Thursday, April 2, 2020   
Mississippi State gives notification for all employees to shelter in place
Mississippi State University president, Dr. Mark Keenum, issued a notice April 1 to all employees in light of Gov. Tate Reeves' announcement of a statewide shelter in place order, beginning April 3. Keenum ordered all buildings on campus to be closed effective April 3, at 5 p.m. until Apr. 20 at 8 a.m., with the exception of the Longest Student Health Center for emergency medical services and pharmacy services, Perry Cafeteria, residence halls housing students who remain on campus, the Wise Center for emergency veterinary services, and the United States Post Office located at Mississippi State University. The campus will remain operational, and all employees should continue to work from home to the extent possible. Classes will continue to be taught remotely. No employees should report to campus or an MSU facility unless notified by your supervisor to do so or unless approved by your vice president.
Distance learning becoming the new norm amid COVID-19
In a time of social distancing, we are also in a time of distancing learning. Students, teachers and parents are adjusting to a new lifestyle. School is no longer in session for the time being due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Here in Mississippi, schools remain closed until April 20. Leanne Long, a professor at Mississippi State University, said the transition to online learning has gone quite well. "Not seeing me twice a week, I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I think it has been an adjustment for them and it's an adjustment for me moving into a completely online world. So, that has been a little of a transition, but we've had face-to-face Zoom meetings, so that they're comfortable." Not only is Long a teacher by day, but she is also a mother of two. She said and she and her husband are doing all they can to make sure their children are learning each day.' "We are getting in English and math with the resources that the Starkville School District has offered us, it has been plentiful," explained Long.
Existing biosecurity measures allow poultry industry operations
The strict biosecurity measures already practiced in Mississippi's $2.7 billion poultry industry allow this "essential critical infrastructure workforce" to continue business as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mary Beck, head of the Mississippi State University Department of Poultry Science, said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has declared poultry one of the food and agricultural businesses that must remain operational during the outbreak. Tom Tabler, poultry specialist with the MSU Extension Service, said the poultry industry has remained unchanged during the COVID-19 outbreak. He said the biosecurity measures poultry industry workers were already required to follow equipped this industry to better understand what Americans are being asked to do in efforts to limit the spread of this virus. The poultry industry has been practicing social distancing for years as part of their biosecurity measures.
New COVID-19 cases include Northeast Mississippi nursing homes
With 104 new COVID-19 cases and four additional known deaths, Mississippi's total count of known cases of the new coronavirus stands at 1,177 with 26 deaths. The state is also now reporting outbreaks of COVID-19 in longterm care facilities, like nursing homes, throughout the state. In Northeast Mississippi, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Oktibbeha, Prentiss and Union counties have known outbreaks in longterm care facilities. Throughout the rest of the state, counties with outbreaks of the new coronavirus at longterm care facilities include Amite, Bolivar, Forrest, Hancock, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Lauderdale, Madison, Marion, Neshoba Pearl River, Smith, Tunica and Warren. The Health Department is not identifying by name longterm care facilities where outbreaks have occurred, but does notify those impacted or potentially impacted by these known outbreaks. As of Wednesday, 30 percent of known COVID-19 patients in the state were hospitalized.
State's banks adapting business model to deal with COVID-19
Banks, like all businesses, are adapting their business model to the reality of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. For some that means giving special consideration to customers who miss loan payments due to unemployment. Another change is limiting transactions to drive-through windows and inside banking by appointment. One of those financial institutions making a change is Gulfport headquartered Hancock Whitney, which is limiting the direct contact between employees and customers. "Everything is evolving, I expect for all banks," said Vice President/Senior Communications Officer Paul Maxwell. "It will be a combination of options, much like in a post-hurricane environment." With 114 full-service bank branches, 161 ATMs and 1,300 employees in Mississippi, Regions Bank's top priority is the safety of customers and associates. Metro Jackson Market Executive Robert Leard said, "We have taken several proactive steps, including enhanced facility cleaning and providing guidance to associates on measures to limit exposure and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Due to pandemic, Cathead switches gears, produces hand sanitizer by the ton
Ten years ago, college buddies Richard Patrick and Austin Evans went into the distilled spirits business, bringing Mississippi's first legal liquor-making operation, Cathead Distillery, to the Jackson area. A decade later, in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, Cathead has switched gears, at least temporarily. Instead of vodka, Cathead is making hand sanitizer by the ton. On Tuesday, Cathead, in partnership with the City of Jackson, made access to four 55-gallon drums of the sanitizer available, at no charge. People, needing the sanitizer to help fight the virus, were allowed to fill 12-ounce containers of the stuff at four different Jackson locations. Said Patrick, "The main commodity in the formula for making the hand sanitizer is extremely high-proof alcohol. We obviously have plenty of that. We wanted to do something. It's our way of giving back to our community, our way of helping flatten the curve." The more than 200 gallons of free sanitizer didn't last long. At the Fondren Corner Market location, a line formed at 9 a.m. Tuesday and went nearly all the way around the building, Angel Knopp, the store's head bookkeeper said. The supply lasted two hours.
Nissan Canton creates face shields for those on front-lines of coronavirus fight
Nissan Canton is stepping up to help those on the front-lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of producing cars, the automotive plant is using their tools to make face masks for healthcare workers. The manufacturing process is already underway at Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant. More than 1,000 shields will be assembled per week and donated to local healthcare centers. "Nissan is proud to be in Mississippi, and we're tapping into our spirit of innovation to help local healthcare workers who need more protective gear now," said Parul Bajaj, senior manager, Philanthropy, Nissan North America, Inc. "We're happy that our 3D printers offer the manufacturing flexibility that enable us to help protect people working in the medical community." Nissan temporarily suspended vehicle production of its U.S. manufacturing facilities on March 20. They have also limited the number of employees at each location.
New Albany company making masks for coronavirus crisis
A New Albany furniture manufacturer is doing its part to help fight the coronavirus pandemic by making protective face masks. Workers at Kevin Charles Fine Upholstery have been making the masks since last week and have already made more than 6,000, said Rusty Berryhill, the company's president. About 5,000 of the masks have gone to the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, Fla. Kevin Charles workers have also made masks for a local clinic in New Albany, a nurse in New Jersey and nursing home corporations in Mississippi. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on Kevin Charles, which has seen its sales drop as furniture storefronts have closed. Kevin Charles has had to furlough about 85 percent of its workforce in the wake of the coronavirus. But Berryhill, who is the chairman of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, expects the company will rebound once the crisis is over and that employees will return as soon as it is safe to do so.
Mississippi auto dealers dealing with 'moving target' of spreading virus
Auto dealerships have been declared an essential business by Gov. Tate Reeves. But that does not mean they are getting a free ride. In fact, their road is getting bumpier as the potentially fatal corona virus pandemic spreads across all 50 states, and the rest of the world. Dealerships in general across the state are taking precautions by offering appointments and delivery of vehicles, according to Marty Milstead, president of the Mississippi Auto Dealers Association, which has 174 members, employing approximately 9,000. Milstead said that dealers, likewise, are dealing with "a moving target," and are making plans as things change. All it takes is one confirmed case of COVID-19 to change everything for a dealer, or for any business.
'Most of us live paycheck to paycheck': Coronavirus anxiety grips Ingalls workers
As an industry essential to the nation's defense, Ingalls Shipbuilding continues operations with mounting cases of the novel coronavirus and the difficulty of social distancing at a shipyard. The company reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 22 from an employee whose last day at work was March 20 on an amphibious assault ship, LPD 29. The shipyard launched another of these ships, LPD 28, on Saturday, reporting its sixth and seventh coronavirus case the same day. By Wednesday, Ingalls had reported 12 cases of the virus on the shipyard, where 11,500 are employed. Countywide, Jackson County's COVID-19 cases more than doubled in five days, reaching 52 on Wednesday and for the first time surpassing Harrison County's. The Mississippi State Health Department says it is dispatching workers to track the virus and its spread, but they have not been on site at Ingalls, said media relations manager Teckie Hinkebein. Ingalls has medical professionals screening employees who get sick at work, checking their temperatures and looking for coronavirus symptoms, Hinkebein said.
Mississippi gov sets statewide stay-home order amid virus
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that he is ordering people statewide to stay at home to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The order will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday and last until 8 a.m. April 20. The Republican governor said: "This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action." Reeves was not the only Southern governor to reverse course Wednesday. Two of his Republican counterparts who had repeatedly resisted statewide stay-home orders -- Ron DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia -- also issued the mandate. Reeves said his order is designed to prevent Mississippi's health care system from becoming overwhelmed, and he called it "the right tool at the right time to save lives."
Gov. Tate Reeves issues statewide shelter-in-place order
Mississippians will have to shelter in place at least until April 20 except for essential travels, such as getting food and essential supplies, as Gov. Tate Reeves issued a statewide executive order during an online press conference Wednesday afternoon in the wake of the pandemic of COVID-19, a disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The "shelter in place" order will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. Essential businesses, such as grocery stores, health care facilities, take-out restaurants and gas stations, among others, will remain open, Reeves said. All public parks are closed as part of the order, except for walking trails.
Gov. Tate Reeves issues statewide shelter in place order
Gov. Tate Reeves has signed an executive order that will impose a shelter-in-place order on the state of Mississippi beginning Friday, as part of an ongoing effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. "This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action," Reeves said. In reversing course from his previous stance that only targeted shelter orders would be issued, the first-term governor cited the advice of the State Health Department. "We believe this is the right tool at the right time to save lives," Reeves said. State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said that a continuing spike of COVID-19 cases could severely strain healthcare resources. He said a slower rate of transmission can buy hospitals much needed time. "The purpose of a shelter in place order, it's to slow things down to give the system time to get extra capacity to deal with additional demand," Dobbs said.
Gov. Tate Reeves orders a statewide shelter-in-place
Gov. Tate Reeves has issued a statewide shelter-in-place order beginning Friday to fight the spread of the coronavirus, a decision that came as Mississippi surpassed 1,000 cases and posted its largest one-day increase since the crisis began. "We believe this is the right tool, at the right time, to save lives," Reeves said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. He said the goal of the order is "to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed." The order will last from Friday at 5 p.m. to April 20 at 8 a.m. Like many other states that have issued such lockdowns, it says residents must stay home except for essential activities such as shopping for groceries, caring for someone, or working for one of a limited number of businesses allowed to be open during the crisis. Individual outdoor exercise is also allowed.
Statewide shelter-in-place order: 'We believe this is the right tool at the right time to save lives'
Gov. Tate Reeves, who for days has resisted calls to enact a shelter-in-place order to combat COVID -19, finally said Wednesday afternoon that now is the time to enact such a mandate to give state officials and medical providers time to collect the resources to fight the virus and to give public health officials time to attempt to curb its spread. During a 90-minute news conference in a near vacant state office building, he signed the order mandating statewide that people remain at home until April 20 unless going out for essential services, such as buying groceries. Under the order, parks will be closed, but walking trails will remain open where people can exercise if they are careful to not gather in groups and stay at least 6 feet apart. "We believe this is the right tool at the right time to save lives," said Reeves, who said he began consulting Tuesday night with health care experts, such as state Health Care Officer Thomas Dobbs, about whether they should put the statewide order in place. Dobbs, who attended the news conference, said Reeves' executive order will give public health officials time to prepare for the peak.
Lt. Gov. Hosemann, Speaker Gunn eye June to renew budget; awaiting clearer picture of coronavirus fallout
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn, hoping to gather as much financial data as possible, anticipating waiting until June to pass a state budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, and Gunn "are both of the mind to do the budget as late as possible," Hosemann said. That will give legislators more time to ascertain how the state's economy and state revenue are impacted by the fallout of the coronavirus. Normally the Legislature would have completed the session at least by May 3. But legislators voted in early March to recess because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The resolution established April 1 as the day to resume the session, but only if Gunn and Hosemann agreed they should return. Both agreed last week that April 1 was too soon to return. Hosemann and Gunn will set a later date. And if they wait until June to do the budget, most likely Gunn and Hosemann will not call legislators back to take up non-budget related bills until May. Gunn said it would make sense to wait to see the May revenue collections before enacting a budget in June.
Mississippi Gulf Coast officials are concerned about coronavirus infection rates in Louisiana
Mississippi Gulf Coast Senator Philip Moran says he's noticing more cars with Louisiana tags around town and parked near beaches. The Republican legislator from Kiln represents parts of Harrison County and Hancock County, which borders Louisiana. "We're getting reports that people are coming over and getting their prescriptions at the drug stores here, coming in the Walmart, going to the gas pumps, all these sorts of things and intermingling with the locals here. We're afraid our coronavirus outbreaks will increase tremendously. What we're asking is for the next few weeks everybody just kind of stay home, stay in your prospective states, try to stay in your own county and let's move beyond this and then we can all get back to our normal lives," said Moran. Wednesday, Reeves issued a "shelter in place" order statewide, which includes the closing of all beaches and non-essential businesses April 3rd until at least April 20th.
More than $51 million in GOMESA funds available for Mississippi
More than $51 million has been awarded to Mississippi through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act to fund projects that could help protect our coastal environment. "We must continue investing in our conservation and restoration programs to enhance and protect our state's natural resources and beauty of the Mississippi Coast. These energy revenues will enable our state to continue developing our energy resources for Mississippi and our country as a whole," said Gov. Tate Reeves. The projects that receive this funding will be administered by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Some past projects include artificial reef construction, beach erosion control and sea out planting. "The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources looks forward to managing GOMESA projects for Governor Reeves. These projects will enhance education, research, restoration, water quality and improve our beautiful estuary for the Gulf Coast of Mississippi," said MDMR Executive Director Joe Spraggins.
MDOC Has Lowered the Age Requirement for Corrections Officer Candidates
To help address staffing shortages and significantly expand the potential pool of candidates, the minimum age to work as a correctional officer for the Mississippi Department of Corrections has been lowered from 21 to 19. With approval from the Mississippi State Personnel Board, the department is now seeking the younger applicants. "High school graduates represent a significant group of individuals entering the workforce," Human Resource Director Sharon Pepper said. "This provides them a great opportunity to obtain meaningful experience, if they plan to make a career out of corrections and/or law enforcement." Interim Commissioner Tommy Taylor said, "We are seeking individuals who want to make corrections a career, and the Mississippi Department of Corrections is a good place to work." The younger officers will be assigned to positions considered low risk, with minimum direct contact with inmates. Such positions include working in control rooms and with minimum custody inmates during program activities.
US weekly jobless claims double to 6.6 million
The torrent of Americans filing for unemployment insurance skyrocketed last week as more than 6.6 million new claims were filed, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That brings to 10 million the total Americans who filed over the past two weeks. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected 3.1 million for last week, one week after 3.3 million filings in the first wave of what has been a record-shattering swelling of the jobless ranks. The previous week's total was revised higher by 24,000. Stock market futures gave up most of their previous gains in the morning but still pointed to a slightly higher open on Wall Street. On an unadjusted basis, the total was 5.8 million, a number that some economists consider more relevant because seasonal adjustments are less relevant due to the unusual impact the coronavirus-induced shutdown has had on the economy.
Mississippi unemployment claims soar as many struggle to apply
Some 31,000 Mississippians filed for unemployment last week, marking an unprecedented spike in claims as the coronavirus devastates nearly all types of businesses across the state. The new initial claims number from the U.S. Department of Labor is more than five times higher than the state's previous week total of about 5,500 claims. And that week's number was itself about five times more than the typical number of claims filed in Mississippi, which often hovers below 1,000. In the first week of March, for example, 879 Mississippians filed for unemployment. Nationwide, about 6.65 million people filed for unemployment last week, doubling the previous week's mark, which was already the highest number the Department of Labor has recorded. Other states around the South saw similar surges as Mississippi. Alabama claims jumped to 80,000, up from 11,000 a week prior. Arkansas saw 27,000 claims, up from about 9,000 before. And Louisiana had about 98,000 claims, growing from 72,000 the week before.
Anthony Fauci gets security detail after receiving threats
The government's top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, is now receiving security protection after becoming the face of the nation's coronavirus response -- and a target of some supporters of President Donald Trump. Health department leaders moved to give Fauci an armed security detail by last weekend after the 79-year-old immunologist received unspecified threats and uninvited attention, although the process took several days, said two individuals with knowledge of the decision. HHS Secretary Alex Azar had grown concerned about the growing online attacks against Fauci -- whose profile has soared since he started regularly flanking Trump at White House coronavirus briefings, where he occasionally corrects the president -- and asked the department to conduct a threat assessment. The decision was then conveyed to the Justice Department, which approved the request to deputize security for Fauci.
Joe Biden associates reach out to former AG Eric Holder about VP search
Associates of Joe Biden have reached out to former Attorney General Eric Holder about the process of selecting a running mate, according to a person close to the former vice president's campaign. Holder helped guide former President Obama's running mate-selection process in 2008, along with Caroline Kennedy and longtime Democratic operative Jim Johnson, who stepped down from that role after a week amid a controversy related to mortgages he received. That Biden's associates have reached out to Holder about the selection process was first reported on Thursday by The New York Times. The Times also reported that Biden had spoken with Obama about the matter. Biden is the prohibitive front-runner in the Democratic primary race, having amassed a nearly insurmountable delegate lead over his only remaining rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
More young people in the South seem to be dying from COVID-19. Why?
In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has gone from a novel, distant threat to an enemy besieging cities and towns across the world. The burden of COVID-19 and the economic upheaval wrought by the measures to contain it feel epochal. Humanity now has a common foe, and we will grow increasingly familiar with its face. Yet plenty of this virus's aspects remain unknown. The developing wisdom -- earned the hard way in Wuhan, Washington, and Italy -- has been that older people and sicker people are substantially more likely to suffer severe illness or die from COVID-19 than their younger, healthier counterparts. But what happens when these assumptions don't hold up, and the young people battling the pandemic share the same risks? So far, about one in 10 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 has occurred in the four-state arc of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. The coronavirus is advancing quickly across the American South. And in the American South, significant numbers of younger people are battling health conditions that make coronavirus outbreaks more perilous.
Farmworkers, Mostly Undocumented, Become 'Essential' During Pandemic
Like legions of immigrant farmworkers, Nancy Silva for years has done the grueling work of picking fresh fruit that Americans savor, all the while afraid that one day she could lose her livelihood because she is in the country illegally. But the widening coronavirus pandemic has brought an unusual kind of recognition: Her job as a field worker has been deemed by the federal government as "essential" to the country. Ms. Silva, who has spent much of her life in the United States evading law enforcement, now carries a letter from her employer in her wallet, declaring that the Department of Homeland Security considers her "critical to the food supply chain." The "essential work" letters that many now carry are not a free pass from immigration authorities, who could still deport Ms. Silva and other undocumented field workers at any time. But local law enforcement authorities said the letters might give immigrant workers a sense of security that they will not be arrested for violating stay-at-home orders.
Florida, Georgia, Mississippi issue stay-at-home orders; Gov. Kay Ivey says not yet for Alabama
Gov. Kay Ivey is not ready to issue a shelter-in-place order as other governors have, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, arguing the state has already taken aggressive action to curb the spread of coronavirus. Republican governors in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia on Wednesday reversed course and issued stay-home directives after previously resisting such a statewide order. But Ivey's office said Wednesday that the governor is not ready to follow suit. Alabama's "safer at home" policy urges people to stay home but does not order them to do so. The stay-home directives vary from state to state. The Mississippi order that was announced Wednesday includes some measures Alabama had taken, but also includes a directive for people to remain home unless going out for essential activities. Alabama has not done that.
Will you listen to Larry David about coronavirus, if not the authorities?
While some people have started treating a certain governor like a television star during this global pandemic, the elected officials themselves have started turning to actual celebrities for help. Larry David is the latest comedian to appear in a public service announcement from the office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, which on Tuesday tweeted a video of David urging viewers not to pass up the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay in the house, sit on the couch and watch TV." David, for instance, injected his with the dry humor one expects from the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" creator. "Obviously someone put me up to this, 'cause it's generally not the kind of thing I do," he said, "but I basically want to address the idiots out there. You know who you are. You're going out, I don't know what you're doing, you're socializing too close, it's not good. You're hurting old people like me." "Well, not me," he corrected himself. "I have nothing to do with you, I'll never see you. But, you know, other -- let's say other old people who might be your relatives."
UMMC Pandemic Expert: Social Distancing Now Will Save Lives, Lessen COVID-19 Spread
Social distancing is the most important tool we have in slowing COVID-19 transmission, saving lives and saving resources, according to a University of Mississippi Medical Center emergency physician. "The key is to minimize person-to-person transmission, especially among people who do not normally interact with each other," said Dr. Richard Finley, professor of emergency medicine at UMMC, who has studied models of the factors influencing the course of pandemic illness. "With several forecast models predicting that Mississippi will see a wave of infections peaking in the last two weeks of April and early May, the importance of social distancing now cannot be overstated," said Dr. Charles O'Mara, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs. Mississippi may still have a good chance to prevent a high peak scenario, Finley said. "The numbers of known cases in Mississippi are rising at about the same rate as the rest of the United States, but delayed by about 10 days," he said, "but our social distancing efforts began around the same time as the rest of the country giving us a relative advantage."
What you should know: UMMC OB-GYN answers questions on COVID-19 and pregnancy
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is working to keep its patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes pregnant patients and newborns. The good news is that compared to other viral infections, COVID-19 does not appear to cause an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects, says Dr. Marty Tucker, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UMMC. "Additionally, if a pregnant woman or her newborn baby contracts COVID-19, it appears that the chance of severe illness is low," Tucker said. However, regardless of pregnancy, all people should limit their risk of COVID-19 exposure in order to protect themselves and others around them. This includes social distancing, avoiding travel, avoiding contact with people who are or may be infected, and being vigilant of symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, shortness of breath, sore throat and cough.
UMMC volunteers assemble 'COVID Care Kits' for most vulnerable people in Jackson
University of Mississippi Medical Center students, along with many other organizations, are helping to collect, assemble and distribute "COVID Care Kits." They are accepting donations for their kits, which will be tailored to different groups of people. "Specifically, vulnerable populations including the elderly, the disabled, the economically disadvantaged," UMMC student and volunteer Blake Littlejohn explained. These kits contain the everyday essentials that are normally easy to access, but not during a global pandemic. In addition to the essentials, the kits come with information on how to prevent the spread from UMMC and the CDC.
WCU Dean of Education: Suspended teaching exams may help teacher numbers
Ben Burnett, Dean of Education at William Carey University, said he believes some good can come out of anything bad. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Mississippi State Board of Education to make some big decisions. "It affects future teachers greatly," Burnett said. He said the Mississippi State Board of Education voted to suspend the requirement for licensure exams as an entry point into teacher education for the undergraduate level and alternate route. "This means that people who are wanting to be teachers and have not passed the practice core exam or any other exam, foundations of reading, that are necessary to be admitted in to the alternate route program or into undergraduate teacher education, that those are now suspended all the way through December of 2021," Burnett said. Burnett said this suspension of testing means a potential boost in teacher numbers in the future. He also offered William Carey's Alternate Route Teacher Program, which is now completely online, if you were already in school to become a teacher, or just want to be one and you have an undergraduate degree. "We can have the two classes and have them licensed to teach by the end of the summer," Burnett said.
U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith: $4.3M to be distributed to 34 counties through Rural Schools Program
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today announced nearly $4.3 million will be distributed to Mississippi counties through the U.S. Forest Service's Secure Rural Schools Program. In all, 34 counties in Mississippi in which national forests are situated will be able to use the funding for the benefit of public schools and roads. The distribution is in proportion to the acreage of national forest in the county. "The Secure Rural Schools revenue-sharing payments can give some Mississippi counties with national forests some certainty in these unsettled times. They will give these communities additional resources to put toward schools and public works," said Hyde-Smith. Hyde-Smith serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, both of which have jurisdiction over SRS. The $4,298,082 SRS distribution to Mississippi is based on 1,191,292 acres of national forests in the state, with the average payment per acre rated at $3.81.
Coronavirus creates funding time bomb for public schools
The economic pain brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is just about everywhere. Atlanta businesses that rely on tourism took a huge hit after the NCAA canceled the Final Four college basketball tournament. The iconic Las Vegas strip is shut down. New Orleans' French Quarter is a virtual ghost town. But a budgetary time bomb for public schools is likely to explode long after the pandemic ends and lawmakers shift their focus to the next crisis -- and the crisis after that. Many public school districts rely heavily on state sales tax revenues that have already plummeted and may not recover for a very long time. State income taxes and local property taxes are both significant sources of funding and are also likely to dip. Personnel and pension costs could rise at the same time. Even school districts in areas mostly untouched by the virus will feel the economic impact. The looming financial woes for public schools may affect the 2020 election season as well. A bad economy is never good for incumbents, and the current crisis could mean deep cuts to education and other basic public services in battleground states. Nevada, Texas and Florida are just three examples of key states where school districts rely heavily on vulnerable sales tax revenue.
University Program Council says Auburn campus closure is an 'adjustment for everyone'
Many scheduled events and programs are suspended for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester because of Auburn University's transition to remote learning. The University Program Council is a student-led organization that plans multiple events for students to be able to meet and engage with their peers. UPC had many upcoming events that were forced to be canceled due the coronavirus pandemic. "We may not be physically on campus, but UPC is actively working on ways to creatively program and engage the student body even during their time away from campus," said Britt Whitstine, president of UPC and junior in biology and communication. "UPC is handling the news of the campus closure the best we can. It's an adjustment for everyone." Whitstine said UPC is still holding meetings to plan for the upcoming fall semester. She said it was important to the council that they continue to support their members while progressing forward with their leadership placements for the upcoming year.
As students remain home, Alabama colleges keep campuses 'operationally open'
A walk down Auburn University's red-brick concourses usually rings with the sounds of organizations cheering about upcoming trips or student body elections. Today it still smells like freshly cut grass from Samford lawn. But now, because of COVID-19, it's quiet, still. Students eat boxed meals in their individual rooms. "It's eerie," said Bobby Woodard, senior vice president of student affairs at Auburn. "It's not sad. We just miss our students and the campus livelihood." Yet, despite most students being gone, many universities are staying "operationally open." The decision to have campus "open" is one out of necessity, according to multiple college administrators. Most campuses transitioned to their new normal in a week or less. "Did we have hiccups?" Woodard asked, "Yes, but we are getting and going now."
'We are about to be on the front lines': Meet the med students graduating into a pandemic
Christopher Johnson picked his path mid-way through high school. The 26-year-old from Dothan had always been a smart kid and decided to put that to use helping patients after he shadowed a couple doctors in town. After finishing the pre-med curriculum at Auburn University, he applied to the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. He marched through the milestones: the white coat ceremony that marks the beginning of medical school, the classes and exams. Johnson picked a specialty, family medicine, that would allow him to concentrate on treating athletes. Like a lot of medical students, he kept an eye on the coronavirus as it swept across the globe earlier this year. But it didn't hit home until mid-March, when UAB cancelled its March 20 Match Day ceremony -- the NFL draft of med school, when young doctors learn which medical system picked them for specialty training. The disappointment of missing the ceremony quickly gave way to the gravity of the situation.
U. of South Carolina to start refunding students whose lives have been affected by coronavirus fallout
The University of South Carolina said it will begin to refund students who have been affected by the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Students will get prorated refunds for meal plans, parking permits and on-campus residential housing, USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said Wednesday in a news release. The refunds will cover the span from March 16, the first day the campus was closed following spring break, through the end of the semester, according to the release. The students are getting money back for services they never received or were unable to use, because of the rising number of cases of COVID-19 across South Carolina. What is not included in these refunds is money spent on tuition, academic fees and student support fees, based on a decision from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, according to the release.
U. of Tennessee will continue online classes through summer because of COVID-19
The University of Tennessee will keep all classes online through the summer semester to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the university announced Wednesday. This includes classes at all campuses. Classes throughout the UT System had previously been moved online through the end of the spring semester. May graduation ceremonies have been postponed because of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about avoiding large gatherings of people. "Our faculty and staff have done an incredible job of moving to an entirely digital platform for the spring semester," UT System President Randy Boyd said. "I am confident they will continue to provide an inspired learning experience for our students who are enrolled in summer classes." Plans about university-sponsored events over the summer will be announced in the coming days, UT Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said in an email to the campus. Additionally, "decisions related to athletics will be made in consultation with the NCAA and the SEC," Plowman wrote.
U. of Florida student government meeting 'Zoom Bombed'
The University of Florida's virtual Student Government meeting Tuesday night was interrupted by a hacker, with racist and sexual images appearing on the screen. UF President Kent Fuchs wrote on Twitter that he was informed of the incident the same night, and called the messages "horrific." He said he ordered the university's IT department and UF police to investigate. "COVID-19 and hate will be defeated," he concluded. The university has switched to online classes in the past two weeks, and officials urged students to return home if they are able. The school's government bodies have transitioned to online meetings as well, including student government. Last week, the Board of Trustees held a hybrid Zoom and in-person meeting. A UF spokesman said officials are looking into how to make future meetings more secure, but Florida law requires government meetings to occur publicly, adding to the difficulty.
Dolly Parton donating $1 million for coronavirus research at Vanderbilt
Country legend Dolly Parton has announced she'll donate $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to fund research of the coronavirus. Parton made the announcement on social media Wednesday. "My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who's been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure. I am making a donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt towards that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations." Naji N. Abumrad, M.D., is a Professor of Surgery at Vanderbilt. He's also the father of radio personality and podcast host Jad Abumrad, who parlayed his father's unlikely friendship with Parton into an acclaimed 2019 podcast, "Dolly Parton's America."
Texas A&M to hold virtual new student conferences this summer
Texas A&M University has canceled its in-person new student conferences this summer and will hold them virtually, due to COVID-19 concerns, the university announced Wednesday. A&M said its virtual conferences will mimic the in-person one in many ways. Some sessions will be recorded for incoming students and families to watch while other sessions will have virtual Q&A's. Incoming students will have a virtual meeting with an academic adviser on Day 2 of their new student conference. A&M said it is planning the virtual orientation for 14,000 incoming students and 16,000 family members and guests. A&M's new student conferences are scheduled to begin May 27 and run through July 16. One final orientation is slated for Aug. 18-19.
U. of Missouri students advised that 'COVID-19 is coming', but they can help
University of Missouri students were advised to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously but not to panic in a virtual town hall Wednesday evening. The webinar, hosted by the president-elect of the Boone County Medical Society and MU Health Care physician Albert Hsu, clarified statistics on the disease and encouraged young people to help as much as they could without violating the guidelines of social distancing. Hsu said that people in the MU student community are "probably not going to die from the disease," but it is possible that they could become severely ill. He explained that more young people are falling critically ill with COVID-19 in the United States than in China. Hsu advised students to take social distancing measures seriously, as it is one of the best ways to flatten the epidemic curve and lower the chance of overwhelming our healthcare system.
$36.5M budget cut for U. of Missouri System amid COVID-19 financial concerns
State budget cuts totaling $180 million -- including $36.5 million from the University of Missouri System -- were announced Wednesday by Gov. Mike Parson. The cuts, part of an overall reduction to state higher education institutions, include $2.4 million to the NextGen Precision Health Institute, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said. UM President Mun Choi said the system isn't alone in facing this challenge. "Businesses and higher education institutions across the country are seeing many of the same impacts," Choi said in an email. "Our goal is to ensure the long-term viability and mission of the university." Budget officials warned that it may take years to financially recover from the impact of COVID-19. Statewide cuts to Missouri's four-year universities totaled about $61 million. Basi said financial plans announced last week, like the systemwide pause on new hires and pay increases, were made in anticipation of budget cuts.
College groups push for suspension of financial responsibility scores as feds release distance ed rule
This week has been busy on the higher education regulatory front. A coalition of college associations is pushing for the suspension of a federal measure of colleges' financial standing, and the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday released new proposed rules on distance education. Meanwhile, a prominent online program management company's CEO pushed back at scrutiny of his sector, which appears to have contributed to Congress placing restrictions on reimbursements for colleges' spending on OPMs in the $2.2 trillion stimulus measure it passed last week. The federal financial responsibility score has long been criticized as an inadequate measure of the fiscal health of colleges and universities. During the Great Recession, for example, its relatively heavy focus on cash and endowment spending led to low scores for some colleges with relatively strong finances. The Government Accountability Office found that the composite scores predicted just half of the closures during the last decade.
In Closing Dorms, Colleges Hoped to Limit Coronavirus's Spread. Did Spring-Breakers Thwart That Plan?
When colleges ended in-person classes last month and told students to move off campus, they hoped to limit the spread of the coronavirus through highly trafficked dormitories and classrooms. Public-health experts agree that colleges reduced that risk by all but shutting down their campuses. But some fear students' unpredictable behavior could increase the likelihood that they'd bring the virus home with them to communities where people have been social-distancing for days. Some students took a detour on their way home, to spring-break beaches or for one last blowout to celebrate the abrupt end of the semester. Already, there have been reports of students' testing positive for Covid-19 after spring-break trips, including 28 students from the University of Texas at Austin who traveled to Mexico. In Florida, where state officials waited until March 20 to restrict large crowds, spring-breakers swarmed beaches, crammed into hotel rooms, and packed bars and restaurants, even as millions of Americans elsewhere sheltered in place.
Scholars confront coronavirus-related racism in the classroom, in research and in community outreach
Jason Chang, an associate professor of history and Asian American studies at the University of Connecticut, started putting together a crowdsourced document with resources on teaching about coronavirus-related racism back in January. Students, he said, are hungry for readings that help them put this current moment in perspective. "I've actually had students who are asking for more assignments to expose them to more material," Chang said of students in his Asian American history class this spring. One of the assignments in the course asks students to create a zine connecting their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic with a broader theme in Asian American history. Scholars are addressing this topic in the classroom, in their research -- the Journal of Asian American Studies put out an urgent call for submissions this week for a special issue on racism and the COVID-19 pandemic -- and in outreach to Asian American communities.
Coronavirus grades: College students want pass-fail for online classes
Nothing is the same for college students, thanks to the coronavirus. Most have moved out of dorms. Their classes have moved online. Labs and performing arts classes now bear little resemblance to normal. But one thing hasn't changed, at least at some colleges: They're still being graded. A chorus of students from across the country is lobbying schools to stop grading on a traditional letter scale this semester. Instead, students are asking for a pass-or-fail system. Their efforts have gained traction in some states. In Florida, three large state universities announced March 24 that they would switch to pass/fail grading in response to student petitions. But so far, efforts by some students haven't succeeded in convincing administrators. Clemson University in South Carolina said a few of its courses could be taken pass/fail, but otherwise the university has not heeded a student petition with thousands of signatures. The argument in favor of pass/fail grading focuses on how students from more privileged backgrounds likely will fare better in the coronavirus-era environment of online courses and staying at home.
What Students Want Colleges to Know About COVID-19 Shutdowns
Most of our coverage of the COVID-19 emergency has focused on talking to educators and administrators about how they're responding and adjusting to life under school and college shutdowns. But what about the perspective of students? For our latest installment of the weekly EdSurge Live online discussion series that we are running jointly with Bryan Alexander's Future Trends Forum about COVID-19 response, we invited three students from different types of colleges to share their stories and give advice to college professors and leaders. As these students describe it, the move to shut down campus has been emotional, and they have suggestions for what kind of teaching works best now that instruction is online.
Scholars remember those lost to COVID-19
When Maurice Berger, the chief curator and research professor at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture in Maryland, died recently from complications of COVID-19, his shocked and heartbroken co-workers said they not only lost a dear friend and colleague but a brilliant thinker and collaborator whose scholarship and curated exhibits and projects crossed disciplines and challenged conventional thinking about race and representation in the visual arts. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as well-known and obscure Americans are being felled by the deadly disease and their lives publicly celebrated or quietly overlooked, Berger's death is just the latest example that academe has not been spared in the public health crisis. The current reality of sudden illness and death is already prompting higher ed leaders to contemplate how to negotiate and manage such uncharted waters as well as how to restart and move forward once the waves of expected deaths slow down or end.
What the Shift to Virtual Learning Could Mean for the Future of Higher Ed
Tectonic shifts in society and business occur when unexpected events force widespread experimentation around a new idea. During World War II, for instance, when American men went off to war, women proved that they could do "men's" work -- and do it well. Women never looked back after that. Similarly, the Y2K problem demanded the extensive use of Indian software engineers, leading to the tripling of employment-based visas granted by the U.S. Fixing that bug enabled Indian engineers to establish their credentials, and catapulted them as world leaders in addressing technology problems. Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe are all headed by India-born engineers today. Right now, the Coronavirus pandemic is forcing global experimentation with remote teaching. There are many indicators that this crisis is going to transform many aspects of life. Education could be one of them if remote teaching proves to be a success. But how will we know if it is? As this crisis-driven experiment launches, we should be collecting data and paying attention to the following three questions about higher education's business model and the accessibility of quality college education.
The Apocalypse as an 'Unveiling': What Religion Teaches Us About the End Times
For people of many faiths, and even none at all, it can feel lately like the end of the world is near. Not only is there a plague, but hundreds of billions of locusts are swarming East Africa. Wildfires have ravaged Australia, killing an untold number of animals. A recent earthquake in Utah even shook the Salt Lake Temple to the top of its iconic spire, causing the golden trumpet to fall from the angel Moroni's right hand. But the story of apocalypse is an old one, one of the oldest humans tell. In ancient religious traditions beyond Christianity -- including Judaism, Islam and Buddhism -- it is a common narrative that arises in moments of social and political crisis, as people try to process unprecedented or shocking events. Modern, secular American life is filled with its own apocalyptic visions. Movies and television shows depict civilization on the brink of extinction. "The Walking Dead" explores life amid the zombie apocalypse. "The Hunger Games" presents a dystopian future after conflict and ecological disasters have destroyed much of the world.

College Football Is Still Months Away. But the Sport Is Already Reeling.
The first game of the 2020 college football season is still five months away, but the sport is already reeling from the NCAA's unprecedented decision to cancel athletics for the 2019-20 academic year. Springtime gridiron traditions have ground to a halt and the regular hum of the recruiting cycle has fallen silent. These disruptions could drastically change where and when prospective athletes choose to sign, potentially remaking the balance of power in the sport for years to come. "There's so much uncertainty still," said Dave Emerick, Mississippi State's senior associate athletic director for football. "We're kind of taking it one day at a time."
Barnett Reservoir to close as part of shelter-in-place order
The Ross Barnett Reservoir will close as part of the governor's shelter-in-place order. The reservoir will be closed until further notice as of Friday at 5 p.m. This means no boats will be allowed on the lake. "All of our parks, picnic areas, disc golf courses, fishing piers and ramp areas will be closed during the Governor's shelter-in-place order," said John Sigman, PRVWSD executive director. "The reservoir is closed to most recreational opportunities as long as the Governor's order is in place." The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District will close all 34 of its boat ramps and parks. Walking trails outside of the parks will remain open, with the suggestion that everyone uses social distancing practices.
Alcorn State's Travaris Cole named HBCU National Player of Year
Alcorn State's Travaris Cole turned a pretty good start to the season into a national player of the year award. Cole, a senior outfielder, was named the 2020 HBCU National Player of the Year on Wednesday by the web site Black College Nines. Sophomore infielder Tristin Garcia earned a spot on the site's All-America first team. Black College Nines is a site devoted to covering baseball at historically black colleges and universities. Cole started all 12 games for the Braves before the season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. Garcia led Alcorn in multi-hit and multi-RBI outings with four each. He had a huge game against Ole Miss, when he registered four hits, including a home run in a 9-8 extra-inning loss.
Army evaluates U. of Tennessee athletics facilities for possible emergency use
If hospitals fill up as the coronavirus pandemic wages on, could the University of Tennessee's athletic and fitness facilities be used to house an overflow of patients? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has looked into that and evaluated three UT facilities for possible emergency use, the university confirmed. "At the direction of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have visited the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to evaluate facilities for emergency use, if needed," university spokesman Owen Driskill said in a statement to Knox News. "The representatives visited Thompson-Boling Arena, Pratt Pavilion, and the Tennessee Recreation Center for Students (TRECS)." Tennessee is not the only state to have athletic facilities evaluated for possible medical use. Representatives of the Missouri National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited the University of Missouri to consider whether the Hearnes Center or Mizzou Arena could be transformed into an emergency hospital for COVID-19 patients.
'No change' to LSU coach Will Wade's employment status after 'The Scheme' airs
No change has been made to the employment status of LSU basketball coach Will Wade, LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement Wednesday morning. The statement comes on the heels of the debut of HBO's "The Scheme," a documentary focusing on federally convicted middleman Christian Dawkins and his involvement leading up to the two trials pertaining to corruption in college basketball. "We are aware of the documentary first aired on March 31, 2020, on HBO," Woodward said in his statement. "There is no change to coach Will Wade's employment status at LSU and we will continue to cooperate with all reviews into this matter." The documentary aired the expletive version of the now-infamous conversation pertaining to current LSU guard Javonte Smart. Wade declined to be interviewed for the project.
Ed Orgeron files for divorce from wife Kelly after 23 years of marriage, court documents show
LSU football coach Ed Orgeron has filed for divorce from his wife, Kelly. Orgeron filed the divorce petition Feb. 26 in East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court, stating he and his wife separated Feb. 24 "and have lived separate and apart without reconciliation since that date." The petition is titled "In the interest of the marriage of E.O. and K.O." Their full names are used in the filing. Orgeron states he is entitled to have the exclusive use and occupancy of the former matrimonial domicile in Baton Rouge, and he has no objection to Kelly Orgeron being granted exclusive use and occupancy of a home in Mandeville, "until such time as the community property is settled either by conventional agreement or judicial partition."
NCAA throws baseball coaches a curve with added eligibility
Widely hailed as the right thing to do for student-athlete welfare, the NCAA's decision to extend spring sports athletes' eligibility a year because of the coronavirus pandemic is causing consternation for baseball coaches. Ohio State's Greg Beals said Tuesday he isn't worried about 2021, when the 35-man roster limit will be relaxed to accommodate seniors choosing to return for another season. The problem comes in 2022, when the limit is back in force. Beals has 11 freshmen coming in this fall, and they will join nine players who will be reclassified as freshmen because the 2020 season ended abruptly March 12. "So I have a freshman class of 20, and that class is going to stay with me for the next four years," Beals said. "So there's some challenge there. We're going to be able to work through it. There's going to be some tough conversations while the roster is thick and strong. The lineup card still only has nine slots on it." The NCAA allows a total of 11.7 scholarships per team in Division I baseball, and it's required they be divided among 27 players. Eight walk-ons are permitted, taking the roster maximum to 35. Baseball is the only spring sport with a roster limit.
NCAA, MLB draft calls make for tough baseball decisions for Gamecocks, others
It was the right thing to do. Since every baseball team in the country, along with all other spring sports college programs, had only played a quarter of their seasons, the NCAA voted Monday to give all players another year of eligibility. Yet although it does help every athlete, and particularly gives seniors a cushion for next year, it creates numerous headaches that the NCAA still has to address. Especially in baseball, where 11.7 scholarships are divided among 27 players and eight walk-ons complete the roster, what happens next year? South Carolina coach Mark Kingston has declined all interviews thus far, but he said before fall practice started that constructing his roster never ends. "When you're in our situation and you're working on getting where you want to be, finding good players is always a premium. It's always on your mind," he said. "You use all avenues you can, high schools, JUCO, grad transfers." Now there will just be more of those avenues, with the bottom line the same as always. Only nine play at a time, and it's going to be a case of too many players and not enough spots in 2021, not just at USC but across the nation.
Workaholism And Burnout In College Athletics
The relationship between employee and job can be tenuous. For some, having a job is perceived as a "necessary evil" that allows the individual to acquire basic necessities and dispensable income to pursue desired activities. On the other end of the spectrum, employees can become completely engulfed in their work, investing their very lives in work and work outcomes. Scholars have characterized these (over)dedicated employees as workaholics. For workaholics, their vocation becomes a sizable part of their identity, consuming their day-to-day activities and finding them pursuing tasks beyond their job description. Workaholism can result in positives, such as improved career prospects, but it is also associated with stress, burnout, reduced physical health, and significant negative spillover into workaholics' families. Certain careers have been shown to be more susceptible to workaholism, as social norms drive aspiring employees to go beyond expected job assignments to secure employment, while also maintaining their workaholism to continue their employment. Sport is one such career.

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