Friday, March 27, 2020   
Two MSU employees, student have confirmed cases of COVID-19
At least two employees and one student at Mississippi State University have been confirmed to have COVID-19 coronavirus, university officials said in a press release Thursday. The three individuals, including a faculty member and a staff member, are in isolation, university Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said in the release. University officials are investigating the cases and have sanitized the areas the individuals may have recently had contact with on campus. Additionally, an MSU Extension Service employee in Pike County is in self-isolation and being treated for the virus. "Under the direction of Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum and senior administrators across the campus, MSU has during the COVID-19 national emergency maintained a commitment to keeping our students, faculty and staff as safe as possible," Salter said in the release. "One way that safety can best be accomplished is through offsetting rumor and gossip with factual and timely information." Another student is hospitalized out-of-state with what health professionals believe is COVID-19, but has not been confirmed. The student was last on campus on March 18 while moving out of fraternity housing, and had "little to no contact" with others during that time, the release said. The fraternity has been notified, and university officials are taking appropriate sanitation measures and reaching out to anyone the student may have come into contact with while moving.
Mississippi State confirms additional coronavirus cases
According to Mississippi State University, one faculty member tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation. That individual visited their MSU office on March 16, prior to confirmation. According to the university, an investigation took place and crews cleaned the affected office area and adjacent common facilities. The faculty member is receiving appropriate medical care. One staff member also tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation. The staff member was isolated at home prior to confirmation. As previously reported, one MSU Extension employee in Pike County was confirmed positive for COVID-19, self-isolated and received medical attention. The Pike County office was professionally sanitized and temporarily closed. One MSU student, who has not been on campus since the beginning of Spring Break on March 9 was confirmed positive for COVID-19, and self-isolated at the individual's family home. The university investigation into this case is ongoing. The university fully expects MSU-related confirmed cases to increase in the near term, as the CDC and the Mississippi State Department of Health have warned all essential institutions will likely occur.
Some international students have no way home
Arpana Upadhyay was left alone at home in Nepal when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the country in April 2015, interrupting her last semester in high school. Five years later, that memory resurfaces as Upadhyay, now a senior biology student at Mississippi University for Women, is again alone and far from her family amid yet another crisis to which she can see no end. For Upadhyay, going back to Nepal is not an option because the entire country is on lockdown during the pandemic. Upadhyay is one of many college students in the Golden Triangle area who are presented with the same challenge. Many students, some low-income or international, are staying on or near campus as school operations come to a halt. Roughly 500 students at Mississippi State University in Starkville and 72 students at MUW are still living on campus, said both Regina Hyatt, vice president for student affairs at MSU, and MUW spokesperson Anika Perkins. To help students with all kinds of expenses in emergency situations, Hyatt said the school has opened up applications for the student relief fund, which was set up after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The fund is powered by donations from school alumni and friends, she said. "We've had about 300 students making requests of the fund since this started," she said. "We've received donations in this current situation of over $13,000 to that fund to help support students."
Student petition for the option of a 'pass-fail' grading system garners attention
More than 5,000 Mississippi State University students have signed a petition asking the university to give students the option of a "pass-fail" grading system this semester due to the COVID-19 crisis. Deb Eseyin, a senior studying industrial engineering, started the petition which states students should have the opportunity to let this semester's grades count towards their GPA or choose pass-fail grading, meaning a student gets credit for a class they passed while it does not affect their GPA. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said the university is discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the petition's proposal with MSU Student Association leaders and senior MSU administrators. "At this time, it is simply too early in the transition from traditional classes to online delivery to determine the best policy," Salter said. "There are deep concerns about possible pass-fail impacts on preparing less experienced students for the rigors of upper-level courses." Salter said the university is listening to feedback and will continue to monitor the situation.
Blue Delta shifting from jeans production to masks
Blue Delta Jean Co. is shifting its focus from making $500 jeans to making much-needed protective masks. "We're going to be working 12-hour days, six days a week," said CEO Josh West. "We're looking at 400 to 500 masks per person per day, so that's 30,000-50,000 masks per week." The company is shifting almost all of its resources to making the masks, which are being tested at Mississippi State University. Blue Delta has been making a name for itself in the fashion world with its custom jeans. Sports figures and entertainers have donned them, and the company was named the official jean of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team. It was at TPC at Sawgrass two weeks ago when the company felt the impact of the coronavirus. "We heard about it on that Wednesday, and they sent us home on Thursday," West said. "Over about five days we had a month and a half of events cancel on us. We have wholesale and event sales, and we lost a good bit of that part of the business." West knew Blue Delta was about to enter interesting times. Without many orders generated for jeans, what would happen to his employees and the company? While there were still orders for jeans to be filled, they wouldn't last for too long. "We started thinking about what we could do for our people and with our equipment," West said. "One of our partners has family in the medical field, and he got a call asking if we could make masks."
Mississippi Farmers Market Remains Open Saturdays
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson reminds the public that the Mississippi Farmers Market on High Street will be open this Saturday, March 28, from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. "I want to invite everyone to come out to the Mississippi Farmers Market each Saturday. The farmers market is essential and serves as a source of healthy, nutritious food for the community, and many shoppers depend on the local farmers for their weekly grocery needs. The vendors are taking precautions and following CDC recommendations. Some are offering pre-packed produce so fewer hands handle it. The produce, meat, eggs, dairy, and honey will be plentiful, and you won't have to stand in long lines," said Commissioner Gipson. The Mississippi Farmers Market is located at 929 High Street, adjacent to the State Fairgrounds. Agriculture, farms and farmers markets are considered an "essential business or operation" under Mississippi Executive Order 1463 signed on March 24, 2020, by Governor Tate Reeves.
State economist sees recession here and elsewhere as COVID-19 fight continues
Other than saying a national recession is a certainty as the coronavirus shutdown grows, Mississippi's state economist Darrin Webb is not publicly projecting where the state's economy will drop to in the days ahead. For now, Webb's forecast is for the nationwide recession to be "significant" but shorter than that brought by the banking and real estate collapses of 2008-2009. A recession is typically designated as two consecutive quarters of economic decline and rising unemployment. "We are still working on the specifics," Webb said in an email on Monday. "There remains a great deal we do not know in this rapidly changing event," he added. Webb said his current thinking is for the nation to have three quarters of recession starting in the second quarter. The starting point for projections on the economics of the covid-19 likely will be a June 2019 study ordered by former Gov. Phil Bryant. The study put the damage to Mississippi's $96 billion economy from an influenza pandemic at $4.9 billion.
Governor: Cities and counties may issue stricter COVID-19 safety measures
Gov. Tate Reeves on Thursday issued a supplement to his previous executive order attempting to clarify that municipalities and counties can enact more strict COVID-19 safety measures if they wish, as long as it does not directly conflict with his existing order. "If any municipality wants to utilize their local emergency powers, and a lot of them do and that's perfectly fine," Reeves said at a press conference on Thursday. "If they want to use their emergency powers to go beyond what that statewide order does, as long as their order is not in direct conflict with allowing for what the state order says, then it's fine." Several cities, including Oxford, Starkville and Tupelo, passed measures closing non-essential businesses, but each had somewhat of a narrower definition of an essential business than what the state's order lists. According to Reeves, municipalities which have already passed measures closing dining services completely are not in conflict with his state order and simply go beyond what the state order doesn't address.
'From defense to offense': Top health officer unveils new anti-coronavirus strategy
State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs unveiled a new strategy to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus on Thursday, focusing on aggressively finding and isolating people who have been exposed to the virus. Gov. Tate Reeves said with the new strategy the state "would be shifting from playing defense to playing offense." Dobbs said the strategy would be based in part on the processes used successfully in South Korea and Singapore to not only treat and quarantine a person who contracts the coronavirus, but also to identify that person's contacts and isolate them. Dobbs and Reeves introduced the plan Thursday during an hour-long news conference on the grounds of the Governor's Mansion -- a location, though sunny and unseasonably warm, where reporters and news conference participants could exercise safe distances. Additionally, officials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center announced they are close to opening up their own lab for COVID-19 test analysis. They hope to open Friday with the capacity of running 90 tests per day, expanding to 500 per day by next week, said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
Mississippi to trace contacts of virus-positive cases
Mississippi will begin investigations to find people who have been near those testing positive for the coronavirus and will tell those contacts to quarantine themselves, Gov. Tate Reeves and the state health officer announced Thursday. Reeves said the contact-tracing plan "will allow us to shift from playing defense to playing offense" to try to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. The health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said the contact-tracing plan is based on programs that helped slow the spread of the virus in Singapore and South Korea. Those countries have had widespread testing, though, and that scale of testing is not yet available in the United States. It's not clear whether the contact-tracing efforts in Mississippi are beginning too late to have much effect or whether the state Health Department and other agencies will have enough people to work on the program.
MSDH Taking Aggressive Stance Against Coronavirus
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, says they are going on the offensive against the Coronavirus. He says they have enough supplies, protective equipment and staff to investigate individual cases -- a strategy he says proved effective in containing the virus in South Korea and Singapore. He says they'll go into communities and place those with the virus under quarantine. "Your eyes on them making sure that you know who they are and they're properly isolated, make sure they have the proper legal order so they understand what their requirements are and then from that point doing aggressive contact investigation so that we then identify that second tier of individuals who are likely to be the next generation of infection," said Dobbs. Dobbs says using that method healthcare providers can locate people who came in contact with the infected person. He says their strategy is to shut down areas where there's an outbreak. "Implement more aggressive social distancing and isolation strategies such as maybe a temporary period of shelter in place order. Such that people in that community have a time limited period when they know they need to shelter in place but has an end date," said Dobbs.
Legislative session will not reconvene on April 1
The Mississippi Legislature will delay reconvening the 2020 Legislative Session beyond Wednesday, April 1, by agreement of Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. The Legislature adjourned its 125-day Session temporarily on Wednesday, March 18, pursuant to House Concurrent Resolution 65, which provided it would reconvene April 1 or on another date determined jointly by agreement of the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker. Lt. Gov. Hosemann, Speaker Gunn, and members of the Legislature continue to analyze the impact of COVID-19 and the new federal stimulus legislation on the State's emergency response efforts, healthcare facilities, and the wider state budget. Budget analysts and agencies have advised legislative leadership that all agencies currently have the funds needed to meet the needs of our citizens.
Legislators react to what coronavirus will mean for the rest of 2020 session
With the state battling the coronavirus pandemic, legislators in Mississippi are essentially on hiatus with 2020 session activities temporarily suspended. When Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn gaveled their respective chambers out, both said the suspension was akin to hitting the pause button with lawmakers picking back up where they left off once it was safe to do so. But what has become evident over the last week is that there will be much work to do when the Capitol reopens to consider the people's business, and some of what Mississippi could see in the remainder of this session and in future sessions are opportunities for public policy changes this event has revealed that were either on the back burner or that were previously simply not an issue. "I think the opportunities to rethink public policies post-COVID19 will be endless," State Rep. Jansen Owen (R-HD 106) told Y'all Politics. "I believe that this crisis will shape our entire political landscape – both on the state and federal level." In that vein, Y'all Politics asked a handful of legislators where they saw public policy discussions heading for the state in the wake of the pandemic. Their responses, while varied, provide insight into what could be a developing change in the legislative landscape.
Will COVID-19 push Mississippi's struggling rural hospitals over the cliff?
There is a small hospital in north Mississippi that bought 100 ponchos to prepare for the coronavirus. A hospital in central Mississippi got masks and isolation gowns through a poultry plant supplier. Groups of women have been sewing cloth masks for two hospitals in the Delta. Doctors and nurses have postponed non-essential procedures. Hospitals are rapidly adopting telemedicine. Officials are warning community members to stay away unless it's an emergency. Staff members are converting rooms into makeshift ICU units. Meanwhile, revenue is plummeting -- and this is just the beginning. After years of reductions in service, bankruptcies, closures and consolidations, rural hospitals are needed now more than ever to fight an unprecedented virus. The next few months will reveal whether they have enough resources to survive and force them to make life-or-death decisions if they don't. "The onslaught has not hit yet," said Dr. Kenneth Williams of Alliance Healthcare, a hospital in Holly Springs. "... It's almost like you're getting ready to battle."
Tippah County COVID-19 death first reported fatality in Northeast Mississippi
Northeast Mississippi has its first death linked to COVID-19, with the State Health Department reporting 94 new cases and the death of a Tippah County resident. With the latest numbers reported Friday morning, Mississippi's total of known COVID-19 cases has risen to 579 and the known death toll has risen to 8. Further details about the Tippah County death were not immediately available. The other new coronavirus fatality reported Friday was of a Harrison County resident. Counties in Northeast Mississippi with new cases include Benton, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Oktibbeha, Pontotoc, Tippah and Union. Across the state, the following counties now have deaths attributed to COVID-19: Hancock, Harrison, Holmes, Rank, Tippah, Tunica, Webster and Wilkinson.
Small business loans available following Pearl River flood
A statewide request was recently approved amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the latest declaration is in response to the February flooding of the Pearl River. Following the devastating flood event, Governor Tate Reeves sent a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration requesting a Federal Declaration for Public Assistance to make loans available to those impacted. The declaration covers Hinds and Madison counties, as well as the following adjacent counties: Attala, Claiborne, Copiah, Holmes, Leake, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Warren, and Yazoo. Residents and businesses in those counties can apply for low-interest disaster loans from SBA. "The historic flooding we experienced in February was more than anyone anticipated---and more than anyone should have to recover from alone. The people and businesses in the path of the Pearl River are still recovering from the recent devastation and deserve a helping hand. Working with the U.S. Small Business Administration, I am committed to helping Mississippi businesses and communities get back on their feet and thrive," said Governor Tate Reeves.
Former AG Jim Hood joins national law firm, will work from Houston
The law firm of Weisbrod Matteis & Copley touts on its web page offices in such diverse locations as Washington, D.C.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Fort Lauderdale and Ridgeland. Now it can be updated to include Houston, Mississippi. The D.C.-based Weisbrod Matteis & Copley, which consists of about 50 attorneys, announced recently that former Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is joining the firm. And just as he did during much of his four terms as Mississippi attorney general, Hood will be working out of an office in his hometown of Houston in northeast Mississippi. Hood, who was Mississippi's only statewide elected Democrat from 2008 until January, acknowledged recently how his life would have been different had he prevailed against then-Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in the 2019 governor's election. He would have been dealing with the various crises that engulfed Reeves early in his term, such as widespread violence that erupted in the state's prison system, major indictments for public corruption at the Department of Human Services and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. "Sometimes I read the headlines, but I don't read the stories," Hood joked, saying he has no regrets and does not dwell on the past. He added he believes he will be able to help victims in his new position just as he did as AG.
Congress pumps up NSF program to fast-track COVID-19 research
Roxane Silver studies the health effects of traumatic life events. So it was a no-brainer for the social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, to ask the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a study of how the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic would affect the well-being of Americans. Fortunately for Silver, NSF has a mechanism for fast-tracking time-sensitive ideas like hers. It's called Rapid Response Research (RAPID). Over the past 3 decades, Silver has used the mechanism seven times to field surveys immediately after mass shootings, hurricanes, and the September 2001 terrorist attacks. On 6 March she sent in her proposal, and 1 week later NSF awarded her $200,000 to begin a study on the long-term impacts of one's initial response to the pandemic. Silver is one of a dozen investigators to date who have received RAPID awards relating to COVID-19. And this week, Congress gave NSF an extra $75 million to spend on research that will help "prevent, prepare for, and respond" to the novel coronavirus.
Inside Joe Biden's bizarre coronavirus bunker
The Biden campaign has been studying the '18 midterms. No, not the ones two years ago when Democrats took over the House by aggressively recruiting moderates and sweeping swing districts across the country, a precursor to Biden's own centrist strategy in the Democratic presidential primaries this year. They've been studying the midterms of 1918, the year of the Spanish flu pandemic when large gatherings were banned in many places and candidates were forced to invent new ways to communicate with voters and run their campaigns. Turnout plummeted that year to 40%, from 50% in the 1914 midterms. "We went back and looked at voting in 1918," said Anita Dunn, one of Biden's top advisers, "where of course turnout was down, but the election was still held, and Congress was still seated." The search for historical precedents by Biden's top strategists to help understand the bizarre new reality of running a presidential campaign in a country gripped by a pandemic underscores how totally the politics of 2020 changed in March.
States seek food-stamp flexibility as pandemic limits options
Most food stamp users can't buy restaurant meals or hot or prepared foods with their benefits, but state officials have begun asking the Agriculture Department for authority to waive some federal restrictions on purchases as they try to provide more options to low-income people grappling with COVID-19. Anti-hunger advocates say most requests are in line with past requests states make in times of disaster. For example, Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., has requested authority from the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service to allow people enrolled in his state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to buy hot foods or prepared items at retail stores already approved to redeem other food stamp purchases. Cooper also is seeking authority to run Disaster SNAP (DSNAP), which is possible if a presidential disaster declaration triggers individual assistance. Under DSNAP, that assistance can include food benefits for people who wouldn't normally qualify, but have lost income, suffered injuries or otherwise been affected by disaster.
Coronavirus Relief Checks Could Take Months To Hit Bank Accounts
The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package marks the largest rescue package in American history. President Trump announced Wednesday that it includes $300 million in direct payments to individuals to alleviate at least a little of the financial pain caused by the deliberate near-standstill of the U.S. economy. But despite promises that the one-time funds will be distributed "within the next three weeks," it will likely be months before the stimulus checks hit bank accounts according to experts. Under the plan, single people earning incomes below $75,000 will receive as much as $1,200 as "direct payments into most people's deposit accounts," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a news briefing on Wednesday. Married couples would get $2,400, and parents would receive $500 for each child under age 17. About 90% of households -- approximately 165 million -- would benefit from the checks, according to the Tax Policy Center. Payments would be phased out beyond those income limits, and people making more than $99,000 will not be eligible at all.
Coronavirus test that wasn't: How federal health officials misled state scientists and derailed the best chance at containment
From its biggest cities to its smallest towns, America's chance to contain the coronavirus crisis came and went in the seven weeks since U.S. health officials botched the testing rollout and then misled scientists in state laboratories about this critical early failure. Federal regulators failed to recognize the spiraling disaster and were slow to relax the rules that prevented labs and major hospitals from advancing a backup. Scientists around the country found themselves shackled as the disease spread. The nation's public health pillars -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration -- shirked their responsibility to protect Americans in an emergency like this new coronavirus, USA TODAY found in interviews with dozens of scientists, public health experts and community leaders, as well as email communications between laboratories and hospitals across the country.
From party to pandemic: New Orleans fears Mardis Gras fueled coronavirus outbreak as cases spike
More than a million dancing, singing, bead-catching celebrants packed the streets of the French Quarter and other venues across this city in the weeks leading up to the sprawling open-air party that is Mardi Gras. There was little worry during the February festivities about the new virus that had infected a few dozen people in other parts of the country. The city's top health official believed the flu "is far more dangerous right now than the coronavirus," she told the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate newspaper. Thirteen days later, on March 9, Louisiana reported its first case of covid-19. Then came another, and another. Clusters broke out in several nursing homes. The cases popping up across the state were not easily linked to each other, meaning that a galloping community spread was already underway. "We had people from all over the world. We also had the spread of this virus, and people did not realize it was spreading," said Rebekah Gee, a former state health secretary now on the faculty of Louisiana State University's medical school. "So people not only caught beads, but they caught covid-19."
UMMC employees test positive for COVID-19
The University of Mississippi Medical Center announced Thursday that six employees have tested positive for coronavirus. "We've tested about 90 employees and I believe we've had six positives," said Dr. Alan Jones, Director of Emergency Medicine. "And that we're aware of, the positives have not been the result of exposure in the hospital." Instead, Jones said the exposure appears to be from outside the facility. "A lot of those were in quarantine from travel or may have significant others that were positives," Jones said. UMMC is recommending residents stay at home as much as possible to limit potential exposure to the disease.
Hundreds of students staying on UM's campus amid COVID-19 closures
When the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees announced on March 12 the university's extended spring break and switch to online classes, an approximate 4,100 students living in university housing were displaced from their Oxford residences. Over 94% of these students returned to their family homes or found another place to stay for the remainder of the semester, but according to John Yaun, university director of student housing, roughly 230 students are riding out the coronavirus pandemic and Oxford's resulting stay-at-home order in on-campus housing. "My country has a travel ban imposed," Glenn Aranha, a junior banking and finance major from the United Arab Emirates, said. "They're not letting anyone in, even if they're residents of the country, so that's the reason I cannot travel back home immediately." Yaun said this was an element that student housing considered when reviewing student applications for alternative housing. "Our goal was to be as flexible as possible in working with students throughout this process so that students could continue their courses at UM," he said.
Coronavirus concerns clear out U. of Alabama campus
University of Alabama students have followed the school's instruction to stay away from campus amid coronavirus concerns so far. The scenic Tuscaloosa campus was mostly empty at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, usually a very busy time filled with foot and road traffic. UA recently made the call to complete the spring semester online, and on-campus commencement ceremonies for graduating seniors have been canceled. Since the university's decision to go online for a short period of time was released, cases in Alabama have increased significantly, with 17 confirmed cases in Tuscaloosa County. UA said students should not return to campus after spring break and are to follow a "staggered plan" for move-out to ensure social distancing, according to the statement. The most populated spot on campus Tuesday? The Student Recreation Center tennis courts.
How LSU researchers, hospital leaders created a new coronavirus test lab in a week
Potential coronavirus patients across Louisiana keep encountering the same problem: They visit a hospital, receive a coronavirus test and then they wait -- sometimes for several days -- until their results come back. The delays have been frustrating for both patients and hospital staff, as they burn through already-limited masks, gowns and other protective equipment they may not have needed to use if a patient's coronavirus results come back negative. But new lab testing capacity at LSU could give coronavirus test results to the Baton Rouge area's most critical patients and providers within 24 hours, as LSU researchers and hospital leaders from around the region have recently created, gotten federal approval and started running tests at a newly minted "River Road Testing Lab" at LSU's School of Veterinary Medicine. Long before most people recognized the threat the coronavirus would pose to Louisiana, two LSU researchers were far ahead of the curve, according to doctors and hospital leaders who have worked with them on coronavirus testing. Stephania Cormier, a respiratory immunology and toxicology expert, and Rebecca Christofferson, an infectious disease and emerging viruses expert, had the foresight to plan for how seriously the virus could affect Louisiana.
U. of Florida expects $33M loss to COVID-19
The University of Florida will lose $33 million for the spring and summer after state universities were told to send students home last week and transition to remote learning in attempts to halt the spread of COVID-19, officials said Thursday. The estimate was revealed at a UF Board of Trustees meeting, where officials gave a status update on the virus's impact on public university. The projected losses are attributed to potential refunds for tuition, student fees, housing, performance and event contracts, transportation, meal plans and bookstore services. "It's probably the bottom line number," said Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mike McKee. A plan is under discussion for how UF will handle such a financial shortfall, spokesman Steve Orlando said. The trustees meeting was held at Emerson Hall, with several of UF's top administrators in physical attendance, while all but the chairman of the trustees board called in virtually.
Georgia college students, faculty adjust to remote learning
Georgia colleges and universities are holding classes remotely for the rest of the semester after closing their campuses earlier this month to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Some schools have started such instruction, but most of the state's largest institutions will begin next week. The transition presents particular challenges for faculty teaching courses with extensive hands-on instruction or that require significant face time with students. Faculty and administrators said in interviews it's not easy teaching classes on welding, calculus, fashion design or dance from a computer. Other issues include finding software that more instructors can use simultaneously, that allows faculty to show students everything they're trying to teach and that they can use for exams. The tools must also be usable for students with disabilities. Administrators and faculty are preaching patience as they work out the glitches.
U. of Kentucky HealthCare, other hospitals desperate for masks turn to 3D printing with help from local company
A Lexington-based company that uses three-dimensional scanning for industrial pipelines has started helping University of Kentucky HealthCare make custom and much-needed masks using 3D printing. Seikowave, which was started in 2010 and produces 3D scanning technology for the oil and gas industry, was months away from launching a new 3D facial scanning technology that could be used in dentistry and other medical fields. Then the coronavirus outbreak hit. Matt Bellis, president of Seikowave, was about to send its new facial scanners to a dental company in Florida for initial testing. But the company called Seikowave and told them to keep the scanners for now. Dental work had largely stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, UK Chandler Hospital staff were scrambling to find sources for personal protection equipment, which is in short supply and high demand across the country. Hospital doctors turned to UK staff and faculty for help. That's where Daniel Lau, a UK professor of electrical engineering and one of the founders of Seikowave, comes in. Dr. Michael Winkler, a UK associate professor of radiology, asked Lau if Seikowave's scanners could be used to create 3D printed masks for staff. The next few days were intense.
Texas A&M moving first-term summer courses online
This year's first summer classes at Texas A&M University will be online, the provost's office announced Thursday. Those courses include the May "minimester," first-term summer courses and 10-week summer courses that start before June 30. The university is planning on-campus classes for the second summer session, which begins June 30. Because of the changes, Texas A&M is waiving distance education differential tuition at an individual course level. A&M has moved all courses online for the remainder of the spring semester due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19. "There may be some bumps in the road as we continue through the spring semester," A&M Provost Carol A. Fierke said in a release, "but I am confident that we will continue to work to overcome any challenges and will certainly continue to provide students a world-class education."
Mun Choi to be president and chancellor of U. of Missouri
University of Missouri System President Mun Choi assumed the duties of chancellor of the Columbia campus Thursday after Alexander Cartwright resigned to be president of the University of Central Florida. The Board of Curators voted unanimously in a closed session Wednesday to combine the duties of the two offices -- at least on an interim basis -- a news release from the university stated. Cartwright's last day at the university was Wednesday. There will be no immediate search for a replacement, the release said. Instead, the curators will consider whether to make the arrangement permanent. "We are taking this action to maintain critical leadership at Mizzou and its continued excellence among the nation's leading research institutions," Julia Brncic, board chair, said in the release. "During this time of unprecedented challenges, it is important that our continuity of proven leadership is enabled for swift and efficient actions that benefit our students, faculty, staff and communities."
U. of Missouri students may convert grades to satisfactory, unsatisfactory | COVID-19 |
MU students will have the option to convert their A to F grades to satisfactory or unsatisfactory for courses this spring under a resolution passed Thursday by the MU Faculty Council. Also according to the resolution, passed in an online special session: Students will be allowed to decide which grade option will be entered on their academic transcript after final grades are posted to MyZou. The due date for final grades will be extended to 5 p.m. May 22. Students must request the grade change option by 5 p.m. June 5. The proposal came from a team of undergraduate deans, department chairs, representatives of the graduate faculty and members of the Faculty Council "who have been working on this very diligently for some time," MU spokesperson Christian Basi said. Now, with council approval, it is up to MU to implement the plan.
College presidents fear financial -- and human -- toll of coronavirus on their campuses
College and university presidents are deeply worried that the coronavirus crisis could wreak havoc on their institutions' finances in the near term and, especially, beyond. But right now, they say they're most concerned about the toll the crisis could take on the mental health of their students and employees. Those are among the key findings of a survey of 172 campus leaders Inside Higher Ed conducted with Hanover Research last week, as the sweeping scope of the COVID-19 situation came into clearer focus in the United States. The 172 presidents who responded to the survey answered a set of questions about their near-term and longer-term priorities, the actions they had taken thus far in response, and where they felt best equipped (and not) to handle the impact of the crisis. (Four-year public college leaders were underrepresented among the survey's respondents, at 17.4 percent, while they made up 23.6 percent of the invited sample.) The questions were generally focused on operational strategies rather than long-term thinking about organizational transformation.
Experts respond to questions about college fundraising and HR functions during the crisis
Virtually all of higher education is coping with severe disruptions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Several questions about the crisis that readers submitted in response to requests from Inside Higher Ed revolved around teleworking and employment status, or on college fundraising efforts during the crisis. To seek answers from experts, Inside Higher Ed reached out to Andy Brantley, president and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR); Matthew Lambert, vice president for university advancement at William & Mary; and Linda Durant, vice president of development at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Their lightly edited responses via email are below. Inside Higher Ed plans to make Q&As like this one a regular feature in coming weeks or months. So please keep your questions coming, as comments on articles or sent to
If the Coronavirus Collapses State Budgets, What Will Happen to Public Colleges?
Harvey Kesselman, president of Stockton University, got the bad news in a text from New Jersey's secretary of higher education: Half of Stockton's state operating aid would be held back for the rest of the fiscal year. The move was one of the first big signs of the troubled waters ahead for state support for higher education. It won't be the last. Skyrocketing unemployment claims portend deep declines in tax revenue for states, many of which have in the past responded to economic downturns by cutting funds for public colleges. If history repeats itself, those institutions could be left scrambling to make up the budgetary gaps. Across the country, leaders of regional public universities told The Chronicle that they're bracing for cuts in their next year's state appropriations, although the situation also remains remarkably uncertain.
The rise of the remote Ph.D. defense
"Can you move the computer closer?" asks a disembodied voice. "Because we see a lot of roof." "Ah, I think it looks much better," another invisible person says a few minutes later, following adjustments to the setup for Kaitlin Rasmussen's virtual doctoral thesis defense. Rasmussen, looking into her computer screen, half smiles and says, "I'm so excited for this to be over." She cheers up when sees and hears that many of her friends -- including one from Australia, where it's 1 a.m. -- are tuned in to her defense via Zoom. Looking at the rising conference participant count on the bottom of her screen, however, Rasmussen grows nervous again. There are dozens of people here -- some 75 at one point. That's many more than would have attended her defense in person if it were taking place as planned in her department at the University of Notre Dame. Instead, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rasmussen is presenting from a basement near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was studying temporarily -- and where she's stuck, in her MIT supervisor's home, for now.
How a Pandemic Could Change Higher Education
The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a cloud of uncertainty over higher education. Colleges around the country have shut down and moved teaching online, and no one knows when it will be safe to reopen and resume normal operations. That reality was highlighted during a live online discussion EdSurge held this week in partnership with Bryan Alexander's Future Trends Forum. This is the second installment in what is now a weekly video town hall on how colleges should respond to the pandemic. Among the topics addressed were what colleges have learned from campuses in China, where COVID-19 hit sooner; whether the pandemic might lead to more adoption of microcredentials and other alternative higher-ed models; and whether colleges should do more to evaluate tech-teaching skills when evaluating faculty members.
Help support local restaurants by ordering takeout
John Bean, the CEO of Eat With Us Group, writes for The Dispatch: As our community, state, nation, and world face the current pandemic, I feel we must all focus inward toward our local communities and work together to get through this. As founder and CEO of the Eat With Us Group I never dreamed I would face the situation we are in now. If you are anything like me, you are filled with uncertainty, but realize we must remain strong in our resolve, knowing we are moving toward the end of this crisis. ... Restaurants are now focusing their efforts on making great takeout orders quick and easy for everyone to be able to enjoy during this challenging, unprecedented time. I urge everyone to order as frequently as you can from your favorite local restaurant. Health department regulations have never been higher. ... By choosing to order from your local restaurants, you are contributing towards keeping restaurant employees working and earning income.

'That's just sort of like seeing the presents under the tree': How the coronavirus is impacting Mike Leach's first spring at Mississippi State
As Mike Leach and his wife, Sharon, rode their bikes down the roads of Key West in recent weeks, the small island 90 miles from Cuba has quickly emptied. Vacationers have up and gone. Beaches are bare. Hotels have few, if any, occupants. The supermarkets in town are among the only places that remain open. What is normally a small, but bustling beach town, the Conch Republic has become a shell of itself following the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19. "We're not really a place where there's just mass crowds at the beach," Leach explained. "You know, you have your space and all that. But I don't know -- it just seems like fresh air, breeze and salt water would be pretty good at attacking this thing. You know?" For Leach, his well-documented haven has become a home office of sorts since he departed Starkville for spring break nearly three weeks ago. An avid reader, he's delved into the works of famed Mississippi writer Willie Morris. Documentaries have also filled the hours. But more pressing, it's preparations for the 2020 season that have captured the largest component of Leach's extended jaunt to paradise. Technology has helped him keep in touch with his staff. Twice weekly meetings with Athletic Director John Cohen and the other MSU head coaches have also helped.
Tate Clayton's scholarship is worth a 'trillion'
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: For the past three basketball seasons, Tate Clayton has run thousands of wind sprints with his Mississippi State teammates. He has sweated through all the drills and lifted all the weights. He has tried to rebound against heavily muscled giants such as Reggie Perry and Abdul Ado and tried to guard sharpshooters the likes of Quinndary Weatherspoon and Tyson Carter. One big difference between Clayton and those other guys: Tate is a walk-on, a volunteer, who rarely has played in the real games. The other guys are on scholarship and will be pros, either in the NBA or overseas. Clayton plans to enter law school. Another difference: Clayton, a Tupelo native, will graduate early with a degree in business administration and with a grade point average -- several times higher than his scoring average -- that has landed him several times on the SEC Honor Roll. Now then, here's the kicker: After three years without a scholarship, Clayton has earned a huge one. After winning a nationwide competition, Clayton is the first-ever recipient of the Club Trillion Foundation's $15,000 scholarship for walk-ons. Clayton says he will use the scholarship to help pay law school tuition.
1987 NIT Championship remains a benchmark for USM basketball
The campus of Southern Miss is quiet on the 26th of March, 2020. Probably quiet enough to hear a basketball bouncing in Reed-Green Coliseum if you were standing at home plate of Pete Taylor Park. It was quite a different scene on March 13, 1987 as the Golden Eagles prepared to host Ole Miss in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament. "I get goosebumps just thinking about it, walking down that tunnel," said Casey Fisher, a USM guard from 1984-88. "Casey Fisher and I went out real early that night to shoot," said USM head coach Jay Ladner, a sophomore on the '87 team. "We walked out on to the floor from the tunnel. The crowd erupted. I'm not sure there's a team in the country that could've beaten us that particular night." The "Greenhouse" seats 8,095 people. Ladner joked that 20,000 have claimed to be in the building when Southern Miss dominated Ole Miss on Friday the 13th. The Golden Eagles believed they should've been invited to the "Big Dance." We already had some good wins that year but we wanted to prove ourselves," said John White, who averaged 12.5 points/game for USM in 1986-87. "They're going to put us in the NIT again, so let's do our best to win it." Southern Miss began by dancing all over the rival Rebels 93-75. USM head coach M.K. Turk bested his college roommate Ed Murphy of Ole Miss.
NCAA slashes payouts to schools by $375 million in wake of coronarivus cancellations
The NCAA will reduce its direct distribution to Division I conferences and schools for 2020 by about $375 million to $225 million, the association announced Thursday. The move, voted on by the NCAA's top governing board of college presidents, resulted from cancellation of the Division I men's basketball tournament due to the coronavirus epidemic. That event generates nearly all the association's roughly $1.1 billion in normal annual revenue. According to its 2020 Division I Revenue Distribution Plan document, the NCAA had been scheduled to distribute just under $600 million directly to conferences and schools from April 15 through June 10. NCAA chief financial officer Kathleen McNeely said in an interview with USA TODAY that all of this year's distribution will be made in June, probably early in the month. The reduction's impact on schools may vary by conference. Some of the NCAA money goes directly to schools. But most goes to conferences, which, in turn, have revenue-sharing arrangements.
NCAA tourney cancellation costs U. of Alabama $1 million
The cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the University of Alabama men's basketball team at least $1.1 million, according to distribution figures announced by the NCAA Board of Governors on Thursday. The basketball tournament, the primary source of NCAA revenue since the organization does not control football revenue, returned $600 million (approximately $1.699 million per school) to each of the 353 Division I member institutions in 2019. This season's distribution of $225 million would be approximately $637,393 per school. Because of variations due to the unit rule, which increases payouts based on number of games (units) a team plays in the tournament, Alabama's figure will vary somewhat in the final calculations. (All unit-based revenue is pooled by the Southeastern Conference and distributed evenly after expenses.) Alabama and the SEC are in the process of calculating exact final payouts, which will be received in June and will likely reflect a slightly higher figure than $1.1 million.
Peyton Manning offers surprise drop-in to U. of Tennessee remote class
A University of Tennessee communications class gained a special visitor this week. Former Vols quarterback Peyton Manning joined the remote class via Zoom. The university shared on Twitter a video Manning's drop-in. After some banter with John Haas, associate professor of communication, Manning shared a message to the class' students. "I just wanted to drop in and say hello to all the fellow communication students there," Manning said during his video drop-in. "I realize this is a unique time and probably not the ideal way you guys expected to spend your senior year, but I just encourage you to keep a positive attitude, keep working like you're doing and try to take advantage of the little bit of extra time that you have to accomplish something else or help out somebody in need -- a lot of people hurting out there during this time. Be thankful for what you have, and just know the University of Tennessee is proud of you and is going to support you in every way they can. Dr. Haas and his department is going to do the same thing." Manning earned his bachelor's degree in speech communication from UT.
'Stop the spread': U. of South Carolina coaches urge public to make a difference in coronavirus battle
The South Carolina Athletics Department took to social media Friday in an effort to talk to people about the coronavirus. USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner, football coach Will Muschamp, men's basketball coach Frank Martin and women's basketball coach Dawn Staley recorded an almost two minute public service announcement to encourage people to stay home and take the pandemic seriously. "Taking responsibility means making major changes for our daily lives," Muschamp said in the video. "It's more than just washing your hands for 20 seconds," Staley said during the video. "... It is up to each of us to stop the spread of this virus." Staley and the USC women's basketball team made a donation to the state's Senior Resources' pantry. Columbia City Council approved a shelter-in-place ordinance on Thursday that requires city residents to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary. "It means no more parties, no more game nights and no more gatherings," Martin said.
Scott Woodward says speculation about LSU football is premature, says they'll be ready to go 'full blast'
Growing speculation about college football summer mini-camps or the impact the coronavirus pandemic might have on the college football season are way too premature, LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said Thursday. Still, Woodward said his athletic department is beginning to work up budgets and plans based on a variety of scenarios. "We're looking at everything," said Woodward, who like most of the country is working from home. "Those are moving targets. But we're not doing anything until we get through this semester and start planning for next year." Some conference commissioners and athletic directors have been speculating about what this fall's college football season, the financial lifeblood for virtually all athletic departments, will look like. Asked if he believes he can keep the athletic department's staff fully employed amidst rising layoffs and business shutdowns, Woodward replied: "The short answer is I think so. There are some civil service rules that need to be followed. All full-time staff who aren't civil service are being retained and will continue to be."
Jimbo Fisher says Aggie football team adapting to delay
Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher is trying to make the best of unexpected idle time because the coronavirus canceled spring football meetings and practices. "Sometimes you've got to slow down to speed up," Fisher said Thursday via a video on the school's website. "And right now is a time to slow down. You can't just go full bore all the time without realizing what's going on. God and this world has a way of humbling you and making you slow down and see things." Fisher said more than ever he appreciates sports and the role he plays. "We all gripe and complain each and every day about this and about that," Fisher said. "Oh, I gotta go to work and man it must be nice to stay at home and then you're home for about a day and you say I can't stay home anymore. But I think about how great we do have it in this country and how great athletics are and what we have here at Texas A&M and other places in this country."
PGA Tour still hopeful WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis will be played as scheduled
Doug Barron felt good about playing golf. Not in an unsafe way. Not by blatantly ignoring the coronavirus pandemic around him like some spring breaker. After playing the final round of the PGA Champions Tour's Hoag Classic in Newport Beach, California, on March 8 (and taking three planes between there and Memphis), he self-quarantined for about a week. When that was over, he still felt good enough about playing golf at Ridgeway Country Club until the city's shelter-in-place order went into effect Tuesday night. Barron felt so good about playing golf that he sent a letter to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland asking for private country clubs to stay open. It's easy to maintain 6 feet of social distance on a golf course or tennis court, Barron wrote, and "having a chance to take your mind off of the pandemic in a safe environment is pretty scarce these days and I think this would be a no brainer." So count Barron, one of the few active professional golfers in the area, among those who feel good about Memphis holding the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational as planned in July. "Of all the sports, I would think we'd be one of the first ones to start back," Barron said Wednesday. "I think it's no doubt we'll have it."

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: March 27, 2020Facebook Twitter