Monday, March 30, 2020   
Anxiety over virus increases demand for mental health care; resources for college students
The uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic like the COVID-19 coronavirus means people need someone to talk to about their concerns, said Karla Morgan, who runs Seeds Counseling and Wellness in Starkville. "Even if people aren't looking for counseling, they're looking for connection and support and ways to consider how to move forward," Morgan said. The pandemic and the resulting suspension of everyday activities could amplify existing mental health problems for college students, especially the ones planning to graduate this spring, said Regina Hyatt, Mississippi State University vice president of student affairs. "If they already had anxiety, for example, this could be a very difficult transition for them," she said. "Likewise for students who had clinical depression, social isolation could be difficult, not just for students but for anyone." In addition to offering telecounseling, MSU is circulating a list of hotlines and mobile apps that students can use to take care of themselves during this period of "social distancing." Counselors can only provide services to in-state clients, but MSU has a contract with an external company that has licensed professional counselors in every state, Hyatt said.
Coronavirus in Mississippi: Students still living on college campuses
Mississippi State University Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said students "are resilient and know this is a temporary situation." "Students have been very appreciative of all that the university is doing to support them in this transition and through the emergency conditions we are operating under," she said. The Department of Housing and Residence Life has added a COVID-19 page to its website to provide students, families and the community with the latest information for students. Hyatt said the Marketplace at Perry cafeteria is open daily for brunch/lunch and dinner. Starbucks and the POD convenience store in Colvard Student Union are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. "Students can still use their block meals and Flex dollars, and all food service is takeout only using disposable takeout materials," she said. "MSU Dining has standard procedures for how to provide food services for students who may be isolated." MSU Dean of Students Thomas Bourgeois said Bully's Closet and Pantry is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 1-6 p.m. on the Starkville campus. The 120 Morgan Ave. location offers nutritious food, professional clothing, toiletries and other basic items free of charge to MSU students. Students only need to present their current MSU I.D. to access these resources.
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. "Mississippi State University is very sensitive to the stress both our current and prospective students may be experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Peter Ryan, MSU associate provost for academic affairs and interim dean of the Graduate School. "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." The GMAT and GRE waivers apply to all of MSU's over 200 on-campus and online graduate programs. For more on MSU's distance and on-campus graduate degree programs, visit
MSU students respond to COVID-19, cancellations
When Mississippi State University students packed their bags and left Starkville for spring break a few weeks ago, they did not know they would not be coming back. "I'm sad that I didn't get to say goodbye to some of my senior friends and some of my friends in general for the summer," said Kelly Kramlich, a junior marketing major from Atlanta, Georgia. While many students were disappointed they would not be able to see their friends or return to MSU for the semester, they agreed the university made the decision it needed to. "I do think that Mississippi State did make the right choice in having classes online to better protect the health of all the students and prevent the spread that's been happening," Kramlich said. Even with all the sudden life changes, students are adapting quickly and finding positives in their new normal. "It's okay; we've gotta make the best out of it," Kramlich said, who celebrated her birthday on March 19 at home with a few people and take-out, rather than in Starkville with friends as she had originally planned.
10 ways to spot online misinformation
Colleen Sinclair, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Mississippi State University, writes for The Conversation: Propagandists are already working to sow disinformation and social discord in the run-up to the November elections. Many of their efforts have focused on social media, where people's limited attention spans push them to share items before even reading them -- in part because people react emotionally, not logically, to information they come across. That's especially true when the topic confirms what a person already believes. It's tempting to blame bots and trolls for these problems. But really it's our own fault for sharing so widely. Research has confirmed that lies spread faster than truth -- mainly because lies are not bound to the same rules as truth. As a psychological scientist who studies propaganda, here is what I tell my friends, students and colleagues about what to watch out for. That way, they can protect themselves -- and each other -- from lies, half-truths and misleading spins on current events.
Cooperative Extension as a Public Health Partner in COVID-19 Outreach
David Buys, state health specialist and an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion at Mississippi State University, writes for the companion website of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: The Cooperative Extension Service has deep roots in every county across the United States ... In many states, Extension cooperates formally with their state's emergency management agency and department of health to serve an official function in this space. Given these disaster and emergency-related activities, Extension leaders from multiples states coalesced efforts in 1993 and developed the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). ... Extension professionals from across the country, along with EDEN, are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent informal survey by the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy to assess resources and approaches each state is applying to this crisis, found that more than 40 Universities have engaged in COVID-19 related outreach.
Partnership School construction halted for pandemic
Construction on the long-delayed Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District's Partnership School has stopped due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Superintendent Eddie Peasant said Friday at a special-call meeting of the board of trustees. The campus for grades 6-7 -- which will be located at Mississippi State University -- was originally scheduled to open in August 2018 before rain delays pushed it to November 2018, August 2019 and finally August 2020. Peasant told The Dispatch he does not know how many days of construction still are needed to complete the school, and because no one knows how long the pandemic will last, it is unclear whether the Partnership School will open in August as planned or face another delay. The 123,000 square-foot building is funded by a local $16 million bond, a $10 million allocation from the Mississippi Legislature and cash and land donations by MSU. Columbus-based West Brothers Construction accepted a nearly $30 million bid for the project in December 2017. "The number one priority for them is to get this building complete, so they're working very closely with us," Peasant said.
Giving spirit
OCH Regional Medical Center was on the receiving end of numerous donations of masks this week from local businesses and institutions, including Mississippi State University, Walmart, Glo and others as the hospital digs in for what's ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic. Glo CEO Hagan Walker said he saw numerous groups on Facebook talking about making homemade masks and asked his business partner Anna Barker how they could help. "I definitely couldn't sew," Walker said with a laugh. "We pondered for a bit and thought we might be able to source them directly from the manufacturer. We source components from all over the world for Glo, so I reached out to a supplier we've worked with for a long time and they were more than happy to help." Walker then said Glo was able to purchase 7,000 masks from Hong Kong and is having them shipped halfway across the world to eventually be used in Starkville's hospital as needed.
4-County to survey members about potential internet option
Members of 4-County Electric Power Association can expect to receive a survey designed to gauge their opinions on the cooperative investing in high-speed internet. Brian Clark, president of 4-County, said officials will mail the surveys this week to each of the co-op's 37,000-plus members across nine counties, including Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties. The surveys are due back by April 24. The members' feedback will be one factor in determining whether to invest in providing high-speed internet to 4-County's coverage area, with the cooperative's board making the ultimate decision likely by year's end, Clark said. He said the survey -- which is only three questions -- is designed to gauge whether members are willing to borrow up to $110 million to lay the necessary infrastructure. "Since we're member-owned, this is their co-op," Clark said. "Are they OK with that risk?"
Yokohama shutting down for 2 weeks because of coronavirus
Yokohama Tire Corporation is shutting down production at its West Point manufacturing plant for two weeks, beginning Saturday, in response to the COVID-19 virus, the Japan-based company announced Friday. According to a press release from the company's North American headquarters in Santa Ana, California, most of the facility's roughly 700 workers will be off the job as production is put on hold for the two-week period. The company said the plant's shipping and order fulfillment operations, as well as key maintenance activities, will continue. The shutdown comes on the same day Congress approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus bill that includes tax credits for large businesses that would cover 50 percent of employee wages. Yokohama opened its first of a planned four-phase operation in West Point in 2015. Each phase estimated adding 500 employees with the entire project slated for completion by 2023. To date, only one phase has been finished, however, with no clear plans on when subsequent phases will be built.
Mississippi businesses shift production during pandemic
As the nation hunkers down and people shelter in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, several Mississippi businesses have stayed open, switching gears to make much-needed products. A jeans company is making face guards, a coffeehouse is making loaves of bread and distilleries are making hand sanitizer. They're hoping to keep their employees working as they help fellow Mississippians battle the outbreak. "Americans roll up their sleeves. Mississippians roll up their sleeves," Josh West, CEO of Blue Delta Jeans, said at the company's manufacturing plant in Shannon, where the production of custom jeans has been retooled for mask-making. I'm so grateful to be considered an essential employee," said Laura Hallmark, the head baker at Strange Brew Coffeehouse in Tupelo. Strange Brew Coffeehouse has 75 employees at three locations in northern Mississippi and is adding up to six more workers. Each location is making up to 50 loaves of fresh homemade bread per day.
Facing uncertainty, business owners mulling what to do next
When Peter and Kelley Vance opened their own coffee shop in early March, there were the usual small hiccups in getting a new business open. But Tupelo River was met with rave reviews, and customers were coming in to try the espressos, the pour-overs and even the pastries that were offered. Then the biggest hiccup of all happened with the coronavirus pandemic. The Vances, like many other businesses, closed their doors temporarily in an attempt help stave off the spread of the virus. The Vances' dream, at least for now, is on hold. Closing the doors after just a week was a tough decision to make, but one they didn't take lightly. "The first thing that came to mind was we wanted to keep people safe," Peter said. "We have a lot of contact with customers, and we didn't want to spread anything." However, on Friday, Tupelo River said it will reopen its walk-up window to at least get a little cash flow. After all, the bills haven't stopped.
Retailers know that it takes more than a 'village' to make it through tough times
It may take more than a village to survive the corona virus. Highland Village shops are taking creative approaches to stay in touch with and serve their clientele. Linsey Armstrong, director of marketing for the venerable collection of shops in northeast Jackson, had just finished participating in the latest webinar Thursday afternoon about steps that can be taken to preserve the livelihoods of the shop owners. Aplos restaurant is offering "pizza kits" with raw dough and other ingredients as a two-prong item, for eating, of course, but "family fun" putting the meal together. The eatery is otherwise offering to-go sales. Beagle Bagel Bakery and Char are also offering takeout and delivery. Bravo! is closed, but a note on its front door says: "We'll be back! It's not goodbye." Red Square Clothing offers "closet cleanup" in which the store helps the customer organize their closets in a virtual fashion, according to Armstrong, who added that the store started doing it in person before the quarantine.
Mississippi's large employers balance work, safety following Gov. Reeves' insistence to 'stay home'
Jackson County is known as the most industrialized county in Mississippi. It is home to the state's largest private employer -- Ingalls Shipbuilding -- and many other leading industries such as Chevron, VT Halter, and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Unmanned Systems Center. The Gulf Coast area is accustomed to dealing with natural disasters and even economic slowdowns but global pandemics are quite another thing altogether. It is often said, "As goes Jackson County, so goes Mississippi and so goes America." Jackson County has the highest percentage per capita of manufacturing workers in the State of Mississippi. According to statistics from the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, 22% of employed residents in Jackson County, or 13,662 people, are employed by the manufacturing sector, with an eligible workforce of 62,213 people. With the Executive Order Governor Tate Reeves issued on Tuesday limiting Mississippians to gatherings of 10 people or more and directing businesses to allow every employee possible to work from home, an area such as Jackson County would conceivably be heavily impacted by the social distancing measures health officials say are necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
State's tourism tumbles amid pandemic
The year started out on an upbeat note for the Coast's tourism industry. The visitor numbers for January and February were the best in four years, and March was on track to continue the trend. Nearly $750 million worth of projects including upscale hotels and the Mississippi Aquarium were on the verge of opening. Coastal Mississippi, the agency that promotes the three southernmost counties, marked the first anniversary of its new Secret Coast branding campaign and touted 2020 as a pivotal year for development and economic growth. Leaders looked for "an extremely prosperous year ahead." Then the rapid spread of the coronavirus sped into a global pandemic. "It's amazing," Milton Segarra, CEO of Coastal Mississippi, said of the spiral. "The world stopped and the industry changed." Now, during a worldwide health crisis, Segarra said Coastal Mississippi is conveying two messages to future visitors. "One, they have to stay healthy and safe," he said. "Two, we are encouraging them not to cancel their plans but to postpone their vacations. When they are ready to travel, we are going to be ready and waiting for them."
Analysis: Virus upends Mississippi budget writing process
Mississippi legislators are supposed to set a state spending plan before the new fiscal year begins July 1. The coronavirus pandemic has scrambled most of the planning that budget writers have done the past few months, leaving uncertainty about how a shaky economy will affect tax collections. "We've never seen anything like this in our lifetimes, much less our political lives," Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn told The Associated Press on Friday. The 2020 Mississippi legislative session was set to run from early January until early May. Before the coronavirus became a widespread concern, lawmakers had already agreed to shorten the session by several days, and that would have put the budget-writing deadline in late April. Then, life changed. Amid all the uncertainty, there are bright spots for the Mississippi budget. The state has built up its rainy day fund in recent years. And tax collections were exceeding expectations for the first eight months of the current fiscal year.
Gov. Reeves, health officer: Statewide shutdown 'not sustainable.' Quarantine for 'clusters'
In a Sunday social media address, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and state Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said the state's "offensive" strategy against coronavirus is to step up testing and isolate "clusters" of the disease, a strategy South Korea and Singapore used with relative success. But despite criticism and calls from some city leaders and residents for a more aggressive statewide clampdown, Reeves and Dobbs both reiterated that a statewide shelter-in-place or lockdown is not yet called for. Dobbs called a statewide shelter in place order, "not sustainable." Dobbs said isolating coronavirus cases and ordering quarantine is a matter of "pruning a bush instead of burning the bush down." "... We can identify the individuals and then identify their little clusters of their close contacts, instead of looking at the whole entire population," Dobbs said. Reeves asked people to "continue to stay home," warning, "we are still facing a large, deadly threat." "Do not ease up," he wrote. "We are towards the beginning of our cycle. Be safe."
Gov. Tate Reeves defends handling of the COVID-19 crisis; talks Medicaid expansion, Trump and his controversial Spain trip
Gov. Tate Reeves sat down with Mississippi Today on Friday, March 27, for a podcast interview about his response to the coronavirus outbreak. In the 45-minute interview, Reeves answered questions about decisions he's made as the virus has spread in Mississippi, how prepared the state of Mississippi is for a "worst case scenario," how he believes politics has played into criticism he's received and whether the health care crisis has changed his perspective on Medicaid expansion.
Mississippi coronavirus cases total 847 with 89 new cases
he Mississippi State Health Department on Monday reported an additional 89 presumptive cases of COVID-19, through testing, which brings the state's total to 847 cases. According to the health department 16 people have died from complications related to the virus. In Northeast Mississippi, the cases have increased to approximately 117 total presumptive cases, and Tishomingo County is currently the only county in the region reported not to have any presumptive cases. Three total people in Northeast Mississippi have died from problems linked to the virus. Of the total cases statewide, around 32% have required hospitalization. According to the health department's website, around 57% of the statewide cases are female and 43% of the cases are male.
Coronavirus threat has immigrant communities, still reeling from raids,
Immigrants in Mississippi, along with legal and humanitarian organizers, are calling for the immediate release of federal immigration detainees, fearing the potential destruction of the novel coronavirus in the facilities. Organizers are also concerned that the virus will cause additional turmoil outside the centers -- in communities where resources have nearly dried up. Cell blocks in the immigrant detention centers are filled with dozens of bunk beds with no more than 2 feet in between detainees, one recently released woman said. On Wednesday, the Mississippi-based Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, calling for the immediate release of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees to prevent rapid spreading of COVID-19. "Detention facilities are already crowded and unsanitary, causing scabies and mumps outbreaks in detention across the region during the last year," the group's press release said.
Legislatures meet remotely, limit public as virus spreads
Members of the Arkansas House met in a college basketball arena, spaced out among 5,600 seats, as they voted on ways to cover a budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus punch to the economy. When South Dakota lawmakers convene Monday to consider 10 emergency bills, it won't be inside their familiar chambers. Instead, they will be speaking and voting via a video call system. This is not government as usual. In state capitols across the U.S., lawmakers have ditched decorum and sidestepped traditional public meeting requirements in a rush to pass legislation funding the fight against the coronavirus and aiding residents affected by the widespread shutdown of commerce. "Social distancing" mandates intended to slow the spread of the virus have upended life for millions of Americans and also have led lawmakers to scrap centuries-old rules about the way they conduct work. The state experiments are meant to slow the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease so hospitals won't become overwhelmed with a sudden surge of patients. The ill include several members of Congress and lawmakers in numerous states. At least six state lawmakers have tested positive in Georgia, one of nearly two dozen states that have halted or ended their sessions because of coronavirus concerns.
'Unprecedented': Sizing up the federal farm rescue
The Trump administration will soon inject tens of billions of dollars into the farm economy, another historically huge federal intervention to prop up struggling corners of the ag sector after years of trade pain, weather disasters and now a global pandemic and looming recession. But the aid comes with few strings attached, and distributing the dollars evenly could prove challenging. Trump on Friday signed the $2 trillion stimulus package, including some $23 billion in extra aid for agriculture. Now it's the Agriculture Department's turn to figure out how to distribute those emergency dollars to farmers and ranchers dealing with falling commodity prices. Joseph Glauber, former USDA chief economist, said the stimulus funds, trade aid and traditional farm subsidies could total around $50 billion in fiscal 2020 alone. "Unprecedented to say the least," said Glauber, now a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. Implementing the farm stimulus plan could prove even trickier than the trade bailout, which was based on the tariff damage to specific commodities and counties.
President Trump defends extending virus guidelines as spread continues
Siding with public health experts' dire projections, President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to extend restrictive social distancing guidelines through the end of April, while bracing the nation for a coronavirus death toll that could exceed 100,000 people. "The worst that could happen is you do it too early and all of a sudden it comes back," Trump said during a nearly hour-long call-in interview with "Fox & Friends" as members of his coronavirus task force fanned out across other media outlets to warn the virus' spread was only just beginning. The comments came a day after Trump made a dramatic course reversal and announced that he would not be moving to ease the guidelines and get the economy back up and running by Easter, as he said last week he hoped to do. Trump's impulse to reopen the country, driven by pleas from business leaders, met a sober reality check from health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert.
Hemp farming approved to begin in Georgia this summer
Hemp farming has finally gotten the green light to begin in Georgia, bringing a new crop that will sprout this summer. Farmers will soon be able to grow hemp, which will then be processed into CBD oil, a popular product used for anxiety and sleeplessness. CBD oil is already sold in stores across Georgia, but it's imported from other states. The prospects for the Georgia hemp industry to start this year were in doubt until the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the state's hemp plan this month. The federal government had put Georgia's plan on hold late last year but gave it the go-ahead when state legislators appropriated $200,000 to regulate the program in this year's budget and proposed additional funding next fiscal year. "Georgia has the ability to be a significant player in the country, particularly given our climate," said Kevin Quirk, the CEO for Harvest Connect in Roswell. "People say they're not sure how it's going to grow in the red clay. Guess what, it's growing really well in tests" by the University of Georgia.
A Look Behind The Scenes At A Supreme Court Justice's Visits
A recently compiled report shows that Supreme Court justices get neither big bucks nor valuable gifts when they speak at public universities. But public and press access granted by the justices is idiosyncratic. Two justices -- Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito -- have limited access to their appearances, even on occasion forbidding recording of their speeches for archival purposes. The report by the non-partisan organization Fix the Court praised all the justices for going out of their way to speak at state universities, and not just the elite private schools that they and their law clerks have attended. The report found that roughly one-third of all the colleges and universities visited by the justices were public institutions. For the most part, the travel and lodging expenses are routine. The justices travel commercial. Occasionally, a university owns a private plane that it sends to transport a justice to a place that is not easily accessible from Washington, D.C. But these flights are rare.
MUW Campus Recreation offers 'Owls in the Nest' to stay active
Campus Recreation at Mississippi University for Women has a plan to help people create a new exercise routine. Even though COVID-19 (coronavirus) has changed nearly every facet of life, The W's Campus Recreation team is using Facebook to deliver workout plans and strategies to address healthy eating habits and more to provide an outlet for those unable to access gyms or workout facilities. Daily workout routines, suggestions on how to best manage your time and energy, ways to maintain a productive workspace and guidelines to stay healthy physically and mentally are available online at "COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we go about our daily lives for the time being," said Jason Trufant, the director of athletics and recreation at The W. "It became increasingly evident that activity, both social and physical, was going to be compromised during this pandemic, and we as a staff felt like we needed to step up and help any way possible."
Meet one of the first UM students to contract coronavirus
Sara Caroline Bridgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning, making her one of the first UM students to report contracting the virus. This week, her symptoms have caused her and her family to put their lives on hold as they try to alleviate her symptoms and keep the virus away from everyone else in the community. Her entire family has been quarantined for 14 days, meaning they cannot go in public at all -- friends have dropped essentials like groceries off at their home in Oxford. "I wake up almost every morning just, like, so hot and sweaty just because of my fever," Bridgers, a junior studying integrated marketing communications, said, adding that she could not sleep well for several days. Wednesday was the worst day so far, she said, and she has body aches and is very fatigued, saying she gets winded just from walking up the stairs. Bridgers said that over the break, she and her friends started to recognize that this was more serious than they first thought, but many students still weren't taking it seriously after the break. "I just think it's kind of crazy that it took someone having to get it and say they have it for people to start taking things seriously," she said.
New Delta State University radio manager has big plans
Delta State University has reintroduced its radio station WDSW and new station manager Stephanie Sandlin intends to make it not just a university radio station but a community one. A native of the Tri-Cities in Washington state, Sandlin is a radio veteran, having been in the industry since first getting involved with her high school radio station in ninth grade. Her previous position was with Eastern Washington University's jazz station as assistant program director and blues host and she jumped at the opportunity to lead DSU's venture. "With the opportunity being here and having my love for the blues, and I love the South anyway, so I'm like yeah, I'll take that," said Sandlin. Rick Munroe, vice president for university advancement and external affairs, made the decision to turn the station into a priority and part of that vision was finally hiring a full-time manager.
'Just another daunting challenge': Rural districts embrace creative solutions amid coronavirus school closures
Mississippi schools are closed until at least April 17. Earlier this month, Gov. Tate Reeves announced the closures as a measure of precaution to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has currently killed 16 people in the state while the number of confirmed infections continues to grow. The Mississippi Department of Education, together with the state board of education, has cancelled standardized testing for the year and waived the requirement that school districts have school for the 180 days required by law. While schools are now closed to the public, department officials have said learning must continue. This leaves Mississippi's 140 school districts scrambling to put plans in place to implement distance learning or create take home packets for students. The department did release guidance for districts with resources educators can use during the pandemic, but cautioned "Taking a traditional school environment online is not a simple task -- nor is it one that should be attempted without serious consideration of the practicality and risk." The closures present a unique set of challenges for rural schools, which serve 235,000 students in the state, according to national nonprofit Rural School and Community Trust.
Auburn University suspends on-campus instruction for 2020 summer semester, cancels study abroad
Auburn University announced it has suspended in-person classes for this year's summer semester and canceled this summer's study abroad programs. The University's summer semester consists of three sessions. The first two will be delivered remotely and a decision on the the third will be made by June 1, the University said. The decision comes after the announcement that the entirety of the spring semester will be finished remotely in an effort to practice social distancing and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended higher education institutions cancel study abroad programs due to global concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. The Office of International Programs is working with students to refund any program fees paid for spring and summer semesters. Students who had planned to study abroad should work with their academic advisors to identify potential summer course alternatives where possible.
Auburn University to combine spring and summer commencement ceremonies
Auburn University announced that it will combine its spring and summer commencement ceremonies to give spring graduates an opportunity to participate and walk the stage in early August -- if the pandemic has subsided by then. The decision comes after the University postponed spring commencement ceremonies in an effort to practice social distancing the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The summer ceremonies are scheduled for August 8-9, but the University said that holding its summer ceremonies are still "contingent on public health circumstances surrounding the global pandemic." "Although our spring graduates will already have their degrees conferred, we know how important this Auburn tradition is to our students," said President Jay Gogue. "There is no academic ceremony more symbolic than commencement, and we understand what walking across the stage means to our students and their families."
UGA researchers developing coronavirus vaccine
A team of researchers at the University of Georgia are developing and testing new vaccines and immunotherapies to combat the novel coronavirus that has infected hundreds of thousands across the world. The team is led by Ted M. Ross, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and director of UGA's Center for Vaccines and Immunology. He has partnered with other laboratories and biotechnology companies to create new vaccines that could one day provide protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists in his lab have already begun analyzing the viral genome to find the right targets that will prompt the immune system to create protective antibodies, and they will examine how effective those targets are in small-scale lab tests soon. Ross has spent most of his career studying viruses and developing new vaccines and treatments to combat them, but he is perhaps best known for his efforts to develop a universal influenza vaccine that could protect against all forms of the virus and eliminate the need for seasonal flu shots. While the lessons learned from his work on influenza and other viruses will inform his work, the coronavirus presents a unique set of challenges.
Randy Boyd approved as president of U. of Tennessee System through 2025
Randy Boyd has been named the next president of the University of Tennessee System. The Board of Trustees unanimously approved him in a special-called meeting on Friday. The meeting was unconventional: Board members joined via video to vote, practicing social distancing while coronavirus has changed most of the normal practices at UT. Boyd, a 2018 candidate for governor and Knoxville businessman, has been serving as interim president since November 2018. He originally agreed to take on the job for 12 to 24 months, but at the end of 2019, began indicating he would be interested in staying in the position. He will now be the system president through June 30, 2025. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime to serve both my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, and the state of Tennessee all at the same time," Boyd told Knox News. "There's no better place to make a bigger difference for the people that I care about than serving in this role."
Texas A&M, remaining students adjust to largely empty campus
Texas A&M University freshman Morgan Monschke is one of the few Aggies still living on campus now that classes are fully online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Late Friday afternoon she was spending time outside her northside dorm, Hullabaloo Hall, as other students moved out of surrounding buildings. She said all the roommates in her suite have left, but she opted to stay since she finds it easier to focus on her studies in College Station than when she's back in her hometown. However, the atmosphere on campus is noticeably different, she said, remembering back to recent conversations of people in town who are concerned about losing their jobs and others who are missing their friends who moved. Of the 11,000 students who previously lived in the 50 dorms and apartments on campus, Director of Administrative and Support Services in the department of residence life Carol Binzer said there are an estimated 1,900 to 2,500 remaining. But the numbers are constantly changing, Binzer said, since there is a steady flow of Aggies leaving each day. Prorated refunds are available for those who formally cancel their housing contract and submit a refund/credit preference form through the department of residence life.
U. of Missouri System announces hiring restrictions, short-term financial decisions
To prepare for expected economic challenges brought on by COVID-19, the University of Missouri System announced short-term financial decisions Friday afternoon, including restricting hiring and cutting other expenses. In the announcement, Mun Choi, president of UM System and interim chancellor of MU, said the system will first address short-term decisions that have to be made in the next 60 days. The announcement outlined the priorities that will guide the system's financial decisions. Those priorities include ensuring students receive a high-quality education and supporting activities that grow revenues for MU. To preserve resources, any expenses not directly connected to those priorities will not be allowed. MU spokesperson Christian Basi said that though some positions may be postponed, the announcement did not mean an overall hiring freeze. Hirings will still take place but will require approval from an administrator.
Empty Benches at Empty Lab Tables
Empty classrooms are a defining feature of the coronavirus crisis on college campuses. Empty research labs are another. Many major research universities have halted all but essential research in what amounts to an unprecedented stoppage of academic science in modern memory. Among the universities that have shut down all nonessential research operations are Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale Universities, as well as the Universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania, among others. Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, a national organization focused on graduate education and research, said universities appear to be converging on a set of agreed-upon practices for research during the public health crisis. "Those practices really involve trying to minimize social interaction but maintain what are called essential research functions," such as certain experiments involving animals and ongoing clinical trials, she said. "There may be other examples of research that's deemed essential, but it appears that the practice is for campuses to evaluate those on a case-by-case basis and even for those that are deemed essential to try to minimize the number of individuals who are tending to the animals or caring for the experiments." Some have questioned the wisdom of the shutdowns.
Colleges That Closed Dorms Amid Pandemic Are Refunding Students' Money, Right? Not Everywhere
After students across the country were ousted from dorms and unable to use their meal plans as a result of the mounting coronavirus pandemic, some asked their colleges to refund their money. Many institutions have complied -- some relenting in the face of student outrage or petition drives -- by offering a range of prorated refunds and credits based on the amount of time remaining on housing contracts or meals left on dining plans. At other colleges, however, anxious students and their parents have been coldly brushed off or told to be patient. One such petition was shot down at Arizona State University. Its president, Michael M. Crow, didn't mince words when asked whether students and parents would get refunds on housing and meal plans. "The funny thing is that somebody declares a national emergency, and they're talking about bringing out martial law in California," Crow told The Arizona Republic last week in response to the petition. "And then people ask us, Are we going to give them a refund? Are you kidding me? I mean, that's what you want to talk to us about, is a refund?"
As Covid-19 Erases Line Between Work and Home, Professors Learn to Teach Remotely While Watching Their Kids
Jenny Spinner is reworking assignments for the journalism seminar she's suddenly teaching online. She's grappling with how to use media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic as a learning opportunity without asking students to follow it so closely that it harms their mental health. And because Spinner also runs her department's internship program, she's advising students whose work experiences have been upended. Spinner, a professor of English at Saint Joseph's University, in Philadelphia, is doing all of that from a home office she now shares with a 10-year-old whose school, like the university, has moved to emergency online instruction due to the coronavirus. Well, when she's not hiding out from him and her three other sons, ages 6, 13, and 17, in the bathroom so that she can try to concentrate. Having both children and an academic career is already challenging. But now many professors are juggling at least three jobs, says Julie Sievers, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship at Southwestern University, in Texas. They still have their regular jobs, which include research, teaching, and service. They’re also taking a crash course in online instructional design. And they’re now providing full-time child care -- and, in some cases, schooling.
Surveys offer mixed outlook on student enrollment in the fall
Thursday was the day Ivy League and other highly competitive institutions extended admissions offers. We learned that Yale University admitted 6.54 percent of applicants. The University of Pennsylvania admitted 8.1 percent of applicants. Not much has changed in elite higher education. But for everyone else, these are scary times. No one know what yields -- the percentage of admitted applicants who enroll -- will be this year. But everyone is worried and checking out the latest national surveys, which suggest their concern is valid. The various surveys placed an emphasis on speed, and so their pools of respondents do not necessarily amount to a scientific sample of the United States. They tend to skew in favor of wealthier and whiter applicants. But we share them here (along with available information about the pools). Most are by companies that advise colleges on their admissions strategies. In general, they portray problems for higher education.
Amid the pandemic, Illinois colleges are still trying to attract new students -- even if they don't know when classes will resume and can't give tours
Despite vast uncertainty over when their campuses can fully reopen, Illinois colleges continue to court prospective students, in some cases revising admissions deadlines and rolling out virtual tours to help high school seniors decide where to attend. Since visits scheduled for spring break and upcoming events for admitted students have all been canceled, many schools are posting scenic videos of their campuses online with accompanying narration. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is also sticking with its May 1 deadline, and students still must pay a $150 nonrefundable fee at the time of enrollment, according to the school website. Andrew Borst, director of undergraduate admissions, said the school is maintaining its deadlines so that wait-listed students will also find out in a timely fashion whether they will be admitted. Most students learned by late February if they were admitted, Borst said. The campus typically accepts about 26,000 incoming students every year, with up to 3,000 on the waitlist, Borst said.
'He's Going to Do Whatever He Wants': Jerry Falwell Jr.'s decision to reopen Liberty University's campus amid the coronavirus pandemic has sparked anger and confusion
Lynchburg, Virginia, isn't a stereotypical college town. It isn't politically liberal. It doesn't have the crunchy affect of an Ann Arbor or even a Charlottesville. But even here, where Liberty University drives a large part of the economy---and where school president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. strides across the landscape as a local grandee -- anger over Falwell's decision to bring university students back amid a coronavirus pandemic is boiling over. Throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus have led colleges to upend their plans for the semester by moving classes online, canceling commencement ceremonies and---critically, from a public-health perspective -- moving students out of dorms. Virginia Tech is practically begging students to stay away, enticing them with cash rebates. The University of Virginia has shut down its dorm system, save for those few students "who have no other option." Liberty University, meanwhile, has invited its students to return to the dorms, whatever their circumstances might be.
With Coronavirus Disrupting College, Should Every Student Pass?
Some universities will still offer the option of letter grades, while others have dropped them altogether. But that's not good enough for some students, who are seeking a "universal pass" -- meaning that nobody would fail, regardless of performance and whether they can continue to take online classes, and that letter grades would be abolished. The idea has acquired petition campaigns on scores of campuses and even an acronym among the cognoscenti: UP. But some institutions, and even students, have resisted proposals to give everyone equal marks, saying that the idea gives "gut courses" new meaning. It is possible to work hard, they say, even when your world has been turned upside down. The debate is of particular concern to students trying to raise their grade-point averages in their final year or two of college to qualify for law, medical or business schools. Some fear it will hurt their chances if their college careers end with a "pass" instead of high marks. Although some schools were quick to adopt a form of pass/fail, it has been an item of heated debate among faculty senates and student representatives on other campuses.
Virus deaths should weigh heavily on political leaders
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: The notion that Mississippians can return to normal life and work by Easter Sunday is poppycock. What the coronavirus has brought is a new and challenging normal, at least until a cure or vaccine can be developed. While Mississippi has few cases compared to many states, the spread has been exponential. Over an eight day period, the number of cases went from 10 to 370. By the time you read this numbers will have escalated and deaths will be accumulating. Because too many, both leaders and people, are not taking this seriously. Health experts like Tom Inglesby, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, warn that irresponsibly ignoring restrictions "could kill potentially millions in the year ahead." ... I write this column early on a Wednesday night, facing serious surgery Thursday morning. The normal fear of invasive surgery with potential blood transfusion is surpassed by fears of contracting the virus as a 72-year-old with an impaired immune system. My wife worries if I should take these risks or hope I could avoid serious complications by deferring surgery for weeks or months. (The doctors say do it.) My children, burdened by their own virus related health and economic issues, wonder when they can count on our help again since we are hunkered down for the duration.
Stock market dive brings attention to that third rail: state pension plan
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: While the stock market recently has had a rebound, thanks at least in part to the federal stimulus package, its roller-coaster ride during the economic upheaval caused by COVID-19 still has left it significantly lower. The whims of the stock market are especially important for the Public Employees Retirement System since investment earnings account for the bulk of the massive pension program's revenue -- 55 percent over the past 30-year period. So when the stock market takes a dive, it can have an impact on the state pension plan that provides retirement benefits for state employees, teachers, university and community college staff and local governmental workers. Ray Higgins, the executive director of PERS, said he and his staff are eyeing the stock market intently. ... The stock market turmoil comes during a time when the governing board of PERS has been working to lessen PERS' unfunded liability with the goal of reaching near full funding over a 30-year period or so. Remember, pension plans are long-term propositions.

Complications surround potential fall college baseball season
For as much as Mississippi State baseball coach Chris Lemonis misses the smoky grills and smells of cooked meat emanating from the outfield at Dudy Noble Field, the only tailgating he hopes fans enjoy this fall is preparing to watch the Bulldogs' football team. With the 2020 college baseball season canceled due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, coaches and fans have offered ideas on how the season could be salvaged with games in the fall. But for Lemonis, the idea of putting together an entire conference season between August and December is more a pipe dream than a feasible reality. "We need a fall season, and it needs to be football," Lemonis said through a laugh. "I think everyone in NCAA athletics realizes that we need to have college football this fall. College football runs athletic departments, and we need college football out there." Over the past week, The Dispatch spoke with head coaches at MSU, LSU, Missouri, Louisville, Indiana and Wofford to discuss the potential for a fall season and whether it's a possible remedy for the lost spring.
Mississippi State sophomore Reggie Perry will enter NBA Draft
Reggie Perry is ready to take his talents to the next level. The Mississippi State sophomore and reigning SEC Co-Player of the Year announced on Sunday afternoon that he is forgoing his final two years of eligibility and entering the NBA Draft. "After much prayer, meditation and talking with my parents, my siblings and coach (Ben) Howland, it is time for me to continue my life on the next level of basketball as a professional," Perry said. "Thank you Mississippi State fans for embracing me as soon as I decided to be a Bulldog. Thank you to the student section that chanted my name at the home games. That not only inspired me to continue to work hard but also to be a thorn in our opponent's side. A special thank you to my teammates that have loved me through thick and thin, believed in me and the brotherhood that we have established in these two years, I will cherish for the rest of my life. Thank you coach Howland for pushing me to places that I never knew I would be able to go and always telling me the truth."
Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry declares for NBA draft
When Reggie Perry took a bow before subbing out in Mississippi State's final victory of the 2019-2020 season against Ole Miss, most in attendance knew what it meant. When asked about his curtain call postgame, Perry said through a coy smile that he was "caught up in the moment," although teammates Tyson Carter and Nick Weatherspoon didn't buy it and burst out laughing. Sunday afternoon, Perry made official what many have been speculating for months: he will forego his junior and senior seasons and declare for the NBA Draft. Perry made the announcement with a video on his Twitter profile. "After much prayer, meditation and talking to my parents, siblings and coach (Ben) Howland, it is time for me to continue my lifelong dream by continuing basketball at the next level as a professional," Perry said in the video.
Sweet (16) revenge: Revisiting Mississippi State women's basketball's 2010 NCAA tournament upset of Ohio State
Seated in the underbelly of the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Alexis Rack changed her music. Normally one for upbeat, hype tunes ahead of a game, the former Mississippi State guard could feel the tension in her body. She opted for something slower, something chiller, something to calm the nerves. "I remember that vividly," said Rack, now the head boys basketball coach at Franklin Senior High School in Louisiana. "I was excited. I don't remember what slow songs I was listening to, but I know they were all slow." Wandering out onto the court for warmups, Rack and the 2010 MSU women's basketball squad were in a true neutral setting for their second-round NCAA tournament game against No. 3 seed Ohio State. A year after falling to the Buckeyes in the second round in Columbus, Ohio, the Bulldogs wouldn't be denied a trip to their first Sweet 16 in program history. Downing Ohio State 87-67, coach Sharon Fanning-Otis helped MSU to the only Sweet 16 appearance of her career in a game that occurred 10 years ago to the week and still conjures up emotions of devotion and revenge. "Bottom line is that it was one of our finest hour type things," Fanning-Otis told The Dispatch. "It was a team that was very, very focused and just one of the sweetest wins. It was one of those payback games. It was a very, very special win for the program."
How a former Mississippi State athlete has helped his hometown during coronavirus outbreak
Darryl Williams was the biggest body in the room. With a red and white Cat in the Hat cap resting on his head and a rotation of Dr. Seuss books nestled in his hands, the former Mississippi State center sat in a chair and read aloud while a couple dozen intrigued pupils peered at him. The students of Westhills Elementary School in Bessemer, Alabama, wore hats they crafted themselves out of construction paper to match Williams. Williams, a Bessemer native and a 2019 graduate of Mississippi State, is never shy to give back to his community. He made sure to be a part of Read Across America Day on March 2 even though it came the Monday after Williams had spent an entire week in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. He got up early after a grueling week of tests and drills to make it to Westhills. He went to three other schools within two weeks before they shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. Williams could no longer lend a helping hand in that environment. He had to find another way to continue performing charitable acts. And that's just what he did.
Greg Owen hired to replace Dr. Cheyenne Trussell as new Starkville athletic director
Greg Owen, the current activities director for the Columbia School District, will be the new athletic director for the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District beginning July 1. Owen will take over for current athletic director Cheyenne Trussell, who is leaving to take the same position at the Meridian Public School District. Trussell's last day will be June 30. The SOCSD announced Owen as its incoming athletic director at a press conference Friday afternoon at the Greensboro Center. He is in his first -- and now only -- school year as activities director for the Columbia School District after serving as the head baseball and cross country coach and an assistant football coach at Columbia High School since 2002. He also coached baseball and football at Stone and Bay high schools after starting his career as Columbia High's head softball and girls basketball coach. SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant dubbed Owen's experience one of the three "E's" he brings to the table -- alongside energy and expectations for excellence in academics and athletics.
Richland football coach, former Mississippi State assistant JJ Plummer reveals battle with coronavirus
The Richland High School football coach has tested positive for COVID-19, he told the Clarion Ledger. Speaking from St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson on Saturday, JJ Plummer said his symptoms began eight days ago when he developed a headache in his eye that lasted for five days. The aching made its way through his entire body, and he lost his appetite and experienced chills and night sweats. Plummer, 47, tested positive for a virus five days after his symptoms began but results came back negative for the flu. There were no tests available for COVID-19 where he was, Plummer said, but the doctor didn't think the coach had coronavirus because he didn't have a fever or shortness of breath. The coach went back to his home that night, and his temperature rose to 102.7 degrees, he said. The next morning, a doctor met Plummer in a parking lot and stuck two large sticks up his nose for a follow-up test. The results came back positive for COVID-19, and Plummer was told to go to the hospital. "For all the people out there who think this thing is just like the flu, I've had the flu before and I've never had anything like this hit me," Plummer told the Clarion Ledger. "It feels like a slow death, and it is absolutely the worst thing I have ever gone through in my life." He has made many stops in his career, including Mississippi State. From 2001 to 2003, Plummer was a strong safety coach for the Bulldogs under former head coach Jackie Sherrill. Plummer said Sherrill has been in contact with him recently.
SEC to allow two hours per week film review and video instruction starting Monday
Spring football is back in the Southeastern Conference. Well, sort of. The SEC sent a memo to its 14-member football programs Friday, saying that starting Monday they will be allowed to offer film review and instruction to their players via video conferencing for two hours per week. The story was first reported by 247Sports. Schools will continue to be allowed to share strength and conditioning workouts with their players digitally, as many student-athletes who have gone home during the coronavirus outbreak do not have access to workout facilities or gyms. Schools like LSU have been forced to close their facilities except for meal services, housing, medical care and academic support that continue to be allowed to student-athletes as needed. A copy of the SEC memo obtained by 247Sports said the two hours per week of video instruction extends to all sports. The memo adds that further assessment of permitted offseason and/or summer activities will occur in the coming weeks.
Paul Finebaum 'down and disillusioned, disoriented and depressed' over COVID-19 crisis; back on TV
"The Paul Finebaum Show" is back on the SEC Network. After a two-week TV hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, Finebaum will return to its regular weekday programming window -- with an audio-only format -- at 2 p.m. on Monday. It hasn't been easy an easy two weeks for Finebaum, who is no different than anyone else in regards to COVID-19. "This has easily been the most challenging crisis I've faced as a host," Finebaum told on Saturday. "Every day is different. And the uncertainty around the corner is daunting. However, I am encouraged by the resolve of so many who are contributing in every facet of life. It's scary and unsettling and often during the last two weeks, I have found myself down and disillusioned, disoriented and depressed." His show was never gone. It continued to air on ESPN Radio over the past two weeks, providing a platform for scheduled guests and Finebaum faithful to discuss how the sports landscape has shifted with the absence of live sports. "Over the past two weeks, the discussions on our show have ranged from the loss of sports to the loss of jobs, income, and even homes; from listeners feeling hopeful for the future to others who just needed someone to talk to," Finebaum said.
Georgia athletics gauging possible fiscal toll of pandemic
Georgia received $2.163 million from its share of the NCAA distribution in fiscal year 2019 from the men's basketball tournament, according to audited figures. That was 1.4 percent of its total operating revenues. With the NCAA announcing this week it is slashing money that goes to Division I conferences and schools by about $375 million, a cut of about 62 percent, schools' budgets will be impacted. "I'm sure that's not going to be the only line item that is going to be affected," Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. "It's just one of several. We just don't know the exact number now. We know it will be less obviously. That will go into the information as we create the fiscal year '21 budget." McGarity said Georgia is starting a list of "different buckets" that could be affected by the coronavirus crisis. "Depending on football, obviously, that's the big unknown now," McGarity said. "We're planning as if a football season is going to happen. If that doesn't happen, that's a whole another environment."
Florida, Nick Savage getting creative in keeping players in shape during shutdown
With the Florida football team shut down, the weight room and practice fields shuttered and most of the players now back home, the Gators and strength and conditioning coordinator Nick Savage are doing what so many others are across the country and around the world. They are working remotely to get their job done. In this case, it is to somehow, without much in the way of traditional weight equipment to work with, maintain the considerable gains that were made during the winter offseason strength and conditioning program. It can be, and is being, done, Savage said Friday. And he and the players are coming up with creative ways to do it. "One of the things we have to do is keep things fresh, keep things exciting," Savage said. "So, I'll send them a video with me working with two five-gallon buckets or something. And just trying to get them to create a spark in their brain about there's things around the house they can use. "Guys have done a good job finding things around the house that have some sort of weight to them and then getting them into a workout program. Obviously, it's not the same as truly lifting weights, but we've got to make the most of what we've got."
Texas A&M All-American Chennedy Carter declares for WNBA Draft
An injury put a damper on Chennedy Carter's season but not her dream to play professionally. Texas A&M's most prolific guard declared for the WNBA Draft on Sunday, opting out of returning for her senior season. Carter ranked sixth in the country in scoring at 21.3 points per game, earning second-team All-America honors by the Associated Press. Carter scored in double digits her last 62 games, a school record. She had 62 20-point games and 12 30-point games, also school records. "It saddens me that I was not able to chase a national championship with my teammates this year due to circumstances beyond our control," Carter tweeted. "Although a difficult decision, I am looking forward to pursuing my childhood dream of playing in the WNBA." The 5-foot-7 Carter is projected to be a top-five pick. Oregon senior guard Sabrina Ionescu is projected to be the first pick, going to the New York Liberty.
NCAA advisers: Virus battle could be months long
Two of the medical professionals helping the college sports world sort through the coronavirus pandemic offered cautionary words Friday night in terms of what athletes can do now that team activities have been halted and what athletics programs may be able to do weeks and months from now. During live conversation on the NCAA Twitter channel, the association's chief medical officer recommended that athletes not engage in any activity that involves sharing a ball or other equipment and that they not train with more than one other person. As part of the same conversation, a former U.S. surgeon general, while discussing decision-making more than two weeks ago that resulted in the NCAA canceling championship events scheduled for mid-June, offered observations that illustrate why there already is anxiety about the upcoming football season. Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general who now serves as an independent member of the NCAA's Board of Governors, said the association canceled spring championships when it became apparent that the pandemic had reached the United States and people "realized that this a longer-term prospect to address this virus. It's not going to be a few weeks. That is why, ultimately, so many of these events were pulled down even though they were happening a few months down the line."
Loss of Live Sports Changes ESPN's Marketing Plans
Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN has had to significantly revamp its programming with the loss of live sports during the coronavirus pandemic, and now it's altering its marketing as well. On Monday, ESPN is introducing two new commercials addressing the impact of covid-19 in different ways. One features ESPN on-air talent such as Stephen A. Smith, Doris Burke and former baseball star Alex Rodriguez delivering a message of unity and advising viewers to practice social distancing. Ms. Burke recorded her portion after announcing last week that she had tested positive for the virus. The second ad continues the network's "There's No Place Like Sports" campaign and features uplifting sports moments such as the recent National Hockey League game in which a Zamboni driver filled in as a last-minute goalie. It ends with the message "We miss it, too." The ads will appear 10 to 15 times a day each through late May, said Laura Gentile, senior vice president of marketing for ESPN. "It's a statement of how ESPN feels right now," she said.
Bobby Hebert Sr., 'face of the bayou' and dad of former Saints QB, dies from coronavirus
Bobby Hebert Sr., the patriarch of a football family that included former New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert Jr. and former LSU offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert, died Saturday after recently testing positive for coronavirus. Hebert Sr. was 81 years old, and over the course of those 81 years rarely found a person he could not strike up a conversation with, said those who knew him. Football analyst and south Louisiana native Mike Detillier had a relationship with Hebert Sr. that he guessed spanned at least three decades, but he couldn't be sure. The amount of time one was around Hebert Sr. was sort of irrelevant anyway. "Mr. Bobby was the face of the bayou here in Lafourche Parish," Detillier said. "When you saw him, you knew where he was from. I mean, he could talk. You didn't spend five minutes talking with him, you were there a while." As of March 28, 3,315 people in Louisiana had tested positive for the coronavirus and 137 people died. The first known case in Louisiana was announced March 9.

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