K.J. Costello from Stanford. Former Vanderbilt quarterback Allan Walters made it a full six pack of signal callers this week when he announced his commitment to Mississippi State on his Instagram profile Monday night. "With my remaining 3 years of eligibility I will be continuing my athletic and academic career at Mississippi State University," Walters wrote. "Thank you to Coach Leach, Coach (Eric) Mele, and the entire Mississippi State staff for the opportunity. Cannot wait to represent the great state of Mississippi down in StarkVegas, time to get to work!" Back in February, Leach said spring practices would be a great time to assess where each quarterback was on the totem pole and to come up with a pecking order for them. That plan has been significantly affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which forced the SEC to halt spring football activities.
Georgia Southern's new athletic director Jared Benko speaks on impact of coronavirus and hiring basketball coach
There might come a day during his waking hours when Jared Benko is not either on, just off or about to make a phone call, but that day was not Tuesday, March 24. "I'll be on the phone all day and all night grinding away at it," Benko said Tuesday during a conference call with media members from Savannah and Statesboro, home of his new employer, Georgia Southern University. While Benko doesn't officially start as the Eagles' athletic director until April 1 after serving four years as Mississippi State's deputy athletic director and chief financial officer, any plans to get an early start this week were curtailed by the impact of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Benko said that in the bigger context, obstacles in his world aren't that important. "There are people fighting the coronavirus right now, so they have a lot tougher task than I do and others do from a perspective standpoint," Benko said. "I would tell you, obviously, I look at our student-athletes and coaches and staff as one big family. I would love to be down there in person."
Archie Manning on Lane Kiffin, Mike Leach: 'It's sure not going to be boring'
The state of Mississippi won the college football lottery since the end of last season. Ole Miss hired coach Lane Kiffin to lead the Rebels. Mississippi State countered with Mike Leach. Both possess the ability to draw up plays. Couple that with their "non-traditional" use of social media and candor at the podium, and you have added a treasure trove to an already loaded SEC West. Is Mississippi ready? "I don't know," Ole Miss legend Archie Manning told ESPN. "But I do know this: It's sure not going to be boring." Chris Low and Mark Schlabach teamed up for ESPN to look at the transformation of the state of college football in Mississippi. While Kiffin and Leach will be competing for state supremacy, it appears -- at least for now -- they not only respect each other but like each other. "He's awesome, very different," Kiffin said of Leach. "I just like him because he says what he wants to say and doesn't do what everybody else does, which is worry about what everybody thinks."
Lane Kiffin, Mike Leach and the wild state of Mississippi football
It happened so fast, Tyrone Nix can't remember who said it first. What the former Rebels outside linebackers coach does remember is that the Ole Miss coaches' headsets were buzzing with essentially the same ominous message after Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore dropped to all fours in the end zone, lifted his leg and pretended to urinate like a dog to flush away his team's chances in the 2019 Egg Bowl against Mississippi State. "That right there freaking probably cost us our jobs," Nix recounted. "That was the quote." Moore's 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which contributed to the Rebels missing a 35-yard extra point attempt and falling to Mississippi State 21-20 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, sparked an unexpected football upheaval in the state of Mississippi, the kind that promises to make the Egg Bowl -- a rivalry that one SEC power broker says makes Alabama-Auburn "look like Sunday school" -- even more intriguing, if that's possible. Moore's actions led to a string of dominoes that no one in the Magnolia State could have seen coming.
Lane Kiffin: Ole Miss, newer programs at a disadvantage over lost spring
There won't be a Grove Bowl played in Oxford in 2020. Theoretically, there's still a chance at some semblance of a spring football practice schedule, but no one seems to think that is likely. Ole Miss is in a football holding pattern, just like Americans are in a holding pattern for just about every form of life across the nation. Every program across the nation is going to be effected and hurt by the cancelation of spring football practices. But specifically, these changes are going to hurt Ole Miss and other similar programs working under a new coaching staff worse. "It really hurts first-year coaching staffs and programs. If I were still at FAU, it wouldn't be that big of a deal," Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin said in a Tuesday teleconference. "You have returning players that know your system and have played games together. It sort of evens the playing field, but for newer coaches it's not equal at all. If we have no spring, it's definitely going to hurt first-year programs a lot more than the programs with continuity."
Missouri baseball figuring out how to operate best in new normal
Steve Bieser is getting used to his new routine. It's a pattern Missouri's fourth-year head baseball coach never could've predicted with the disruption of parts of normal life due to the novel coronavirus. Since 2004, every spring has been spent coaching up players to their potential with the skills they've learned year-round. Hitting their peak this time of year has always been Bieser's goal for his players. Of course, Bieser went through that same protocol as a player for more than a dozen years before that. This spring has obviously been different. "I'm doing very well, it's just finding that new routine. We got a couple of things that we can control," Bieser said. "It's really just getting to work, trying to build a team for next year and then start preparation of what the summer looks like, what the fall looks like and then moving into the next spring. But right now, everything is kind of up in the air. So, it's just kind of rolling with the punches and basically taking care of things we can control."
Hogs extend football ticket deadline by 6 days
The University of Arkansas on Tuesday extended its renewal deadline for football season ticket holders. The new deadline is April 6, six days later than originally announced. In coordination with the extended ticket deadline, the Razorback Foundation announced it had extended its deadline for annual fund donations until April 6. Ticket priority is tied to donations to the foundation. According to UA figures, 82 percent of last season's season ticket holders have renewed for the 2020 season. The Razorbacks sold 43,397 season tickets last season -- down 16 percent from the year before -- when they hosted six games at Reynolds Razorback Stadium, but only two games against SEC opponents. Attendance was poor last season, especially as Arkansas neared the conclusion of its second consecutive 2-10 campaign that included no SEC wins. Chad Morris was fired as the Razorbacks' coach following last year's on-campus finale -- a 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky in front of an announced crowd of 42,985 -- and was replaced in December by Sam Pittman. The 2020 home schedule includes a program-record seven games on campus, four of which are against SEC teams Alabama, LSU, Tennessee and Ole Miss between Oct. 10 and Nov. 14.
How Tennessee football will address conditioning amid coronavirus
Tennessee must replace departed strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, but in his absence, the Vols are following Fitzgerald's plan. Coach Jeremy Pruitt said Fitzgerald and his strength staff had outlined a training regimen for players to follow while they're away from campus. Fitzgerald accepted a position as the New York Giants' strength and conditioning coach on Thursday. Classes resumed Monday after a week of spring break, but students -- including players -- are not on campus. All coursework for the remainder of the semester will be conducted via remote learning, a university decision in response to the coronavirus pandemic. "We had an excellent plan moving forward," Pruitt said Monday during an appearance on the "Vol Calls" radio show. "Craig and his staff, they had put together a month's routine of what they would do away from Knoxville. Once Craig has decided to move on, we've really leaned on the guys on the staff to continue to work and execute and continue to plan for these guys." Pruitt said his staff is working remotely.
College athletes choosing whether to stay in US or head home
All but one of Anna Makurat's teammates headed home after the NCAA canceled this year's postseason basketball tournament and the school suspended classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 19-year-old UConn freshman from Poland, the decision was not that easy, especially with ever-increasing travel restrictions to and from Europe. She worried about classes restarting while she was overseas and when -- or if -- she might be able to get back to campus. Makurat is one of more than 20,000 foreign athletes currently competing at NCAA schools, according to the organization. With competition canceled across all NCAA divisions, many of those athletes face a similar dilemma. Their campuses are shut down, but the coronavirus situation in their homeland is worse than it is in the United States. The NCAA has advised schools to handle the situation as they see fit "for the health and safety of their coaches, staff and student athletes."
UGA helps international athletes safely return home
Catarina Don needed to get home to her family late last week, but getting a flight into Italy proved to be a major obstacle. The University of Georgia golfer was traveling to her homeland, a country heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Just two flights per day to Italy are currently allowed out of the United States -- from New York's JFK Airport -- and she managed to catch one Thursday night after flying from Atlanta to New York. She had a short layover in Rome before hopping on another flight into Turin, the closest city to her hometown of Pinerolo, where she was reunited early Friday with her family. She entered a mandatory 14-day quarantine, a policy imposed on travelers into a country that's had nearly 5,500 deaths and more than 59,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Monday at noon, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. UGA's international athletes have faced challenging travel scenarios ever since an unprecedented upheaval of modern life ended their sports seasons nearly two weeks ago. "Our overarching goal here was to do whatever we needed to do to help our young people get home," Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. "Fortunately, through a lot of hard work with our staff we were able to make that happen."
Impact of coronavirus means NCAA faces $475 million decrease in revenue, credit-rating firm estimates
The NCAA is facing decreases of $475 million in revenues and $380 million in expenses for its current fiscal year, according to estimates in a report released Tuesday by one of the nation's three major credit-rating firms. The amounts for 2020 would represent a 42% decline in revenue and a 36% decline in expenses from 2019, based on figures that Moody's Investors Service calls its "adjusted indicators," which can differ slightly from numbers shown in the association's financial statements. In dollar amounts, that means the NCAA will have about $654 million in revenue and about $668 million in expenses in fiscal 2020. Both of those amounts have been above $1 billion in each of the past two years, according to the association's recently released audited financial statement. The Moody's credit opinion and subsequent comments to USA TODAY by firm vice president and senior credit officer Dennis Gephardt provide some insight into how the NCAA is handling its financial affairs after canceling the Division I men's basketball tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NCAA on Clemson quarterback's coronavirus fundraiser: 'We applaud Trevor for his efforts'
The NCAA on Tuesday night said Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and other college athletes could raise money to help people affected by the novel coronavirus. Lawrence, perhaps college football's most recognizable face with almost 600,000 combined followers on Instagram and Twitter, on Monday started a GoFundMe page to help those impacted by the pandemic. Clemson's compliance office instructed Lawrence to take the fundraising page down, citing the NCAA's policy that student-athletes cannot profit off of their name, image and likeness. The NCAA then reached out to Clemson to inform the school that Lawrence could, in fact, help raise money for victims of the pandemic. In 2015, LSU running back Leonard Fournette said he intended to auction off his jersey from his team's game against South Carolina -- which was supposed to be played in the Palmetto State but was moved due to massive flooding -- and donate the proceeds to flood relief effort. The NCAA at first blocked Fournette from auctioning his jersey, then relented and allowed him to do so amid a loud backlash.
NFL wants April draft to go on as scheduled despite GMs' recommendation
The NFL plans to stick with its April 23-25 schedule for this year's draft despite a recommendation from the league's general manager subcommittee to commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday that it be moved back due to the coronavirus pandemic, league sources said. General managers are concerned that, in this current environment, with offseason activities canceled and some teams' facilities closed, there won't be enough time for player physicals, gathering psychological testing, getting further verified information about the players and some teams having to conduct the draft from home. League sources have said it would be a competitive disadvantage to have some teams in their training facilities during the draft while teams in California, New Jersey and other hard-hit areas would be in lockdown and unable to be in their teams' buildings. On Wednesday's "The Peter King Podcast," New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, a member of the GM subcommittee, expressed his preference to push back the draft.
Need a refund on those tickets to NBA, NHL or baseball games? Hold that thought
Tensions are starting to simmer between professional sports teams and some of their best customers. After postponing games indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams from the NBA, NHL and major league baseball are effectively keeping the money of customers who bought tickets to those games. Instead of giving cash refunds, these businesses have operated under their normal ticket policies for postponed or rained-out games -- holding the money as credit to be used whenever their games resume. But these aren't normal times, and these are not normal postponements. And with the nation's economy continuing to crater, ticket holders want their money back in cash, even if those games haven't yet been officially canceled. More than $1 billion in consumer capital is tied up in tickets to games that are stuck in limbo because of the pandemic, according to conservative estimates. It affects ticket holders of all stripes and trickles downstream to the secondary markets, such as StubHub, which faces its own financial reckoning if games are canceled. Many fans have shared their complaints on social media.

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