Wednesday, April 1, 2020   
MSU summer classes to be held online, with more options available
Mississippi State University's summer 2020 classes all will take place online to help students stay on their academic paths despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and students will have the added advantage of a number of additional course offerings. The decision to continue with all-online instruction through the summer comes as university leaders continue to evaluate and respond to this unprecedented crisis. "As our students navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to do everything in our power to help them stay on their academic paths, or even get ahead," said MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw. "I encourage students to talk with their advisors about the many online summer school offerings available to them. We know that for many of our students, their normal plans have been disrupted, so we wanted to offer them as many options as possible for moving forward academically with summer school."
Fiber separation successfully commercialized by Weighty Corn
Weighty Corn LLC's first commercial implementation of its fiber separation process at Pannonia Bio Zrt's 130 MMgy fuel ethanol plant in Dunaföldvár, Hungary has been deemed a success with Pannonia paying the success fee after a run of six months. Weighty Corn is pursuing to implement its process at other fuel ethanol facilities in US, Europe and South America. Weighty Corn's technology separates fiber from corn flour, immediately after the hammer milling step in ethanol plants. Weighty Corn's process sieves corn flour into five sizes and blows air through the sizes to separate fiber. The process is covered by U.S. Patents 7,670,633 and 8,518,467. Weighty Corn owns the exclusive license to the patents and know-how, by arrangement with Mississippi State University and University of Illinois. Weighty Corn also owns sub-licensing rights to the technology.
Healthier chickens, happier consumers
Smile, chickens. You're soon to be on candid camera. Hao Gan, a biosystems engineer with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, is working to develop a system of multi-angle and multi-range cameras to monitor commercial broilers at both the individual and flock levels to help producers monitor the chickens' level of activity. Gan is among six recipients of a Phase I grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) SMART Broiler Initiative. Gan, and his research partners from Mississippi State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and BioRICS NV, intend for the system output to be a flock benchmark score for use by the farmer, food retailer, and ultimately the consumer. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.
Neel-Schaffer names John Cunningham engineer manager for Starkville office
Neel-Schaffer, Inc. has announced that John Cunningham, PE, has been promoted to the position of Senior Engineer Manager for the firm's office in Starkville. Cunningham joined Neel-Schaffer in 2007 and has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Engineer and Project Manager for a wide variety of projects and disciplines. He is a Vice President with the firm and as Senior Engineer Manager will oversee all projects and activities for the Starkville office. "Making John the next leader of our growing Starkville office was a no-brainer and natural fit," said Kevin Stafford, PE, Neel-Schaffer's North Mississippi Operations Manager. "Our Starkville employees campaigned for him, and rightfully so. John will continue serving his long-time Golden Triangle clients, but I look forward to expanding his skillset as our firm continues to serve the Mississippi State University and Starkville community."
One confirmed case of COVID-19 in Starkville nursing home
A Starkville nursing home has a patient with a case of COVID-19 coronavirus. Judy Otts, director of Carrington Nursing Center, confirmed Tuesday there is one case of the virus in the facility, which is located on Reed Road. Like most area nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Carrington has been on lockdown for the past few weeks. "We have and continue to follow the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines," Otts said. As of Wednesday morning, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported there are now 1,073 confirmed cases of COVID-19 coronavirus statewide. More than 135 cases were reported Tuesday alone. Among the total numbers are 18 cases in Oktibbeha County, 11 in Lowndes County, five in Clay County and three in Noxubee County. Additionally, 22 people have now died from the virus in Mississippi, according to MSDH's website, though none are from the Golden Triangle area.
Mississippi COVID-19 cases pass 1,000
Mississippi's total of known COVID-19 cases now tops 1,000, with 136 presumptive cases and two deaths reported Wednesday morning. The state total of known cases is now 1,073, with all but five of Mississippi's 82 counties reporting cases. In Northeast Mississippi, Tippah County has the most identified cases at 28. As of Wednesday, the other leading counties in the region were Lee with 25 cases, Oktibbeha at 18, and Lafayette and Marshall, each with 15. Just outside the region, DeSoto County remains has one of the highest total cases counts, with 94 known cases.
Chef Rob Stinson stays ahead of the curve in keeping his Coast restaurants open
These are troubling times for small businesses as they try to adapt to keep their companies operating and employees working. Restaurants and bars have been especially hard hit as people are not allowed to dine in among groups of more than 10 and in some cases not at all. A Gulf Coast business, Gulf Coast Holdings LLC, which owns Salute and Kelly's Sports Pub in Gulfport and The Reef in Biloxi, is finding a way to keep going. President and Executive Chef Rob Stinson, who is known to residents statewide through his Mississippi Public Broadcasting television show Fit to Eat, quickly figured out as the pandemic worsened that there would have to be some changes. "I came up with a plan for to-go orders with a family deal and started blasting it on television commercials to get the word out before the restaurants were shut down," he said. "I just had a feeling about it. We got organized and put in four phone lines to take orders." This way, he's able to keep his employees working and diners can safely eat restaurant-prepared meals.
Louisiana spillway may open for record 3rd consecutive year
A major flood control structure on the Mississippi River may have to soon be opened up to ease pressure on New Orleans levees, federal authorities said Tuesday. The river is expected to crest above 17 feet at a key New Orleans gauge as early as Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a news release. That would likely lead to the opening of a structure that diverts water through the Bonnet Carre Spillway. It would be the first time the structure has been used three years in a row to keep the river from damaging New Orleans' levees. Two extended openings of the structure last year were blamed by Mississippi authorities for feeding toxic algae blooms and killing oysters, dolphins and other sea life. The U.S. Commerce Department declared an economic disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama because of "extreme flooding events in the Gulf of Mexico." A federal lawsuit filed in Mississippi in December by several cities, counties and groups accuses the corps and commission of violating federal law by opening the spillway more frequently.
Mississippi gov issues stay-home order for 1 of 82 counties
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued his first stay-at-home order Tuesday against the new coronavirus, but it is only for one of the state's 82 counties. Reeves said Lauderdale County, on the state line with Alabama, has seen a recent rapid increase in positive tests for the highly contagious virus. The mayor of Gulfport, meanwhile, set what he calls a "safer at home" order for his own coastal city, saying that people have "selfishly" ignored recommendations not to congregate in large groups. "We can choose to endure 4-6 weeks of debilitating hardship, or 6-8 months of devastating quarantine," Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said in a statement Tuesday. "Based upon trends around the country, matters are likely to get worse, before they get better. While this 'inconvenience' has cramped our style, the sad fact is, it's likely to start killing our friends and neighbors. It's that serious." Reeves said he could issue more stay-at-home orders for other parts of Mississippi if test results show other hot spots developing.
Gulfport, Biloxi, other cities issue COVID-19 curfews and close non-essential businesses
City officials throughout Harrison County announced curfews and other restrictions Tuesday to prevent the spread of coronavirus across the Coast. The curfews are from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for everyone but medical workers, emergency responders and a few other exceptions. A curfew will be enforced in Gulfport beginning at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes ordered Tuesday afternoon. The city of Long Beach adopted the same measures as Gulfport, and the curfew takes effect at the same time Tuesday. "People need to understand this is not just something a group of mayors got together and decided to do," Long Beach Mayor George Bass said. "We listened to the CDC and the federal government and we listened to the Health Department to make these decisions. We have a virus that is worldwide and it is killing people. We have to understand we are in unique situation on the Coast with New Orleans being so close. That affects us here whereas rural Mississippi may not see as many cases."
COVID-19 testing site open today only at Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian
Crews were busy Tuesday setting up a COVID-19 testing site at the old Sears Auto Center at Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian. The free testing site will open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1. Testing is open to Mississippi residents only. During the screening, a medical provider will determine the patient's level of risk for having COVID-19 based on their symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. If the doctor determines the person should be tested, the caller will receive an appointment time and a verification code. The person then must bring an ID to the testing site. Those without an appointment will not be tested. At the collection site, providers wearing protective gear will come to the vehicle and get a swab. The University of Mississippi Medical Center will contact them with their results.
Gov. Tate Reeves orders first county shelter-in-place order after resisting statewide action
After a weeks-long resistance to issue sweeping stay-at-home orders amid climbing COVID-19 cases in Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday issued his first order requiring Mississippi residents to stay at home. But the new order, unlike orders in 32 other states, does not have statewide ramifications. Reeves signed an executive order Tuesday requiring residents of Lauderdale County, the state's eighth largest county by population and home to Meridian, to shelter in place. The order takes effect Tuesday night staring at 10 p.m. and lasts through April 14, and comes after a spike in confirmed cases. Reeves said more county shelter-in-place orders are likely in coming days. State epidemiologist Paul Byers warned Tuesday that pockets of unidentified cases cause the kind of quick growth Lauderdale County experienced and, subsequently, shelter-in-place orders.
Mayor to issue stay-at-home order for city of Jackson residents
City of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba plans to issue a stay-at-home order for residents of the city on Wednesday. Lumumba will issue the order at a 3 p.m. press conference, according to an email from the city's communication department. Essential businesses in Jackson such as hospitals, clinics, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and laundromats will likely remain open. Residents are not supposed to leave home for work unless they work for an "essential" business. They will still be able to buy food and seek medical treatment. Officials in areas with similar orders say they don't prohibit people from leaving their homes. Exercise is encouraged as long as residents stay at least six feet away from anyone not in their household. The mayor's order follows Gov. Tate Reeve's decision to issue a shelter-in-place order for Lauderdale County on Tuesday. Cases there have seen a "rapid rise" with several reported from a nursing home, State Epidemiologist Paul Byer said.
State senators ask Gov. Tate Reeves to close coastal beaches to all non-residents
Six members of the Coast legislative delegation say it's time to keep outsiders off Mississippi's beaches. The state senators made their request in a letter sent Tuesday to Tate Reeves. The senators want Governor Reeves to strongly consider taking state action pertaining to beach access. Moreover, they want "all coastal beaches, public and private, be closed effective immediately to all non-residents, and remain so until April 30, 2020, or until further notice is given, with the recommendation that all counties and municipalities direct law enforcement agencies to enforce the order." The senators involved were Philip Moran, Mike Thompson, Joel Carter, Scott Delano, Jeremy England and Brice Wiggins. Their two-page letter said they want "specific and immediate actions be taken in response to the treatment and spread" of COVID-19 on the Gulf Coast."
Tupelo mayor continues to criticize governor's response to COVID-19 spread
Mayor Jason Shelton on Tuesday continued to criticize Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves' response to the spread of the novel coronavirus in a series of social media posts. Shelton has repeatedly asked the governor to issue statewide safety mandates. Reeves, a first term Republican governor, issued an executive order on Tuesday mandating that citizens in Lauderdale County shelter in place, or stay at home unless conducting essential tasks or traveling to a job that has been deemed essential. Shelton, a second-term Democratic mayor, later told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview that his tweets were only meant to mirror his previous calls for the governor and other state officials to address uniform measures regarding businesses. "People are dying across the state, and people are dying here in Tupelo," Shelton said. "To say things look great from the 19th floor of the Sillers building, so we don't need to do more is incomprehensible."
Flowood mayor orders shutdowns for range of businesses due to coronavirus
Flowood Mayor Gary Rhodes ordered the closure of a wide range of businesses in the city on Tuesday, including movie theaters, gyms and hair and beauty salons. The mayor also ordered all restaurants in the city move to take-out, delivery or drive-thru service. The changes will go into effect April 1 and last until at least April 30. The mayor's executive order includes the following businesses and services: All personal care and grooming businesses, including barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons, spas, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, exercise studios and fitness centers. All places of public amusement and recreation facilities, including parks, libraries, skating facilities, bowling alleys, children party or play facilities and movie theaters. Rankin County, which includes the city of Flowood, has had 40 positive cases of the virus as of Tuesday, with one death, according to the state Department of Health.
Ag Commissioner Gipson encourages home gardening amid COVID-19 pandemic
With more people spending time at home amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson is encouraging the public to plant home gardens. "Spring is upon us, and now is the time to begin planting home gardens. During this time while many are spending more time at home and children are learning from home, I want to encourage everyone to plant a home garden," said Gipson. "We are actually experiencing a resurgence of gardens during this crisis, similar to the Victory Gardens that emerged during World Wars I and II to boost morale and minimize the demand on the overburdened food system. Even though we have a plentiful food supply, planting a garden is a great way to spend time with family, and it is a good way to teach our children how food is grown. And, in the end, you will have the satisfaction of eating food that you grew yourself," continued Gipson.
Rural areas fear spread of virus as more hospitals close
As the coronavirus spread across the United States, workers at the lone hospital in one Alabama county turned off beeping monitors for good and padlocked the doors, making it one of the latest in a string of nearly 200 rural hospitals to close nationwide. Now Joe Cunningham is more worried than ever about getting care for his wife, Polly, a dialysis patient whose health is fragile. The nearest hospital is about 30 miles away, he said, and that's too far since COVID-19 already has been confirmed in sparsely populated Pickens County, on the Mississippi state line. Cunningham is trusting God, but he's also worried the virus will worsen in his community, endangering his wife without a hospital nearby. "It can still find its way here," said Cunningham, 73. The pandemic erupted at an awful time for communities trying to fill health care gaps following the closure of 170 rural hospitals across the nation in the last 15 years.
Beef costs are up at stores, but futures are down. Senators want to know why
An Iowa senator says there's something fishy about falling cattle market prices at a time when beef is a top seller among consumers stocking up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Republican Charles E. Grassley, a senior Judiciary Committee member, told reporters Tuesday he will ask the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to look into live cattle future prices that declined in March as meat packers saw prices rise for the boxed beef they sold to grocery stores and other retailers. The cattle industry and some lawmakers raised concerns with the USDA last year about cattle pricing margins after a fire damaged a Kansas beef processing facility. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department would investigate to determine if there was price manipulation, but there's been no report yet. Lawmakers say they remain concerned by declines in live cattle prices since Jan. 1 and the continued dip in those prices even as the public's demand for meat rose as COVID-19 restrictions sparked a buying spree and pushed up retail prices. But the North American Meat Institute says its member companies have done nothing wrong.
Trump projects up to 240,000 U.S. deaths; UN says pandemic top challenge since World War II
Hopes for a swift recovery from the coronavirus pandemic dimmed after President Trump warned of a "very painful" fight and projected 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths, even with mitigation efforts. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the outbreak that has sickened hundreds of thousands of people around the world and devastated the global economy is the "most challenging crisis we have faced" since World War II. The United States continued to far outstrip other nations with more than 185,000 confirmed infections, about 20 percent of the global total. The U.S. death toll neared 4,000 after growing by more than 800 Tuesday. The surgeon general defended the White House's reluctance to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order, saying "governors get to make the decisions." Many states have issued such orders, but more than a dozen governors -- including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis -- have yet to do so.
Across the Country, Campaign Operatives Are Stuck
Most every evening in these strangest and scariest of days, on the second floor of a building that used to be a printing plant downtown in South Bend, Indiana, best friends Greta Carnes and Joey Pacific sit in the doorways of their respective apartments -- a responsible 12 feet apart -- and just talk. "Mostly small talk," said Carnes, who was the national organizing director for the presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg. "About our existential dread." Pacific, the campaign's national operations head, feels fortunate to have somebody to talk to, about anything, across the way, face to face. So much of the world is stuck in this uneasy pause, this rattling standstill, on account of the spread of Covid-19, but Carnes and Pacific are two of a legion of political professionals in a particular sort of limbo. All of a (very long) month ago, four major presidential campaigns ended in the span of less than a week, the bids of Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren shuttering one after the other after the next. The end of any campaign marks the beginning of an always unnerving interval for suddenly out-of-work staffers. But seldom do so many sprawling operations stop in such rapid succession -- and never, needless to say, has that coincided with the rise of a sweeping, life-upending pandemic.
Memphis congressman asks Tennessee, neighboring states to issue shelter-in-place orders
Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat representing Memphis, Tenn., sent letters to the governor of his state and the neighboring states of Mississippi and Arkansas urging them to issue mandatory shelter-in-place orders to help keep Memphis's health care facilities from becoming overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. "I write today to urgently request you issue mandatory shelter-in-place orders for your state and prohibit gatherings of more than ten people," Cohen wrote in the letters to GOP Govs. Bill Lee, of Tennessee, Tate Reeves, of Mississippi, and Asa Hutchinson, of Arkansas. "I am proud to represent the Ninth District of Tennessee that connects our three states, but I fear that, without these preventative measures, it will become a hub of illness that will quickly overcome Memphis's health care facilities," Cohen added.
The US Army's Virus Research Lab Gears Up to Fight Covid-19
The cinder block hallways inside the US Army's top virus research lab are punctuated every few feet with windows that peer into tiny offices and laboratories crammed with scientific equipment. On each doorway, orange placards with that Vulcan-looking biohazard symbol keep visitors alert. Through one window, you can just make out the heads of two people dressed in Tyvek suits and respirators. They seem to be laughing about something, but their work is deadly serious. The pair are growing the SARS CoV-2 virus in round plastic dishes. In February, the CDC sent the Army about 10 drops of blood from one of the first Covid-19 patients, a Washington state man in his fifties who was the epidemic's first US death. Since then, the Army researchers isolated the virus and have been making more of it to ship to other labs designing a vaccine or treatment against coronavirus. If any science lab should be poised to tackle the current outbreak, it's the US Army Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID. This squat tan-colored facility sits in the middle of the sprawling grounds of Fort Detrick, Maryland, about an hour north of Washington, DC. Its scientists have been handling the world's most dangerous organisms since the late 1960s.
UMMC students volunteer on the front lines to battle coronavirus outbreak
Students from the University of Mississippi Medical Center have created an army of volunteers. Ezekiel Gonzalez is the chairman of the COVID-19 Student Response Coordination Team. "So many of these students were at home. Their classes have been canceled, but they had a heart to serve after all these are health science students," said Gonzalez. Ambika Srivastava is in her 4th year of dental school. She is a COVID-19 student response team leader. Srivastava said, "I am bringing my prior knowledge from my Masters in Public Health and Epidemiology and hope to use these experiences along with my knowledge in the future to work in Dental Public Health." Almost 250 students from all seven schools at UMMC have been deployed to areas on and off campus. They do everything from man COVID-19 hotlines, work at testing sites, the Mississippi Department of Health Lab and at MEMA. Another 90 students are on standby to help.
Office of the Provost elaborates on Auburn's satisfactory, unsatisfactoty grading system
Following the announcement that Auburn University will be adopting a "satisfactory/unsatisfactory," or "S/U," grading system for the spring semester in light of the COVID-19 outbreak that caused campus to close, new details from the Office of the Provost state that students will be allowed to convert letter grades to an SP, SS or UU following final grades. Transcripts making use of the alternate system will define SP and SS grades as "satisfactory," while UU grades will be considered "unsatisfactory," the provost's office said. Students may convert any letter grade to its S/U equivalent for any class, but this will be managed by University advisors rather than individual instructors. "Students are not required to inform faculty of their intention to convert a grade but may consult with faculty about any implications for future plans," the provost's office said. The provost's office expects to share more information on how to convert grades "on or before April 15." Requests to convert grades must be made by June 1, according to the provost's office.
U. of South Carolina estimates as much as $40 million financial impact on school from coronavirus
The University of South Carolina could lose an estimated $20 million to $40 million because of the coronavirus and the resulting shutdowns, according to a presentation made to the school's board of trustees meeting Tuesday. The school's campus is closed for the rest of the semester and USC President Robert Caslen spoke on a virtual town hall Tuesday evening and said there will be refunds issues for students' room and board. "We're looking at the end of spring semester here, plus the summer providing us with some challenges," Ed Walton, the school's executive VP for administration, said during the presentation. "An estimated financial impact, it's hard to figure exactly. It's somewhere between $20 [million] and $40 million" before USC accounts for money it can save. Walton said the school believes it can manage through the spring. If the outbreak drags into the summer or into the fall, "it gets even more difficult to get through this challenge."
UGA economist: stimulus will lessen COVID economic damage
The U.S. Congress has passed a $2 trillion emergency relief bill that will expand unemployment insurance, provide $1,200 stimulus checks in emergency financial relief to most American adults and provide life preservers to distressed businesses impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic. The bill is the largest stimulus package in U.S. history. Merritt Melancon, a public relations coordinator with the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, interviewed Terry College economics professor William Lastrapes about the bill. Congress had to take action, Lastrapes says. "It is painfully clear that the federal government was caught off guard by the coronavirus despite having ample warning that an epidemic of its kind was likely to happen, sooner rather than later. We should also not have been surprised at how quickly the virus has spread across the world given the pace of globalization. Macroeconomic policy mechanisms are in place -- like the Federal Reserve's ability and willingness to provide liquidity and stabilize credit markets -- to respond to a crisis by softening the economic blows. Yet the country needs to be better prepared for the next epidemic, which will surely come, to help prevent a crisis in the first place. We are now observing firsthand how shortcomings in our public health system can have drastic, and possibly, dire consequences for our economy and our well-being."
Texas A&M, Brazos County A&M Club to livestream Muster ceremonies
Texas A&M University and the Brazos County A&M Club announced Tuesday both will livestream Aggie Muster ceremonies instead of holding in-person events on April 21 due to COVID-19 concerns. A&M will stream Campus Muster online and will televise the event. This decision was made in compliance with university, state and CDC recommendations against large gatherings. The Muster Committee said it is hoping to integrate elements of the Reflections Display and the Reunion Class into the online ceremony. "Muster can truly be celebrated anywhere," the A&M Muster committee said in an email to campus. "From its early beginnings on the islands of Corregidor to humble gatherings at the Texas A&M Administration Building, this tradition has never been defined by one singular image or practice. We hope to celebrate this fact and honor the spirit of Muster in a way that is reverent of our fallen Aggies and reflective of the needs of our community."
U. of Missouri to consolidate remaining students in residence halls
With fewer than 400 students remaining in 23 University of Missouri residence halls spread across campus, plans are in the works to consolidate the students in fewer buildings. "The arrangement will comply with CDC guidelines for social distancing," said MU spokeswoman Liz McCune, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There also are two family and graduate housing apartment buildings and three leased apartment complexes for student housing. It's one of several measures the university is taking in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The university has been conducting classes online, resulting in many students moving out of residence halls. The university will move the students out of residence halls with shared community areas and shared restrooms and into suite-style and apartment-style residence halls, McCune said.
'Inclusive' faculty discussions led to new grade option for U. of Missouri students
A resolution allowing students to convert grades to satisfactory or unsatisfactory was the result of "spirited exchanges about the pluses and minuses," Clark Peters, chair of the University of Missouri Faculty Council, said Monday. The resolution passed by the council Thursday gives all MU undergraduate and graduate students the option to convert their A to F grades to satisfactory or unsatisfactory for all spring semester 2020 courses. The only exception will be courses that ended before March 16, the first week of online classes in response to COVID-19. Peters said the council looked at the actions of peer universities, many of which are amending grading systems this semester. Peters called the overall decision-making process "inclusive" and said it allowed concerns about how the grade option would affect specific departments to be addressed before council members met online. The resolution passed unanimously. "I'm glad to say people were on board," Peters said.
Preparing (quietly) for a fall semester without in-person instruction
Let's give a full-throated shout-out to America's colleges and universities, their professors and staff professionals, and their students. Collectively, they pulled off a remarkable transition this spring, shifting instruction they had previously been delivering predominantly in person for most students to an almost entirely remote experience for pretty much everybody. It may not have been seamless or pretty, and it certainly wasn't painless -- either for instructors having to deal with the anxiety of new tools or for students worrying about good internet access or where in their homes they could find a quiet place to study. But instruction continued to happen remotely, en masse. If you'd asked most people months ago whether a higher education enterprise that many write off (often unfairly) as hidebound and change-averse was capable of a wholesale pivot in a matter of days or weeks, they'd have laughed. And yet it happened. Amazing. So take a bow -- and a deep breath. Because now comes the hard part. You read that right, I'm afraid. Depending on how things go -- what the arc of COVID-19 is nationally or in certain regions of the country, whether physical distancing rules are still in place, etc. -- college campuses may remain off-limits to students come September.
Progressives were divided over widespread cancellation of student debt in stimulus
Three Tuesdays ago, in a building on New York University's campus, Robert Shireman, director of higher education excellence and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, was supposed to be part of a debate over whether the government should cancel student debt. Shireman, a skeptic of the idea, was supposed to go up against one of the leading advocates of the idea, Alexis Goldstein, senior policy analyst at the advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform, as part of series of debates sponsored by NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. It was a simpler time, before social distancing and hospitals overflowing with coronavirus patients. In just the three weeks since, the world has changed. The subject of that night's purely academic debate would reach the halls of Congress, with stakes much bigger than the bragging rights after a debate. Dozens of left-of-center advocates and higher education policy experts privately engaged in their own debate over debt cancellation, divided by such questions as whether a policy, in which wealthy college graduates would be among those who'd benefit, was a high priority right now.
Cancelled College Graduations Amid COVID-19
Administrators and college presidents are scrambling to figure out what to do about graduation this year. How can they acknowledge students' hard work and success, while still maintaining social distancing amid the outbreak of coronavirus? Many colleges across the country have outright cancelled graduations, others, such as Harvard and Miami University in Ohio, have scheduled virtual ceremonies. Some students have taken things into their own hands and created their own ceremonies -- on a reconstructed campus -- through Minecraft. Still others, like Trinity Washington University, a small private school in Washington, D.C., has said it's looking for a date in June to reschedule an in-person ceremony. "If we can't do it in June, we are very committed to doing a commencement ceremony, full regalia, full pomp and circumstance," says Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity. "When we get to do it, it's going to be the biggest darn party we've ever had."
28 U. of Texas students test positive for coronavirus after Mexico spring break trip, officials say
The University of Texas says 28 students who returned to Austin from a spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico have tested positive for the coronavirus. Public health officials say dozens more are being monitored. Officials said Tuesday a group of about 70 people in their 20s departed on a chartered plane about a week and a half ago. Some of the attendees flew back on commercial flights. Four of those who tested positive showed no symptoms. In addition to the 28 who tested positive, a spokesman for the university said it is believed many in the larger group were UT students. UT spokesman J.B. Bird said the school is working closely with Austin Public Health to track anyone who may have been in contact with those who were sick. "The incident is a reminder of the vital importance of taking seriously the warnings of public health authorities on the risks of becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading it to others," Bird said.
Almost half of U.S. foreign-born in past decade had college
Almost half of the foreign-born who moved to the U.S. in the past decade were college-educated, a level of education greatly exceeding immigrants from previous decades, as the arrival of highly skilled workers supplanted workers in fields like construction that shrunk after the Great Recession. New figures released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau show that 47% of the foreign-born population who arrived in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019 had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 36% of native-born Americans and 31% of the foreign-born population who entered the country in or before 2009. A number of "push and pull" factors, some decades in the making, were responsible. What resulted were drops in immigration from Latin America and increases in Asian immigrants who tended to be better educated, experts said. Drawing the Asian workers to the U.S. was a demand for highly-educated employees in tech fields that could not be filled with U.S. workers since there was a shortage of U.S. workers with those skills.
Alumni of historically black Alabama college use Confederate statue law to stop demolition
Alumni from an Alabama university are calling on the state to stop the demolishing of old campus buildings by enforcing a law designed to protect Confederate statues. Alabama A&M University alumni have asked the state's Attorney General to stop the university's plans to destroy several historical campus buildings to make space for new facilities, including a $50 million event center, WAFF-TV reported. Two buildings have already been destroyed, while four remain to be demolished. Alumni want the state to enforce a law which protects buildings and memorials more than 40 years old from being removed or altered without a waiver from the state. The law had came out of the controversy over protecting confederate monuments in 2017. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the facilities may qualify as a memorial building.
U.S. Sen. Wicker played a leading role in writing the $2.2 trillion CARES Act legislation
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Most Mississippians are aware of the heroic role that the late Republican Mississippi U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran played in 2005 in literally saving Mississippi and the rest of Gulf Coast by wrestling a $29 billion Hurricane Katrina relief package from his reluctant Capitol Hill colleagues. Cochran had assumed the powerful chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee just eight months prior to the arrival of the storm known as "the greatest natural disaster in American history." The quiet, courtly Cochran used that position to get federal assistance that the Gulf South -- and particularly Mississippi -- desperately needed. But fewer Mississippians are yet aware of the pivotal role that Republican Mississippi U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo played in getting the historic $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last week. Wicker succeeded Cochran as Mississippi's senior U.S. senator upon Cochran's retirement in 2018.

Analysis: Projecting the MSU baseball roster after NCAA grants extended eligibility
Mississippi State's 2021 baseball roster got a little more crowded Monday as the NCAA offered extra eligibility to players affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. Following the NCAA's ruling, the Bulldogs could have as many as 50 players returning to Starkville for next season. And while it's expected a handful of players will depart, coach Chris Lemonis should have a loaded roster heading into his third season at the helm. With that, here's a look at what the 2021 roster could look like. While there will undoubtedly be some roster moves despite the NCAA's extension of eligibility, MSU is primed to again be among the nation's elite next spring.
MDWFP extends closures due to COVID-19
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks has made temporary changes to its business operations effective immediately for the safety of its employees and the public. These changes are in effect now and will remain in effect until further notice. State and regional offices are closed to the public. State lakes and state park lakes will remain open for those that wish to go fishing from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. However, state fishing lake offices, campgrounds and bath houses will be closed. The Museum of Natural Science and the North Mississippi Visitor Education Center will be closed to the public. MDWFP wildlife management areas will remain open. During this time, all personnel not assigned to state and regional offices will continue to provide services statewide and remain fully operational.
With The Masters on hold, Mississippi's Andy Ogletree trains in Georgia
Andy Ogletree's Masters debut will have to wait. After capturing the United States Amateur Championship last August, the Little Rock native earned direct entry into three of professional golf's four majors, including the sport's most prestigious event, while still in college. Moreover, his victory at the US Amateur meant he'd be paired at the Masters with the tournament's defending champion. In this case, it'd be a man by the name of Tiger Woods. But his inaugural appearance is on hold as the PGA Tour suspended its season and Augusta National Golf Club postponed the Masters less than a month before it was set to begin. When the PGA Tour first announced events would be canceled through the Valero Texas Open, the last tournament before the Masters, Ogletree said he saw its postponement coming. In addition to the delaying of his young, promising career, the Union High School alumnus also saw his senior campaign at Georgia Tech come to an abrupt halt as the NCAA canceled all spring sports.
Pearl River Community College athletics debuts streaming service
In an effort to help sports fans get through the coming weeks without live events, Pearl River Community College is offering a new, weekly streaming series. "Wildcat Rewind" will highlight some of the best moments from the school's recent history by re-airing games in their entirety. The series will begin today in what will be a weekly 11 a.m. time slot each Wednesday across Pearl River's social media networks. Fans can tune into the rebroadcasts on PRCC Athletics' Twitter page (@PRCCAthletics), Facebook page (PRCCAthletics) and YouTube channel: Pearl River Community College. Additionally, the games will be broadcast on, where fans can either watch the game on the website or via their Roku and Amazon Fire devices. The first rewatchable Wildcat victory is one of the college's most recent -- PRCC's Region XXIII men's basketball championship win over Jones College.
Coronavirus forces SEC to cancel spring meetings
The SEC announced on Tuesday that it has canceled its spring meetings that were scheduled for the last week of May in Destin, Florida. Concerns over the spread of coronavirus forced the decision, the conference said. The league will "determine alternate methods for holding meetings important to conference operations and explore opportunities to recognize award winners who [were to be] honored at the event," it said in a release. Held in Destin each year since 1985, the meetings produce rule changes for upcoming seasons. Top school officials, athletic administrators as well as football and basketball coaches are in attendance annually. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said during a conference call earlier this month that planning for SEC football media days in Atlanta this July was "full steam ahead" despite the coronavirus outbreak.
Top NCAA management to take 20% pay cut amid lost revenue from coronavirus cancellations
NCAA President Mark Emmert and members of the association's senior management will be cutting their pay by 20% and the association's vice presidents will be cutting their pay by 10% due to financial pressure the NCAA is facing from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a memo obtained Tuesday by USA TODAY Sports. According to the association's most recent federal tax records, which cover the 2017 calendar year, Emmert made just over $2.1 million in base salary. Donald Remy, then executive vice president and now chief operating officer, had the next-highest base salary at just under $1.1 million. Last Thursday, the NCAA announced it will reduce its direct distribution to Division I conferences and schools for 2020 to $225 million from a planned $600 million. The reduction resulted from the cancellation of the Division I men's basketball tournament, which generates nearly all the association's roughly $1.1 billion in normal annual revenue.
Baseball juniors stand to benefit greatly from NCAA vote
When the college baseball season was canceled earlier this month, it left plenty of questions about what might have been. Among the most intriguing at Arkansas was the play of Zebulon Vermillion, a junior relief pitcher who looked dominant in his last outing against South Alabama on March 8, when he struck out six of the 10 batters he faced over the final three innings of a tight game. That outing brought Vermillion's season totals to 7 1/3 scoreless innings and 12 strikeouts with no walks. Vermillion missed all of preseason practice with a hamstring injury, but was in position to be a closer as the SEC schedule neared. His 6-5 frame and 95 mph fastball from the right side had been complemented by a changeup and a cutter. In a normal year, Vermillion's improvement would likely have been rewarded well in the draft, too. But 2020 has been abnormal, and several juniors might have to put their pro plans on hold for another year. A shortened draft would leave many juniors looking to go back to college, which made the NCAA Division I Council's decision Monday to grant blanket eligibility to spring athletes all the more important to baseball players. Without the added year of eligibility, this year's juniors would have lost bargaining power if they had to wait until next year to be drafted.
Extra year of eligibility could present problems down the road
With one of the smaller rosters among the University of Alabama spring sports and just 4.5 scholarships to use in an equivalency sport, the golf teams, both men's and women's, might seem to have a fairly straight path in facing the challenges presented by the NCAA decision to grant an extra year of eligibility to athletes whose 2020 season was lost to the coronavirus pandemic and response. Instead, those programs are small-scale models that illustrate the number of complex decisions that future roster management will require. "Don't get me wrong, I am happy for the players," Seawell said on Tuesday. "The kids deserve it. We have one senior (Jake de Zoort) and he's been a nice player for us and can come back and not count against us." Beyond that, though, the situation for many sports -- including golf -- will be less clear in 2022 and beyond. Seawell, who was the head coach at Augusta (Ga.) State for four years, also has an insiders perspective on a spring (at least) without The Masters. "They will have some difficult decisions coming up," Seawell said when asked about the iconic event at Augusta National, which has been indefinitely postponed.
LSU's Paul Mainieri is about to go through his first ever April without baseball. Now what?
He is a tinkerer with nothing to make go, a competitor without a game, and, worst of all, a worrier with a completely free schedule. Idle time and Paul Mainieri are incompatible bedfellows. It is April 1, and LSU's baseball coach is about to enter the first full spring month of his conscious life without baseball to look forward to. He could mark the passage of almost all his previous 62 years by his teams of April -- by his father Demie Mainieri's teams, by the high school, college and professional teams he played for, and for the past 37 Aprils, by the teams he's coached. Like the game itself, all were unique, providing new and cherished memories to be stored away and savored later. "Unprecedented," Mainieri called this present moment. "Whatever term you want to use, it's a pretty unusual feeling I'm having right now."
NCAA decision affecting all aspects of Texas A&M athletics
The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to approve an extra year of eligibility for all spring sport athletes who had their seasons canceled because of COVID-19, but now schools have to find a way to pay for it and make it all work. A&M first-year athletic director Ross Bjork was pleased with the decision and the flexibility offered by the ruling, but if all of the department's seniors in baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field return for the 2020-21 season it will cost approximately $565,000, based on the aid they received for this school year. "We think that number will be less but we won't have specifics until really all those conversations take place [between coaches, players and administrators]," Bjork said Tuesday during a video teleconference.

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