Thursday, March 26, 2020   
MSU waiving GMAT/GRE requirements for summer and fall graduate school applicants
Due to testing limitations related to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Mississippi State is temporarily waiving GMAT and GRE testing requirements for students applying to the university's graduate programs. The GMAT and GRE waivers apply to all of MSU's over 200 on-campus and online graduate programs. "In addition to supporting our current graduate students, our Graduate School -- along with faculty and staff across campus -- is working to support prospective students as they navigate the admissions and enrollment process during this unique time," said MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw. "We hope the waiver of these testing requirements will provide one less thing for prospective students to worry about. Our faculty and staff look forward to welcoming students as they begin new academic programs this summer and fall." Graduate School staff are available to answer questions. To reach the office, call 662-325-7400 or email
Mississippi State waives GMAT/GRE requirements for summer & fall graduate school applicants
Due to testing limitations related to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Mississippi State is temporarily waiving GMAT and GRE testing requirements for students applying to the university's graduate programs. "Mississippi State University is very sensitive to the stress both our current and prospective students may be experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to reduce the stress level, our Graduate School, in coordination with the academic colleges, has made the decision to waive the GRE and GMAT test score requirements for summer 2020 and fall 2020 applicants," said Peter Ryan, MSU associate provost for academic affairs and interim dean of the Graduate School. Program coordinators also can answer questions specific to colleges and departments. To find the coordinator for a program, visit
Meridian Public School District, MSU-Meridian, MSU Riley Center honored with Governor's Award
The Meridian Public School District, MSU-Meridian and the MSU Riley Center received the 2020 Governor's Award on March 5 for their partnership to integrate the arts district-wide through Any Given Child. The 18th Annual Governor's Awards honored Top School-Community Partnerships during Mississippi Vision for Education Partnership Conference of the Mississippi Association in Partners In Education and Program of Research and Evaluation for Public Schools during a conference in Hattiesburg The Any Given Child Meridian partnership is in its fourth year and the Meridian Public School District is seeking to provide access and equity through arts integration and arts education for students in pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade.
Poynter and MediaWise announce College Correspondents program to teach fact from fiction online
The MediaWise Voter Project, a nonprofit and nonpartisan program of The Poynter Institute that aims to teach digital literacy skills to first-time voters in the 2020 election, is pleased to announce the students selected as the project's Campus Correspondents. The students represent 11 diverse colleges and universities across America, and they will work to train their peers how to tell fact from fiction online in advance of the 2020 election. In a time when the spread of misinformation online is rampant, MediaWise and its partners aim to teach young people how to debunk misinformation online. Campus Correspondents were invited to The Poynter Institute for training with the MediaWise team March 6-8, when they learned how to spot misinformation online, find reliable information about the election and how to train their peers on these important skills. Campus Correspondents include Savannah Munn, Mississippi State University.
Area hospitals stocked up on masks, other COVID-19 supplies
During Gov. Tate Reeves' teleconference with county supervisors throughout the state Wednesday, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director Greg Michel provided an update on the medical supplies needed to fight the COVID-19 virus. Calling the current supply "woefully short of what our needs are," Michel said MEMA is establishing a supply chain that should relieve shortages around Mississippi. "The supply of N95 (medical) masks continue to be woefully short, but we do have a large supply coming in within the next 48 hours and over the course of the next seven days, we should have a good stock across the board," he said. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle in Columbus and OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville are not currently facing shortages of the supplies needed to fight the virus, hospital officials said. "We have a good supply of the items we need," said Baptist Director of Materials Management Carl Carter. OCH is in a similar situation, said Public Relations Director Mary Kathryn Kight. "Because we have been conservative with our PPE (personal protection equipment) and have had generous donations from the community at (Mississippi State University), we have the supplies we need at this time," Kight said. "At this point, our needs are being met."
State resources reach local hospitals, Mississippi records fifth death
Regional hospitals are expanding their resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic even as the state's numbers continue upward, including four additional deaths reported Wednesday. Three men -- one each from Holmes County, Webster County and Wilkinson County -- and a woman from Tunica County have died from COVID-19, said the Mississippi State Health Department. The men were hospitalized and had underlying health conditions. The Holmes County man was between the ages of 60 and 65, the Webster County man was between the ages of 65 and 70, and the Wilkinson County man was between the ages of 85 and 90. The woman was between the ages of 75 and 80 and died in a long-term care facility. Mississippi's total count of known COVID-19 cases now stands at 377, with five known deaths, including the first, a Hancock County man. The Health Department reported 57 new cases Wednesday. "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 State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs in a statement.
Local hospitals work to mitigate coronavirus spread
In the wake of a growing number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus, hospitals in the Golden Triangle are tightening restrictions within the facilities to lower the risk of infection. Several hospitals have restricted in-person patient visits, limited the number of entrances and isolated potential and confirmed COVID-19 patients from the other patients. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle in Columbus, OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville and North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point all have coronavirus testing supplies available, and patients are encouraged to call a physician or nurse practitioner first before walking into facilities for testing, hospital spokespeople said. Starting last Tuesday, OCH recommended one designated visitor per patient, but exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis, according to their latest visitation policies online. Children under the age of 14 are not allowed to visit. "We don't have any cases right now," said Mary Kathryn Kight, OCH director of marketing and public relations. "This is just precautionary measures for our staff, our patients as well as the visitors."
Coronavirus in Mississippi: State reports 485 cases, 5 deaths
As Week 3 of the coronavirus outbreak continues in Mississippi, the number of cases rose to 485 in 64 of the state's 82 counties as of Thursday morning. Three new counties reported their first cases: Benton, Lauderdale and Yalobusha. The Mississippi State Department of Health on Wednesday reported four more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state's total to five. The deaths were reported in Hancock, Holmes, Webster, Wilkinson and Tunica counties. All five cases were elderly people, four with underlying health conditions. Four were male who were hospitalized at the time of their deaths. The fifth was a female, who died in a long-term care facility. The Health Department updates the number of cases once a day. Results are from testing done by the department and private laboratories, but the number of tests reported are ones conducted only by the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. Private labs do not report their testing numbers. As of Thursday, MSDH has tested 2,776.
Meat markets, wholesalers stay stocked during COVID-19 crisis
Over the past few weeks, it's evident that businesses have continued to change, and in some cases even close their doors temporarily due to COVID-19. However, there are some area businesses that have seen an influx of customers. The Butcher Shop in Columbus, 108 13th St. N., has remained slam-packed but steadily stocked. With COVID-19, owner Bill Mason said he has seen more new faces shopping for ground chuck, round and USDA steaks. Over in Starkville, United Produce has shifted its focus entirely. The wholesale distributor, which largely sells to area restaurants, at 900 Louisville St., has taken down its "no retail sales" sign from its building. General Manager John McKissack said with most restaurants closing temporarily, United Produce has had some excess fruits and vegetables available for individual purchase. Especially for those in self-quarantine, elderly customers and those who can't leave their house, McKissack said United Produce is delivering in the Starkville area. "We're making the (delivery) option available to the customers," he said. "We're doing it for them and for us. I've gotta find a way to support our guys too. ... My guys all came together with this idea. From here on, we're all in this together."
Down market brings new investors, while existing ones seek to 'ride it out'
The stock value for the video conferencing tool Zoom increased by 22 percent from the close of the market Friday to the same time Monday. People want to invest in Zoom stock because the app has become a widely-used work-from-home tool during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Modern Woodmen of America financial adviser Barbara Coats said. But she and other advisers warn against purchasing individual stocks. "It could go very well, but if you're not experienced and if that's where you're putting all your money, you're taking a real risk putting everything on that one holding, and that's just not a smart thing to do," said Coats, who is based in Starkville. Having a diverse stock portfolio -- stocks, bonds and mutual funds -- is just one piece of advice financial planners have for investors in the particularly volatile market and worldwide economic recession that the pandemic has caused.
Shops, restaurants at Renaissance in Ridgeland look for new ways to do business
"Our usual advertising theme is 'your dining and shopping destination.'" "Now we say: 'We're your curbside dining and shopping destination,'" Jan Mattiace jokingly said in an interview on Wednesday. But the corona virus epidemic's disruption of commerce and just about everything else in the country and world, is no joke, Mattiace said. Many retailers across the nation have closed, with undetermined plans for the future. But many others are thinking creatively, said Mattiace, marketing and communications director for Mattiace Properties, which owns the Renaissance at Colony Park in Ridgeland. The closing of the Apple store in Renaissance was the first warning for the lifestyle mall in Ridgeland. The wave of limited hours and numbers of people and "social distancing" ordered by local and federal authorities has forced a change, for the meantime anyway, of business models, Mattiace continued. Restaurants are operating curbside -- sometimes literally. "Some people don't even want to roll down their window down," Mattiace said.
$2.5M from city pledged to Marty Stuart's Congress of Country Music, other projects
A $2.5 million bond issue to support the Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music and other infrastructure projects was approved by Mayor James Young and the Philadelphia Board of Aldermen last week. The board voted last Tuesday to announce their intent to issue the $2.5 million in bonds. "We do want to support the Congress of Country Music project," Young said. "The state has put money into the project. Outside investors are considering whether to put money into it. We as a community need to step up and show our support." Much of the funding would go to refurbish the Ellis Theatre that has already been gutted and needs roof work, officials said. Young said he believes to tourism dollars the Congress of Country Music would bring in will cover the bond issue investment down the road. "This project is more than country music, it's about music, tourism dollars and our future," Young said. "It is a billion-dollar industry and we want Philadelphia to get a piece of that." The Congress of Country Music is expected to be a $30-million project in downtown Philadelphia on the Ellis block.
Retired, student nurses can work in Mississippi coronavirus emergency
New guidelines will allow retired nurses, recent nursing school graduates and other eligible applicants to receive a 120-day permit that will allow them to provide additional healthcare service to Mississippi patients. "We feel a need to make sure we have a competent and skilled nursing workforce to help assist eradicate this COVID-19 outbreak," said Phyllis Johnson, the executive director of the Mississippi Board of Nursing. Applicants are required to apply online at for a permit. They will be screened by the board. Recent graduates must provide proof of graduation. There is no charge to apply. The disaster permits will be in effect until the state's emergency declaration is lifted. "Nurses are always ready to step up to the plate and this time is no different," Johnson said.
Governor: Mississippi not 'dictator' on limits during virus
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is rejecting "dictator models like China" to strictly control people's movements to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. "We're following our experts and I've spent many sleepless nights praying for wisdom in this unprecedented time," Republican Reeves said on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. His comments came a day after he issued an executive order that seeks to limit people's physical interactions. Reeves told restaurants and bars statewide to close their dining rooms and limit service to carry-out or deliver meals. He has encouraged people to remain home, but has not issued a stay-at-home order, as many other governors have done. Also Wednesday, a day after Reeves said he wants Mississippi's only abortion clinic to stop doing elective surgeries, the clinic was still seeing patients. Protesters and clinic escorts sometimes stood close to each other on the sidewalk outside, ignoring suggestions by medical professionals that people keep a 6-foot distance between themselves and others.
Mayors scramble to know: Does Gov. Reeves' coronavirus declaration clash with local orders?
Impatient with what they consider Gov. Tate Reeves' lack of guidance amid the COVID-19 outbreak, some Mississippi mayors recently placed protective restrictions on their towns' residents and businesses. Then, Reeves issued his own sweeping executive order. But which takes precedence? That's the question leaders of some of the state's largest cities and counties found themselves scrambling to answer on Wednesday. "I would've preferred that the governor enacted an executive order sooner that impacted all of us the same so we weren't creating confusion for people," Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill told Mississippi Today, adding that the city would follow Reeves' order. "But now that it's done, we'll have the continuity and clarity that keeps us from enacting the things that are specific to us but might not match neighboring communities." Reeves' legal team designed the executive order to serve as a minimum standard for the state's cities and counties, his office said on Wednesday. But confusion subsequently abounded in town halls across the state as Reeves' statewide order clashed with orders local governments had previously passed.
New Orleans residents escape to the Coast during coronavirus pandemic, mayors say
The rapid spread of coronavirus in New Orleans has residents escaping to Hancock County, Waveland, Pass Christian and surrounding communities in Mississippi. "We have major concerns because they have the fastest growing number of cases of this virus and we are the closet to them," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre. "Now, we do have a large amount of second homeowners from New Orleans in our community, but we are seeing way more now with Louisiana shutting down." Favre said he and other city leaders are worried the number of coronavirus cases may go up in South Mississippi if more people from New Orleans are in the area. During a ride through the city this week, Favre said he noticed more cars than usual with Louisiana tags at grocery stores and other stores that have supplies. "With them coming over, it's saturating the market over here," Favre added. "With a lot more people, it makes it hard on our people to get the things they need." Still, Favre, Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott and Hancock County Board President Scotty Jordan pointed out that New Orleans residents have long been a mainstay in their communities.
Anthony Fauci: Coronavirus shutdown in Louisiana likely needed to come 'a bit sooner'
Louisiana and the rapid growth of coronavirus cases across the state was a focus of Chris Cuomo's Prime Time show on CNN when he invited guest Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday evening to discuss the state's and country's acceleration of the spread. During the CNN interview, Cuomo asked Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to explain why Louisiana's coronavirus cases exploded from 100 to more than 1,000 in just a week's time. Fauci said though state and New Orleans officials have put in place rigid restrictions to keep people inside and further the spread of COVID-19, a shutdown probably could have come sooner. "It is likely that should've been done a little bit sooner," Fauci said. "I'm not blaming anyone on that, but you get caught unaware because the nature of this outbreak that's so frustrating and, in many respects, a bit frightening and intimidating ... it putters along and you think you're OK. Then it starts to go up a little and 'Bingo,' it goes up in an exponential way. That's what's happening in New Orleans now."
Mississippi coronavirus: Unemployed struggle to file claims
For 16 years, Belinda Woods-Johnson has worked for a company that ships cars from Nissan's Canton factory to dealers around the world. It's a good job -- enough to help support the 52-year-old and her family. But last week, Nissan announced it would temporarily shutter its U.S. plants due to the coronavirus. By Friday, Woods-Johnson and most of her Wallenius Wilhelmsen Solutions coworkers were jobless. The company pledged to pay health insurance for a month, and employees were told they might return to work in as little as two weeks. But Woods-Johnson, who works as a quality inspector, suspects it could be much longer. Confirmed Mississippi virus cases grew to 377 Wednesday, with five deaths, and showed no signs of slowing. The Clinton resident joined thousands of Mississippians suddenly without a paycheck as much of the state's economy ground to a halt. State officials loosened unemployment benefit eligibility requirements and increased staffing and hours at call centers to accommodate a tidal wave of applicants. It hasn't been enough. On Wednesday morning, sitting on the grass outside her apartment, Woods-Johnson and her neighbor, Darla Kemmerer, recalled two days of calling the state's jammed unemployment hotline.
Jobless claims soar as House considers added benefits
The Department of Labor reported skyrocketing unemployment claims on Thursday as the House prepares to take up a Senate bill that would increase unemployment compensation and broaden the range of workers who would be eligible. The department said 3.28 million people claimed unemployment insurance in the week ending March 21, as entire sectors of the economy shut down in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial claims were 3 million higher than in the previous week. The previous weekly record had been 695,000 in October 1982. The highest weekly number during the Great Recession was 665,000 in March 2009. St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said last weekend the unemployment rate could rise to 30 percent. The jobs report was released after the Senate late Wednesday passed a $2.2 trillion economic aid bill that would increase the basic unemployment benefit by about $600 per week per individual for up to four months, and extend the period of unemployment eligibility to 39 weeks through the end of 2020. The current national average is $385 a week, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Battle against coronavirus launches new fight over abortion rights
The fight over abortion rights is getting tangled up in the battle against the coronavirus, with conservative states moving to restrict access to the procedure by classifying it as nonessential. Officials in Texas, Mississippi and Ohio argue abortion is an elective procedure that should be halted so masks and gloves, which are in short supply, can be preserved for health workers on the front lines of the pandemic. But abortion rights advocates argue the procedure is essential and time-sensitive, and clinics are following guidelines to conserve personal protective equipment. In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said Tuesday that abortions would be halted in the state to conserve medical supplies. The state's sole abortion clinic -- the Jackson Women's Health Organization -- said on Wednesday it is still open and seeing patients.
When Will It Be Safe to Loosen Coronavirus Lockdowns?
As the new coronavirus spreads across the world, governments and scientists are bracing for a monthslong siege rather than a swift victory -- one marked by shifting strategies and potentially prolonged economic disruption. In the coming weeks and months, authorities will grapple with a thorny problem: When is it safe to loosen the grip and by how much without risking a resurgence -- and how much economic pain are countries ready to endure? Scientists say the pandemic is likely to be brought to an end in one of two ways: with a vaccine, or by achieving so-called herd immunity, which occurs when a large percentage of the population -- half or more -- survives infection and develops immunity to the virus. An effective treatment would also help slow the contagion and reduce the risk. All three are problematic. A vaccine is likely to take much longer than a year to develop and be made widely available, said Kristian Andersen, an infectious-disease researcher at Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif. "Life is not going to be back to what we consider normal for years to come," Dr. Andersen said. "We need to figure out how we are going to function as a society for the next three years."
'This will be a wallop': Rural areas brace for hard economic hit
Rural communities are bracing for the looming recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, expecting that it could devastate already shaky economies. As the virus shuts down schools, factories, restaurants and other businesses, rural towns contend with a smaller tax base, less access to high-speed internet and growing strain among lenders. Both farming and manufacturing were hurt in recent years under President Donald Trump's trade wars, which in turn took tolls on community banks concentrated in the Midwest. Rural demographics and aging infrastructure often make it harder for these regions to confront an economic crisis and bounce back. Jessie Hobbs, a row crop farmer in Alabama, was already worried about the economic fallout long before the national emergency was declared. Now, corn futures have fallen from about $4 at the start of 2020 to below $3.50 this week, and other commodity prices are down off over worries about a drop in demand. USDA, for its part, has taken steps to help rural communities brace for the pandemic, like easing requirements for food assistance as well as rural housing programs that support low-income people. The latest Senate bill is also giving the Agriculture Department more power and $23 billion more to directly aid farmers and ranchers affected by the economic fallout.
Defense industry to make coronavirus masks, ventilators. Will it be fast enough?
The Defense Department has begun signing contracts with defense firms to ramp up production of ventilators and N95 respirator masks in short supply around the country, but the medical equipment may not reach hospitals before coronavirus cases peak in the next few weeks, the Pentagon's head of acquisition said Tuesday. "We will strive to do everything we can before June, but we have no data to address that now," Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said at a media briefing at the Pentagon. The hastened production is being managed under the Defense Production Act, a law that gives the president authority to protect critical national defense supplies by allowing him to prioritize contracts or provide loans, grants or other economic incentives to accelerate their production. Asked why the ramp-up for mask production was so late in coming, when the Pentagon had known about the severity of the pandemic for weeks, Lord said the Pentagon had not yet been directed by HHS or FEMA on what were the specific needs.
Coronavirus and campus: Mississippi universities closing dorms
Mississippi's universities are either closing dorms or limiting students' actions on campus as they try to fight the spread of coronavirus. Many students have gone home and will use online classes the schools are offering. But some students had planned to return to their campus housing after spring break and found they will not be able to do so. At the University of Southern Mississippi students will soon no longer have access to their dorm rooms or other campus housing. In a letter to Southern Miss residents of campus housing from Housing and Residence Life, regular access to all campus housing -- dorms, sorority houses, fraternity houses or campus apartments -- will be unavailable beginning 9 a.m. Friday. "This has been a tough decision, but we got to the point where we thought it was best to limit housing for the safety of our staff and students," said Dee Dee Anderson, vice president of student affairs. At the University of Mississippi, Chancellor Glenn Boyce announced on the school's website March 19, all residence halls and rooms will remain locked and students are not authorized to return to university housing until further notice.
Southern Miss making changes amid coronavirus pandemic
It's been two weeks since the decision to close all Mississippi public colleges and universities was made. Now, decisions are being made at the University of Southern Mississippi as to how they'll move forward with the rest of the semester. With guidelines from health experts telling people to stay in isolation as much as possible, the internet is USM's best tool. "We've worked really hard these last two weeks to try to transfer everything we can online," said Dee Dee Anderson, vice president of Student Affairs at Southern Miss. "Things like our counseling service, now you can do online classes we're doing online exercise classes, online advising." The university is also limiting access to campus housing. "We felt that was the safest thing for our students and our community and the state of Mississippi because we have a lot of students who would've been traveling in and we didn't feel that was wise," Anderson said. Some students are asking the university for a refund for the time they're not allowed in the housing they've already paid for. Anderson said they are working with state entities to find out what the best plan of action is.
How the Digital Divide and the Coronavirus Impact Mississippi Delta Schools
It's quiet at Lucy Webb Elementary School in Greenville. The school is open for two reasons this afternoon -- for students to pick up grab and go meals and for parents like Tewanda Williams to pick up printed packets for her three children. "I'm coming to get their working packet," Williams said. "I guess it will last... 'til what? April? They can still learn while they're out.'" Last week, Governor Tate Reeves closed all public schools in the state to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. While schools are closed, classes are not canceled. Districts are now turning to online instruction to keep students engaged. "We definitely have packets from pre-K to eighth grade," said Debra Dace, the interim superintendent of Greenville Public School District. "Our high school has done a little bit more in using the Google Classroom as well as technology as a whole." Distance learning can be problematic in rural areas where wifi and other technology is not readily available. Right now, Dace said the district is surveying families on what internet access they have, so appropriate technology can be provided.
COVID-19 cases increase in Alachua County and UF; S/U grading option available
The University of Florida reported five new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of confirmed cases at the university to 19. Today's report included UF's first case of COVID-19 of a student living on-campus. The student is an undergraduate student in the College of Agricultural and Life sciences, but UF did not reveal where the student was living on-campus. UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said that out of privacy for the student, UF will not be revealing what dorm the student lives in, but students who live there have been notified. He said appropriate public health and cleaning measures have been taken and that the dorms will remain open. Students now have the option to take classes without a normal letter grade. Starting April 1, students will be able to fill out an online form on one.uf to submit a S-U request, more commonly known as pass or fail, for their classes, according to UF's policy update for the S-U grade option. This online form will be available until April 22. The grading option allows students to receive a grade of either "S," which is the letter grade for getting above a C, or "U," which is the letter grade received if the student receives a C- and under in the course, according to UF's S-U grading page.
U. of Tennessee adopts pass/fail grading amid coronavirus
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville will allow students to opt in to a pass-fail grading scale for most undergraduate and some graduate classes, campus officials announced Wednesday. Students are scattered across the state and beyond after campus shut down in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and faculty have scrambled to move their classes online. The change has been challenging for students who are now taking classes virtually, sometimes in less-than-ideal circumstances. More than 5,000 people signed a petition urging Chancellor Donde Plowman to allow a pass-fail option, which means no traditional letter grade is given. The petition describes the challenges students are facing in the temporary transition to distance learning, including a lack of engagement with professors, limited access to Wi-Fi, personal "turmoil," negative home environments and challenges accessing academic help. Students will be able to begin opting in to the pass-fail grade scale in mid-April. The change required approval from the Faculty Senate.
Georgia medical students work to free up doctors in coronavirus fight
Last year, Augusta native Susan Brands was learning how to do CPR. Next week, she'll put her additional medical skills to practice to combat the coronavirus. Brands, 25, is among 400 third- and fourth-year students at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University who are scheduled to begin assisting the state's 18 public health districts, advising patients about whether they need to be tested for the virus and performing other tasks, the college announced this week. They're among the many medical students statewide getting an early start to their medical careers as crowded hospitals grapple with the flood of patients seeking care. The Augusta students will not have physical contact with patients. Much of their work will be telemedicine, talking to the sick and giving patients advice based on their symptoms online and over the phone. The students will assist drive-thru testing centers and receive online pandemic medicine training before going into the field.
Look inside the U. of Kentucky coronavirus testing lab. Here's how it works.
It starts with a swab up the nose. It's more than just a nasal swab to find out if you have COVID-19, it's a nasopharyngeal swab. That's when someone takes a flexible stick, around 10 inches long, and shoves it way up into your nose. "It should be uncomfortable," said Dr. Morgan McCoy, assistant professor in Pathology & Laboratory Medicine in the UK College of Medicine. "If it's uncomfortable, then that means that it was a good collection." The stick is collecting a sample that will be put into a red liquid called "viral transport media." Since Friday, those samples collected in the UK HealthCare system have been going to the University of Kentucky's clinical microbiology lab for processing. Kentucky's flagship university was slower to establish a testing facility than some others, including the University of Louisville, which has been conducting tests since March 13. At UK, they had to wait for an instrument to arrive, and then wait for the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the instruments UK was using for the tests. The vendor from whom they buy testing kits also had to get approval.
WTAMU Copper Clean
Video: Engineering students at West Texas A&M University are making campus safer from viruses and bacteria with technology they first developed to protect soldiers from anthrax. Doors at West Texas A&M University will soon be able to resist some common, harmful pathogens for up to two years, thanks to a clever invention by graduate engineering students there. This technology soon will be tested for its effectiveness against the coronavirus.
It's official: Missouri's Alexander Cartwright approved as next UCF president, starts April 13
The Florida Board of Governors unanimously approved Alexander Cartwright as the next president of the University of Central Florida on Wednesday, bringing an end to his time leading the University of Missouri. His start date is April 13, according to his contract with UCF. No plans have been made public yet about a search for a new MU chancellor. The UM System Board of Curators met late Wednesday afternoon, but it was a closed session and no announcement was forthcoming. Cartwright was selected unanimously by UCF's Board of Trustees on Friday. As president, he will lead one of the largest public universities in the country. The five-year contract was approved without debate by the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Cartwright's base pay will be $600,000, 20% higher than the university's previous president and about 20% higher than his salary at MU. The contract also includes potential performance bonuses, which along with deferred compensation and other perks will likely total above $1 million annually, according to the Sentinel.
APLU Statement on Senate Agreement on Third COVID-19 Emergency Supplemental Bill
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson Wednesday released the following statement regarding the Senate agreement on a third COVID-19 emergency supplemental bill. "Over the past several weeks, public university presidents and chancellors have been working tirelessly to communicate with Congress on the need for emergency relief. We appreciate that the agreed upon bill evolved from its initial form, which included no direct funding to students and universities, to then $6 billion, and now a minimum of $14 billion for all of higher education with the possibility for some additional funds at the discretion of states. We are grateful that the measure provides much-needed regulatory relief, which will grant schools flexibility to support students in irregular circumstances. However, the $14 billion provided for higher education falls far short of what is needed. ... Unfortunately, COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on public health and our economy. This bill was massive, but it's all but certain Congress will need to do even more. It's critical that colleges and universities and their students receive much more robust support as future legislation is developed."
Disappointed college leaders and student debt advocates look to next round of stimulus
Advocates who have been pushing for student loan debt to be canceled were disappointed that, even with a $2.2 trillion price tag, the stimulus package approved by the U.S. Senate late Wednesday night doesn't do more. The president of the umbrella association representing colleges and universities also expressed disappointment, saying the amount of aid for higher education institutions in the bill is "woefully inadequate." So even before the Senate sent the relief package to the House, lobbyists were looking ahead to the next stimulus package, which Congress has already begun discussing. The discretionary funding for states, however, carries a requirement that states not reduce funding for higher education. States could seek a waiver from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos if they are in financial crisis. Craig Lindwarm, vice president of congressional and governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, said the requirement would protect institutions from state budget cuts. He said, though, that the Senate bill requires public institutions to offer extended paid leave. But unlike private businesses, colleges are not eligible for a federal tax credit to defray the cost. Lindwarm also was looking forward to the next round of stimulus to fix that problem and to try to get additional funding.
Congress Is Poised to Pass a Coronavirus Stimulus Deal. Here's What's in It for Higher Ed.
Congress is poised to give colleges and students whose semesters were upended by the coronavirus pandemic more than $14 billion in emergency relief, according to the text of a spending deal struck on Tuesday night by the White House and the U.S. Senate. The bipartisan stimulus bill, which is expected to pass both chambers of Congress this week, would give students and colleges more funding than in an earlier bill proposed by Senate Republicans. It would also temporarily suspend student-loan payments over six months, through the end of September. However, the stimulus funding would fall well short of the $50 billion in federal assistance that nearly a dozen higher-education associations said was needed to keep colleges and students afloat. The stimulus package would allocate more than $6.2 billion each to higher-education institutions and emergency student aid, with nearly $1 billion going to minority-serving institutions such as historically black colleges and universities and tribal colleges. It also would give the Education Department the authority to distribute an extra $300 million to colleges hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis.
Massive U.S. coronavirus stimulus includes research dollars and some aid to universities
The $2 trillion stimulus package that the U.S. Senate is working to approve today is aimed at helping the country cope with the massive impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But it also includes at least $1.25 billion for federal research agencies to support scientists trying to better understand coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In addition, it extends a financial hand to universities that have shut down because of the pandemic, some of which could go to support research that has been disrupted. Details of the legislation have yet to emerge after Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress worked out their differences in negotiations that ran into the early morning. But a 22-page summary released by the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning contains these highlights: The National Institutes of Health would receive $945 million for "vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic research" on COVID-19 as well as on "the underlying risks to cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions." The big wild card in the stimulus package is a $14.25 billion allocation to support higher education. At least half of the money, which would come from the Department of Education, is earmarked for students. But the rest can be spent "to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and school closures."
Colleges Get Billions in Coronavirus Relief, but Say Deal Falls Short of Needs
The $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate on Wednesday will send about $14 billion to colleges and universities that are hemorrhaging money as they close their campuses and try to stay afloat with distance learning. But higher education leaders say that is far short of what they need in the face of an education crisis that is greater than any they have faced in a generation. The deal -- likely to pass the House on Friday -- would create a $30.75 billion education stabilization fund, 46 percent of which would go to higher education. That is a fraction of the $50 billion that higher education leaders said they needed. Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, which represents nearly all public research institutions, noted that some member schools, such as the University of Washington, have helped fight the coronavirus. "It's an important enterprise and is of course particularly helpful right now," Mr. McPherson said.
Coronavirus Upends College Giving Days as Institutions Pivot to Raise Money for Students' Basic Needs
Jenna Civitello had already mailed the save-the-date cards and recruited 600 volunteers to help raise money for Emory University's April 2 giving day. As director of alumni and constituent giving, she had been working flat-out since January to plan events and craft direct-mail and online appeals. Donations from the 24-hour campaign, which topped $1 million last year, would support the university's schools and programs. But five days after sending the mailing, her best-laid plans went awry. The coronavirus was spreading quickly across the country, and densely populated areas, such as college campuses, could amplify the outbreak. On the evening of March 11, Emory notified its staff that the campus would close for the remainder of the academic year. "Moving forward with the typical Emory Day of Giving just wasn't right," said Civitello. Over the last decade, giving days have become a popular way for charities to recruit new donors. For colleges and universities hoping to engage students and young alumni in lifetime giving, the fund-raising drives can be especially valuable. But as institutions respond to the coronavirus by shuttering campuses and moving students to online learning, many are changing the focus of their giving days to spotlight urgent student needs.
When Covid-19 Closed Colleges, Many Students Lost Jobs They Needed. Now Campuses Scramble to Support Them.
Ohio University leaders announced last week that, despite sending students home in response to the coronavirus pandemic, they would continue to employ and pay any student workers who wanted to keep their jobs. If they couldn't work remotely -- staffing a residence hall's front desk, for instance -- university officials said they'd find those students new roles. "We're committed to providing opportunities for them to do meaningful work," said M. Duane Nellis, Ohio's president, in an interview. That was good news for Noah Wright, a junior at Ohio who works in the admissions office calling prospective students. But Wright, who uses income from his admissions job to pay for everyday expenses, said his hours had been cut nearly in half. One of Wright's roommates, meanwhile, is a manager at a campus dining hall, and while the university says he'll have remote work to do, he doesn't know how. Wright's situation shows that even the best possible solution at a time like this might not be a perfect one. As classes and operations move mostly online at colleges across the country, many undergraduate employees are out of work and afraid they will lose crucial income for the rest of the semester.
'Zoombombers' disrupt online classes with racist, pornographic content
Like many professors across the country who've been displaced from college campuses because of the coronavirus pandemic, Lance Gharavi suddenly found himself teaching his spring semester courses at Arizona State University online using the Zoom meeting platform. His first Zoom session for an approximately 150-student Introduction to Storytelling course went terribly wrong. Right off the bat, he said, one of the participants used a Zoom feature that lets a user display an image or a video in the background in order to show a pornographic video. "I didn't notice it until a student on chat said something about it," said Gharavi, an associate professor in ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theater. Participants were using fake screen names, some of which he said were very offensive. "The chat window became incredibly active. Most of the comments were not on topic. They were vulgar, racist, misogynistic toilet humor. I would barely even call it humor." Gharavi was not alone.
Colleges Fear Cuts If They Can't Fill the Next Freshman Class
Covid-19 precautions in the U.S. are expected to hit universities' bottom lines in multiple ways, including in recruiting next year's freshman class, now that admitted students can't tour campuses. If colleges can't fill slots, they could face years of financial trouble. "I don't see anyone being immune this fall, or even a year from now, from some of the effects we're experiencing right now," said Todd Rinehart, president-elect of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and vice chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver. "We'd be naive to think that it's suddenly going to be back to normal." The pandemic couldn't come at a worse time for the $600 billion-plus higher education industry, which had already been suffering from the demographic reality of fewer graduating seniors, especially in the Midwest and the Northeast. Less wealthy colleges rely on tuition to stay afloat, meaning recent years' trickle of college closures could accelerate. Tuition from the next freshman class is key.
The 2020 Survey of College and University Student Affairs Officers
Student affairs officers have full agendas on college campuses, as they're often the point person for issues around such inflammatory issues as sexual violence, race relations and free speech. But those issues don't appear anywhere near the top when student affairs leaders are asked which issues dominate their time. The topics that do: student mental health, cited by 94 percent, and student well-being, by 91 percent. All other issues lagged well behind. This is from the first-ever Inside Higher Ed survey of student affairs leaders, conducted by Gallup. The survey was conducted from Jan. 16 to Feb. 12, before the coronavirus left most campuses without students. The survey included answers from only one person per institution, with coding to allow for comparisons by sector. The survey asked a series of questions about race relations, similar to those asked in a recent poll of college presidents. Both sets of officials were asked to assess the state of race relations in higher education nationally and on their own campuses, and the surveys found student affairs to be more skeptical in both cases. Both student affairs leaders and college presidents were more likely to see problems in American higher education at large than on their campuses.
Home but Not Alone
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in Mississippi State University's Shackouls Honors College, writes: Clearly the coronavirus has changed the way in which we interact both professionally and personally. Many of us are now working from home. However, working from home has new meaning as the children are no longer at school or childcare. They, too, are home. Whether the children are too young to have homework or are actively involved in school assignments, the impact is still significant to the working parents who are situated at home. There are some recommendations to help everyone work more effectively. With children, it is called parallel play. In today's quarantined families, it is called parallel occupancy. This allows each member of the family to do his or her own work in relative isolation, depending on the level of supervision necessary for children's safety.

Why Mississippi State softball season is a case of what could have been
Samantha Ricketts sat in the second row at Nusz Park. Her heart hurt, but her players couldn't tell. They weren't fixated on her. The Bulldogs were busy in the batter's box, shagging fly balls and going about the afternoon as if it was just another mid-March practice. It was ultimately far from it. Junior Mia Davidson smashed two opposite-field home runs in a row before squatting next to senior Lindsey Williams right in front of Ricketts, still seated in the bleachers on the other side of the ballpark's protective netting. Williams looked at Davidson and uttered two words Ricketts will remember forever. "Welcome back." Ricketts had just taken a call from MSU athletic director John Cohen moments before Davidson's big swings, which were a bit of a rarity at the time. The night before the practice session, Davidson hit two homers against Southern Miss. She only hit one in her previous 18 games. Davidson was coming back into form, but what Cohen told Ricketts made her comeback inconsequential. The NCAA canceled its spring sports championships, including the Women's College World Series, because of the increasingly severe COVID-19 pandemic.
I didn't know how much I would miss the games until they aren't being played
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: So I took a long walk through my neighborhood yesterday, as I do every day in these uncertain and precarious times. These daily strolls, with a pace just fast enough to raise my heart rate, have become a daily highlight: fresh air, time to think and meditate, waves and smiles from neighbors, and an hour or so away from the mostly distressing news caused by this deadly virus. Yesterday, I noticed my neighborhood -- Fondren-Woodland Hills in the heart of Jackson -- has taken on an remarkably pleasing likeness to Augusta National and The Masters in April. The azaleas, dogwoods, and wisteria are in full bloom. Flowers bloom nearly everywhere you look. The grass has turned a deep, verdant green. And my thoughts naturally turned to Augusta in April. It has been my good fortune to report on several Masters through the years. And I must tell you that the lasting memories are not so much of the legends who have won, but of the sheer beauty of the place, the hilly terrain, the echoing roars of the galleries, and the palpable tension nearly every Masters brings. Turns out, my thoughts of April in Augusta were just an entry into a much deeper stream of thought of why this time of the year -- springtime, when March turns to April -- is my favorite when it comes to sports.
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork wants eligibility relief for all student-athletes in spring sports
With the NCAA Division I coordination committee scheduled to vote on eligibility relief Monday, Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said he hopes the NCAA decides to grant spring sport student-athletes an extra season. On Wednesday, Bjork held his first in a series of weekly teleconferences that will run through the current suspension of play due to the coronavirus. He made it clear he's all for all athletes to get an extra season because of the delay -- not just seniors. "I want to be as liberal as possible, and then it's going to be up to the program, the coach and the athlete to figure out what's best for them," Bjork said. All Southeastern Conference athletic directors take part in a daily conference call with league staff, and eligibility relief has been a daily topic, Bjork said. Among the questions that remain to be answered are how it will fit into current NCAA rules on scholarship allotments and roster sizes. "The NCAA council will vote on this on Monday, so we've provided input on what all this means, and my perspective hasn't changed," Bjork said.
Players forced to work back from injury away from UGA
More than three and a half months ago, Dominick Blaylock lay sprawled out on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field with what turned out to be a torn ACL in his left knee. The injury in the SEC championship game in Atlanta ended the promising wide receiver's freshman season, but left him ample time to make a recovery in time for the 2020 season. That rehab came under the watchful eye of Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson and staff in Athens until recently. The novel coronavirus pandemic shut down spring practice at Georgia before it began and with classes now only online, players like Blaylock are working to come back from injuries in their hometowns. "At this point, our medical facilities are closed," Courson said through a UGA athletics spokesman. "We are communicating regularly with our student-athletes and coordinating medical care as needed on an individual basis, whether that be home programs developed specifically for them or arrangements in their hometown. Our sports medicine staff is available to help coordinate any medical needs our student-athletes may have during this period."
Sean Payton recovers from coronavirus, urges people to 'be smart'
After testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Saints coach Sean Payton said he's doing well. During an interview with WWL Radio, Payton said he was cleared Tuesday. "It's been quite a process, and you spend a lot of time trying to learn as much as you can about it. We're certainly seeing it on the news 24/7, but basically a weekend ago, it wasn't until Sunday night, when I first began to feel some flu-like symptoms," Payton said. "Monday morning, they were certainly a little bit more significant. I had a low-grade fever... and that's when I had my test on Monday and basically quarantined at that point at the house." Payton said his positive test demonstrates that coronavirus doesn't discriminate, advocating the importance of flattening the curve. As far as New Orleans' recovery after the coronavirus, Payton thinks the city will bounce back, but he's urging people to follow instructions from local and national officials. "This city is tough and resilient," Payton said. "We're smart. We've been through so much, between the (BP) Oil [incident], multiple hurricanes since I've been here post-Katrina. But we don't have to be just tough now, we've got to be a little smart, too."

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