Friday, April 3, 2020   
Mississippi State converting ventilators amid COVID-19 outbreak
Mississippi State University is working to convert more than 550 battery-powered ventilators to AC power to aid in the state's fight against the coronavirus. Battery-powered ventilators are designed to fill temporary problems during emergencies such as hurricanes. However, if converted to AC power, the ventilators can be plugged into walls and used for long-term use, according to officials at MSU's Paul B. Jacob High Voltage Laboratory. Along with his colleagues, David Wallace, manager of the High Voltage Lab, designed the changes allowing the ventilators to run on both AC power or battery power. "We have enough space in the lab and enough manpower to bring everything together and get these assembled once all the parts are in place," Wallace said in a news release. Taylor Machine Works, located in Louisville, is also assisting the laboratory with sourcing parts for the ventilators. Once the ventilators are completed, they will be sent to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.
Mississippi State cancels summer camps, conferences
Mississippi State University announced Thursday that all face-to-face or in-person camps and conferences are canceled through Aug. 1, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university is exploring 'virtual' options. MSU offers a variety of annual summer offerings, from camps that range from athletics to discovering career fields such as accounting or entomology to recreational and wildlife camps. Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said information will be forthcoming as summer approaches about programs that have the opportunity to offer virtual camps.
Mississippi State to close all buildings, move remaining students
Mississippi State University is preparing to close down all of its buildings on campus, except for ones that offer essential services. All buildings on campus will close at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 3 through April 20 at 8 a.m. Chief of Communications and Director of Public Affairs for the University, Sid Salter, said about 400 students still live on campus. He said those students will move into the same residence hall. The move will help to limit the number of buildings that workers have to continually clean. Salter said all employees will work from home or be on administrative leave unless they are essential staff.
Mississippi State University closes majority of buildings
Mississippi State has closed most of its buildings and many employees will continue working from home. MSU said the campus will remain operational and classes will still be taught remotely. The Longest Student Health Center, Perry Cafeteria, Residence Halls housing students who remain on campus, the Wise Center for emergency veterinary services, and the Post Office will remain open. All employees should continue to work from home to the extent possible.
Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Mike Tagert discusses CARES Act
With small businesses feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the $2 trillion CARES act may help some stay afloat. On Tuesday, Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Mike Tagert and other Partnership members participated in a virtual meeting with Mississippi Republican Congressman Michael Guest to discuss the CARES act and its effect locally. Tagert spoke specifically to two programs that might be of aid to local businesses, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and another loan program funding small business owners to help them make payroll and meet other expenses while revenue is lower.
Q&A: What to know about Mississippi's coronavirus shelter-in-place order
Gov. Tate Reeves issued an executive order Wednesday requiring Mississippians to shelter-in-place starting Friday due to the fast-spreading coronavirus. Mississippi joins at least 37 other states with similar orders, often referred to as stay-at-home, shelter-in-place or lockdown mandates. Nearly 300 million Americans are being urged to stay at home. The central goal of these orders? Slow the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients. But what does Mississippi's order do -- and how effective have similar orders been in other states? Here are answers to several key questions. The order takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday and lasts at least until 8 a.m. April 20. It means Mississippians should stay at home unless they have an essential reason for going out. Some examples of essential reasons are grocery shopping, doctor appointments, picking up medicine from the pharmacy and caring for a family member. Some people will continue going to work if their job is among a list deemed "essential." Individual outdoor exercise, walking the dog and similar activities are allowed. But no group activities can occur under the order, such as basketball or soccer games.
Non-profit, Jean Factory, Make Face Masks to Fight Coronavirus
Mississippi like the rest of the nation faces a dire shortage of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Businessman Josh West of Blue Delta Jeans in Tupelo, saw a need. He decided to retool his luxury jean factory to make face masks. "To just change your whole factory over and make another product, if you had told me that in February, I would have told you you're crazy. But we're in unprecedented times, we're taking unprecedented steps and it's not comfortable but it's necessary," said West. West says they initially put out a social media post saying they think they could make them but they needed advice from medical experts. He says the response was overwhelming. West says Mississippi State University's Energy Institute helped them test the face masks. He calls them face guards and says they're not for contaminated environments. "People working in the checkout lines, first responders, people that aren't going into the operating rooms, aren't going into a contaminated environment. It's a good face guard to use as a shield," said West.
Bonnet Carre Spillway is opening Friday to prevent flooding, Army Corps decides
The Bonnet Carre Spillway is opening Friday to stave off Mississippi River flooding after heavy rainfall in the Mississippi Valley, the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday afternoon. "When we operate the spillway, we do everything we can to help mitigate the impacts," said Gen. Mark Toy, commander of the Corps' Mississippi Vallley Division, which includes New Orleans. "And, the decision to do so is not taken lightly. By operating the Bonnet Carre Spillway, we can safely pass these high waters and ultimately keep people safe." Toy said in a news release that he expects the spillway to be open three to four weeks, but the time could change with weather conditions. Mississippi officials expressed dismay over the spillway opening at an online meeting Thursday morning to gather stakeholder comments before New Orleans District engineer and commander Col. Stephen Murphy recommended the opening to Toy, who ultimately makes the decision.
Waveland manufacturer pivots from storefronts to face shields
Infinity-AP, the custom storefront fabrication company in Waveland that manufactures custom storefronts for major retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria's Secret and the PINK chain of stores, is now manufacturing face shields for medical workers. The production of the face shield -- both the bracket that attaches to the head and the shield itself -- began March 27, according to Alyssa Foley, who heads sales and marketing for Infinity-AP. "We have contracted with a gentleman who is supplying completed masks for Ochsner Medical that needed assistance producing parts to keep up with the volume," Foley said in an email. The Waveland employees are averaging 2,500 shields a day and as of April 1, they had produced 11,500. "We are working on the shields and also a prototype for cash wraps for businesses at the register," Foley said. The Waveland operation has 18 employees, and the new production of face shields has helped keep the operation going. "This has allowed us to maintain a staff running seven days a week," Foley said.
Laid off workers frustrated with unemployment filing troubles
Until Thursday, Renee Vineyard was getting nowhere with filing her unemployment claim with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. For a week, she was unable to get anybody on the phone, and going online offered no help, either. "I called 100 times a day," she said. "We were told to call this 888 number, and if you managed to get through, I'd wait four hours but you still couldn't talk to anybody. You couldn't get an answer." Vineyard's frustrations are shared by thousands across the state who have been trying to file jobless claims with MDES. The state agency has been overwhelmed, and even extending hours and adding staff hasn't seemed to help much. Experts think that number will only continue to climb as unemployment offices can't keep up with the filings, and the numbers will spill over into the following weeks. Some believe unemployment will reach 15 percent or more, with 20 million unemployed.
Mississippi's record-breaking unemployment claims spike 1,700% in two weeks of COVID-19
More Mississippians applied for unemployment last week as COVID-19 continues ravaging the nation's economy than any other week recorded by the U.S. Department of Labor since 1987. The nation saw a record-breaking number of unemployment claims, 5.8 million (not seasonally adjusted) in the week ending March 28 -- 30,946 of which were in Mississippi, based on preliminary numbers. The second highest week for claims in the state was 21,215 in September of 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. Comparing the first two weeks of March to the last two, as more states began restricting the movement of its residents to contain the spread of the virus, unemployment claims surged over 1,800 percent across the country and 1,700 percent in Mississippi from 2,026 to 36,465. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security, which administers the benefits funded by employer taxes, is encouraging folks who have lost employment due to COVID-19 to file claims online.
Tippah County reports third COVID-19 death
A total of 181 new COVID-19 cases and three additional known deaths were reported in Mississippi Friday morning. The new figures bring the state's total count of known cases of the new coronavirus to 1,358 with 29 deaths. Tippah County, which leads northeast Mississippi with 30 known cases, added a third death from the virus. Chickasaw, Lafayette, Lee, Marshall, Monroe and Tippah counties have reported deaths. Alcorn and Prentiss counties saw their number of cases double overnight. Alcorn went from 3 cases to 6. Prentiss jumped from 4 cases to 9. The state is also now reporting outbreaks of COVID-19 in longterm care facilities, like nursing homes, throughout the state. Monroe County was added to the list. In Northeast Mississippi, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Oktibbeha, Prentiss and Union counties have known outbreaks in longterm care facilities.
Coronavirus in Mississippi: New cases, deaths reported Friday
The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 181 new cases of coronavirus in Mississippi Friday and three additional deaths, bringing the state's total cases to 1,358 with 29 deaths. The MSDH also reported data on outbreaks in long-term care facilities or nursing homes Friday. According to the department, "Even one case of COVID-19 in these facilities among residents or employees is considered an outbreak." There are 28 outbreaks in nursing homes in 24 counties across the state. The outbreaks have been reported at long-term care centers in counties including: Amite, Bolivar, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Forrest, Hancock (2), Harrison, Hinds (2), Jackson, Lauderdale (3), Leflore, Lincoln, Madison, Marion, Monroe, Newton, Oktibbeha, Pearl River, Prentiss, Smith, Tunica, Union, Warren, and Yazoo. MSDH has declined to name the nursing homes with outbreaks, citing federal privacy laws. With 139 confirmed COVID-1 cases, Hinds County has the most cases in the state. DeSoto currently has the second highest number with 111.
Mississippi withholds some health prep info about virus
The state Health Department on Thursday updated Mississippi's confirmed coronavirus caseload to at least 1,177 people and 26 deaths. Gov. Tate Reeves said more than 16,600 coronavirus tests have been done in Mississippi, a state with a population of about 3 million. Many people moving around their communities may not know they have contracted the virus until well after they've infected others. Most infected people experience mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, but a fraction suffering more severe illnesses can require ventilators to survive, and as the caseload rapidly grows, hospitals are bracing for a wave of patients. Reeves said people at Mississippi State University are converting 500 battery-operated ventilators so the machines can be plugged into an electrical socket to have a steadier source of power, and those should be available next week.
Coronavirus hits Mississippi's most vulnerable in nursing homes. What's being done?
Coronavirus is spreading through Mississippi nursing homes, a worst-case scenario for the state's most vulnerable. While most coronavirus cases result in mild to serious conditions in much of the population, it is particularly dangerous among those aged 65 or older, or those with underlying medical conditions. State health officials for the first time on Wednesday released the number of counties in the state where nursing homes have positive cases of the virus. By Thursday the department reported cases in 20 counties, with an increase of cases from eight to 22. Almost half of all people who live in nursing homes in Mississippi are 85 years or older and have some form of chronic condition. According to the state Department of Health, about 85% of those who have died from the virus in Mississippi have been 60 years or older. "Even one case of COVID-19 in these facilities among residents or employees is considered an outbreak," the Health Department said on its website.
State medical board loosened telemedicine rules -- then quietly changed some back
Alex Azar sent an urgent and clear letter to states last week: loosen telemedicine restrictions on who can practice medicine through video and audio, and where. Azar also asked states to cut red-tape for establishing patient-provider relationships that often dictate telemedicine terms. Azar also asked states to relax scope of practice restrictions to allow all providers to practice in all settings up to their training level, such as nurses, physician assistants and medical students. Just a week earlier, Mississippi's Board of Medical Licensure had already checked off two out of three of Azar's requests. The medical-licensure board had opened the state to emergency licenses for out-of-state physicians to treat Mississippi patients through telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, and loosened some restrictions on the practice itself. But a week after issuing its proclamation lifting telemedicine restrictions for all providers, the medical board reversed course and issued a new mandate.
MDAC Commissioner Andy Gipson provides guidance on essential ag-related businesses
Essential businesses are exempt from the statewide 'shelter-in-place' order that will take effect later today. In Mississippi, few businesses are as essential as agriculture. With that said, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson provided a letter and additional guidance to members of the agriculture and commerce sectors regarding the operation of essential agribusinesses during the 'shelter-in-place' order, which is set to last until April 20th. "As a result of the many questions that the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce has received from those in the agriculture and commerce sectors inquiring as to who is considered 'essential' and whether employees' work travel will be impacted during the 'Shelter in Place' that goes into effect tomorrow, I have provided a letter and a guidance document to assist our agribusinesses as they continue their essential work. Agriculture and the industries that support agriculture are necessary for the food supply chain. Without agriculture, Mississippi would not have the food, fiber, fuel, and shelter necessary to maintain public health and safety," said Commissioner Gipson. Agriculture, farms and farmers markets are considered an “essential business or operation” under Mississippi Executive Order 1463 signed on March 24, 2020, by Governor Tate Reeves.
Mississippi Farmers Market Open Saturday, with modified setup
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson reminds the public that the Mississippi Farmers Market on High Street will be open this Saturday, April 4, from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. The market, which is considered an essential business, will have a modified set-up this weekend. "In order to help accommodate our vendors and shoppers practice social distancing and to create a more outdoor feel, we are modifying the set-up of the market this Saturday. Our vendors will be set-up so that they are facing the outside of the building, which will allow our customers to shop around the perimeter of the building without having to come inside very far. Just as last week, our vendors are taking precautions and following CDC recommendations such as wearing gloves, pre-bagging much of the produce, and handling products for the shoppers," said Commissioner Gipson.
FDA: No evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or packaging on food
A top FDA official Thursday sought to assure a U.S. public still wondering if COVID-19 can be transmitted by food and feeling unsettled by grocery shelves empty of their favorite foods. Frank Yiannas, Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner of food policy and response, acknowledged during a press call that the United States has entered a "new frontier" with the novel coronavirus pandemic. For example, he said the agency is adding monitoring of the domestic and imported food supply chain to its responsibilities in keeping with the Trump administration's tracking of supply chains in general as the effects of COVID-19 spread across the country. The FDA's traditional role is to oversee food safety for about 80 percent of the U.S. food supply. The Agriculture Department is responsible for the remaining 20 percent, which includes meat, poultry and some egg products. Yiannas said there is no evidence that the respiratory virus can be transmitted by food or packaging on food.
Experts and Trump's advisers doubt White House's 240,000 coronavirus deaths estimate
Leading disease forecasters, whose research the White House used to conclude 100,000 to 240,000 people will die nationwide from the coronavirus, were mystified when they saw the administration's projection this week. The experts said they don't challenge the numbers' validity but that they don't know how the White House arrived at them. White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure -- a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability or provided long-term strategies to lower that death count. Some of President Trump's top advisers have expressed doubts about the estimate, according to three White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. There have been fierce debates inside the White House about its accuracy.
Dr. Anthony Fauci endorses national stay-at-home order: 'I just don't understand why we're not doing that'
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested Thursday that the federal government should impose a nationwide stay-at-home order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. Asked whether all states have to be "on the same page" in terms of issuing those directives, Fauci told CNN, "I don't understand why that's not happening," and acknowledged the Trump administration's hesitance to encroach upon local authorities. "As you said, you know, the tension between 'federal mandated' versus 'states rights' to do what they want is something that I don't want to get into," Fauci said. "But if you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that. We really should be." The remarks from the country's top infectious disease expert represent perhaps the most forceful recommendation yet by an administration official that the federal government implement a sweeping decree limiting Americans' movements nationwide.
Governors win high marks for coronavirus response, outpacing Trump
Americans are giving high marks to their governors as they lead state responses to the exploding coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 216,000 people across the country. At the same time, polls show fewer Americans are changing their minds about President Trump, even as he holds daily press briefings updating the country about the federal response. And some surveys are showing Americans growing unhappy with that response as governors increasingly sound alarms about lack of supplies and support. In a poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center for The Associated Press, 57 percent of Americans said they approved of the response to the virus being mounted by their state governments. Just 38 percent approved of the federal government's response. In individual states, governors -- most of whom are briefing the media and their residents on a daily basis -- have seen their approval ratings shoot through the roof. Experts said the governors who acted quickly and decisively have given voters the impression that they are on top of the situation, in a way the federal government has not.
'Nothing is routine right now': COVID-19 shakes up FedEx, supply chain
The logistics industry has come into the spotlight as communities await deliveries of medical supplies and everyday essentials, but it's not immune to the pandemic's effects. Measures to contain COVID-19's spread have forced transportation companies like Memphis-based FedEx to adapt. FedEx is considered an essential business due to its role in shipping goods and relief, allowing it to operate under both state-of-emergency and shelter-in-place orders. FedEx has seen an increase in online orders and shipments amid COVID-19, although the pandemic could put another dent in its already struggling international business. This COVID-19 mixed bag is common throughout the transportation industry. John Haber, CEO of transportation spend consultancy Spend Management Experts, said it's been difficult for even industry veterans to get a full grasp of the pandemic's effects, noting a mix of volume increases and drop-offs depending on the situation. Brookings fellows Joseph Kane and Adie Tomer wrote in March that it is difficult to predict the specifics of COVID-19's supply chain impact, but some cities will be more exposed to the change than others. Memphis ranks at the top, with trade and logistics jobs accounting for 14.2% of its workforce, much higher than its 6.3% of the U.S. workforce, per Brookings research.
Olive Branch FedEx Ground to hire 400 workers
Those who may be out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic may want to look to one of the region's top employers for work. FedEx Ground has announced it intends to hire 400 new positions for its Olive Branch operations to meet a critical demand for service. As an essential business, FedEx is hiring new workers in Olive Branch to help continue to power commerce during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Open positions are for package handlers with growth opportunities to build a career. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. Benefits include wages starting at $12.35 per hour depending on the shift with the opportunity for additional temporary earning potential. Medical, dental and vision coverage is available after a minimum threshold of service. Paid time off, holiday pay and tuition reimbursement is available, as well as paid parental leave, employee discounts on cell phone service, groceries, car purchases, and day and night shifts are available.
Mississippi may be tried over education funding, appeals court says
Mississippi may stand trial on allegations the state broke its promise to provide "a uniform system of free public schools." A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals cleared the way Thursday for that possible trial before U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr. in Jackson. The lawsuit, filed by four African-American mothers against the state, argues Mississippi's public schools are far from uniform, failing to ensure that African Americans, the descendants of those once enslaved, "would receive an education equal to that received by white students." When the lawsuit was filed in 2017, then-Gov. Phil Bryant called the litigation "another attempt by the Southern Poverty Law Center to fundraise on the backs of Mississippi taxpayers. While the SPLC clings to its misguided and cynical views, we will continue to shape Mississippi's system of public education into the best and most innovative in America." Gov. Tate Reeves has repeatedly pointed to improved reading scores as proof Mississippi has made huge strides.
Exclusive: How elite U.S. college students brought COVID-19 home from campus
Like many American colleges, Vanderbilt University in Nashville announced last month it was closing its dormitories and putting classes online because of the growing threat of coronavirus. It said it was acting "out of an abundance of caution" after a local healthcare worker had tested positive for the disease. The message was lost on many students. Before leaving campus and returning to their homes and families throughout the United States and abroad, more than 100 Vanderbilt students attended parties, ignoring the school's explicit instructions not to do so. They crowded into apartment complexes and other locations, and posed for group pictures they posted on Instagram. Many celebrated St. Patrick's Day six days early -- on the same day New York City announced it was cancelling its traditional annual parade. Some Vanderbilt students later learned they were infected with the virus, known as COVID-19. A private online group of students who say they have contracted coronavirus had 107 members this week, with most stating they had mild or moderate symptoms, according to posts seen by Reuters. The example of Vanderbilt -- a prestigious, private research institution in America's South -- shows that risky behavior by some young people extended far beyond the spring break mob scenes on Florida beaches that emerged last month. It illustrates the role students at some colleges -- particularly those with a global footprint -- have played in the pandemic.
Funds available for UGA students financially impacted by coronavirus
The University of Georgia will help students hit financially by the COVID-19 pandemic with two emergency funds. One fund is for undergraduates, the other for graduates. UGA president Jere Morehead has transferred $475,000 into the funds from a fund he controls called the President's Venture Fund, and the UGA Foundation has added $125,000, the university announced Thursday. More than 300 undergraduates have already applied for help, according to Anthony Jones, director of student financial aid at UGA. Nearly 40 graduate students have requested aid, according to interim graduate school dean Ron Walcott, who said the new funds are "critically needed." The university has also launched a new campaign to raise more money to help students with financial emergencies.
Georgia Tech researchers make 10K face shields for Atlanta hospitals
A team of Georgia Tech researchers is mass producing protective gear to help Atlanta's medical community fight the spread of COVID-19. Using 3D printers and laser cutting machines, the researchers made at least 10,000 face shields, which protect clinicians' eyes and face from the coronavirus spread by the coughs and sneezes of the infected. For the past two weeks, researchers have been working 16-hour days to crank out the easy-to-clean, reusable protective wear, said Chris Saldana, a mechanical engineering professor at Georgia Tech. As production increased, the initial team of six researchers doubled to crank out the shields which have a removable headband. "I think the interesting thing about this challenge is we had to start quickly but also met with clinicians and physicians," Saldana said. "It helped us to understand the urgency of the issue, both immediacy and volume." Saldana said Georgia Tech researchers are also focused on finding other ways they can help local hospitals, including creating a retrofit ventilator and incubator boxes which serve as a protective barrier between patients and medical staff in the operating room and intensive care unit.
U. of South Carolina puts summer classes online to keep students from returning amid coronavirus outbreak
In-person classes will not resume at South Carolina's largest college until the fall semester in an effort to avoid spreading coronavirus across campus and the state's capital city. The University of South Carolina will hold summer classes online because the COVID-19 outbreak is not expected to peak until May, shortly before those courses begin, school President Bob Caslen said. "Our top priority remains your health, safety and wellbeing," Caslen wrote Thursday. "It was clear that allowing students, faculty, staff and visitors to return to campus this summer could be dangerous. "We feel the risk of communal infection to the campus and the surrounding community in this closed-campus environment is still unacceptable." College of Charleston, the state's third-largest university, also will hold summer classes online. Clemson University and Coastal Carolina University, South Carolina's second- and fourth-biggest schools respectively, have not made a decision.
Texas A&M team designs professional-quality homemade health masks
Air-conditioning filters, sheer curtains, staples and yarn -- they aren't the typical supplies for a medical face mask, but a team at Texas A&M University found a way to make it work. Biomedical engineering professor and Vice Dean of the Engineering Medicine program Dr. John Criscione led the effort to test do-it-yourself masks for places experiencing shortages in standard protective gear due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After dozens of design tests, the group developed an alternative that performs like an N95 mask, which health care professionals wear to filter 95% of airborne particles, including viruses. Certified N95 masks, Criscione said, are used for high-risk situations. The group's do-it-yourself mask instruction video is available at for health care workers who are considering making their own and want to use something that has been tested. While Criscione's group ran many tests to ensure the alternative performs like an N95 mask, it is not a certified product, so health care workers are encouraged to use official masks before resorting to a homemade option.
U. of Missouri postpones commencement ceremonies
One of the rites of spring is graduation. This year, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing all instruction online at the University of Missouri, emptying dorms and shutting down research, large gatherings for commencement exercises starting May 15 are out of the question. Mun Choi, system president and interim MU chancellor, said Thursday during a Board of Curators committee meeting that the peak of the pandemic in Missouri is expected sometime around May 18. "We'll still be in the thick of things" on the original commencement dates, Choi said. The ceremonies have been postponed at all four campuses in the University of Missouri system. Virtual celebrations will replace the in-person ceremonies. The virtual ceremonies for MU graduates will happen sometime in May, the university announced, with an in-person ceremony sometime in the future.
Report highlights enrollment concerns about U. of Missouri programs for curators
Two University of Missouri degree programs have been categorized as needing "special attention" because of low enrollment: the bachelor of health science in athletic training and the master of laws in American law. On the other hand, MU's bachelor's programs in health science, film studies and digital storytelling exceeded enrollment projections. The programs were included in a general discussion Thursday by the Academic, Student Affairs, Research and Economic Development Committee, part of the UM System Board of Curators. The report tracks enrollment progress for degree programs created within the past 15 years and makes a recommendation about whether they need additional review. Also Thursday, Avery Welker, the nonvoting student representative on the board, spoke about how students are dealing with the pandemic and perceiving the system's pandemic response.
It's Decision Time for Colleges: Do We Give Coronavirus Refunds?
There was a mass exodus of students from college and university campuses last month in an effort to slow the march of coronavirus infections across the U.S. With a widespread shift to online learning now under way, many families are wondering: Will they be getting refunds or partial refunds, for room, board and related costs? A look at what various schools have announced so far suggests what students get back, if anything, is going to depend on the institution they attend. Many colleges and universities have said they plan to prorate charges for room and board based on the date students had to vacate campus. Some schools have already started refunding money; others have merely indicated they will. Still other schools have said decisions on these matters will be forthcoming, though in several cases no time frame has been given. The University of Kentucky has told parents it is developing a process for refunds for parking, housing and dining, but hasn't yet provided details.
Arizona State offers $1,500 nonrefundable credit to students who move off-campus
Arizona State students who still live in campus residence halls and have "other reasonable accommodations" have been offered a $1,500 nonrefundable credit to move off-campus by April 15, according to an email from university housing. University officials had previously encouraged students living in campus residence halls to consider moving out, but stated that the buildings would remain open to students who chose to stay, as would other campus resources, such as dining halls and health services. Now, however, officials feel that it is necessary to ask as many students as possible to move out "because fewer students on campus reduces the risk for everyone," they said in an email sent to on-campus students late Wednesday night. ASU also partially walked back its previous decision to not immediately provide refunds for housing or meal plans. Wednesday's email said that eligible students will receive a $1,500 credit to compensate for the inconvenience of moving out.
'I Was Horrified': For Millions of Borrowers, the Coronavirus Stimulus Law Offers No Relief
When Congress last week passed a $2-trillion coronavirus stimulus plan, Ken Smith thought he'd be able to put his student-loan payments on pause. Like several million Americans, the 58-year-old from Boston had recently lost his job amid an economic freefall spurred by the new pandemic. To help stay financially afloat, Smith looked to take advantage of a provision of the stimulus legislation that suspends student-loan payments for six months. But when he called his student-loan servicer, Navient, Smith was told that he is among the millions of borrowers making payments on commercially held loans who are excluded from the stimulus law. It suspends payments only on federally held loans, not loans -- like Smith's -- that were made through the Federal Family Education Loan Program, or FFEL, and are commercially held but federally guaranteed. "I was horrified when all this came to light to me," Smith said. "I was like, 'What? How is this possible?'"
Report Gauges Support for Student Loan Forgiveness Across Political Lines
The combination of a coronavirus-halted economy, an upcoming election and an ever-mounting student debt crisis has thrust the topic of student loan forgiveness to the forefront of the national conversation in recent weeks. But just who --- and who doesn't --- support student loan forgiveness? The answer may not be as bipartisan as previously assumed, suggests a study published by College Finance, which surveyed more than 1,100 Americans across party affiliations, ages and debt status. When asked the general question, 'Would you support a student loan forgiveness program?' opinions typically fell along party lines, with 84% of Democratic respondents expressing some degree of support as opposed to 50% of Republicans reporting similar support. However, with regard to the thornier facets of student loan forgiveness -- its ethics, its feasibility and the specific policies of it -- party lines became more blurred, says John Bernasconi, a project manager for College Finance.
Faculty face uphill battle adapting to needs of today's students
Faculty are crucial for students. They serve as instructors and mentors. They connect students with a network that will help them succeed and get good jobs in the future. But they can also get in the way. As the student population shifts away from the traditional 18-year-old heading off to live in a dorm to students who are older and lower income, institutions and their faculty members are struggling to find mutually agreeable ways to support nontraditional students. That means colleges and universities struggle with how to motivate faculty to serve different students. And some faculty members struggle with how to adapt. "When I hear a faculty member complaining about students all the time, I know that's a signal for discussing retirement on the horizon," said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. While the big-name colleges still enroll plenty of stereotypical students, the institutions that serve the bulk of students have seen changes. The numbers are clear: 37 percent of today's students are older than 25, according to information collected by Higher Learning Advocates. Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, work while in college. Another quarter or so are parenting. About half, 49 percent, are financially independent. Almost one in three, 31 percent, live at or below the federal poverty level. And those were the numbers before the novel coronavirus shattered the country's economy. The full effects of the virus aren't yet clear, but it seems likely to add financial pressures on students in the coming months and years.
U. of Pittsburgh team makes progress on possible COVID-19 vaccine
Promising research by a University of Pittsburgh researcher looking into the SARS coronavirus nearly 20 years ago, and the MERS coronavirus six years ago, has led to a potential COVID-19 vaccine that has shown early promise in tests on mice, according to a scientific paper published today. The findings, discussed in an online press conference at Pitt Thursday morning, are very early in the process that the research team hopes will lead to a working vaccine -- which they have dubbed PittCoVacc -- for the deadly disease that has killed thousands and shut down large swaths of the planet in an attempt to stop the spread. The vaccine work is based on research by Andrea Gambotto, an associate professor of surgery at Pitt who has spent his career developing vaccines, most importantly work on SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2014.
Zoombombing isn't going away, and it could get worse
A brief exchange is all it took for one student to completely derail an online accounting test at the University of Arizona yesterday. "Don't make it too obvious at the start that you are trolling, just ease into it lmao." "I got you, me and two other friends are joining." Armed with a Zoom videoconference ID, the trolls got to work. Their efforts to disrupt the test resulted in its cancellation. Students have been asked to complete the test in their own time, the university confirmed. This incident is just one of many disruptions to plague higher education in recent weeks as quarantined keyboard warriors seek to wreak havoc on classes that are suddenly being offered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Such trolling, which first drew widespread attention last week, has been dubbed Zoombombing. Some of the disruption to online classrooms is random. Trolls playing "Zoom roulette" simply type a random 10-digit number into Zoom -- the videoconferencing service that many colleges and universities have relied on to move classes to remote instruction on short notice. Then the trolls see where they land. More often than not, it seems the attacks on higher education classes are targeted.
Why rich students get more financial aid than poor ones
Colleges are increasingly spending more to woo affluent students with scholarships based solely on academic or other achievements, experts say. And it's leaving those who need aid the most with fewer resources to afford college. Students in the highest 25% income range received a greater amount of non-federal financial aid ($11,300) on average compared with all other income levels, including those in the lowest 25% income range ($7,500), according to a 2019 report on non-federal aid by the National Center for Education Statistics. It's a race for prestige, says Martin Van Der Werf, associate director of editorial and postsecondary policy at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. "Better prepared students, higher graduation rates and a better chance of attracting students who will later give back to the college -- that's the reward system that's in place," says Van Der Werf, adding that there's no similar reward system for helping low-income students.
Time on Your Hands
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in Mississippi State University's Shackouls Honors College, writes: Prior to the coronavirus, parents could only imagine having the opportunity to work from home and spend more "quality time" with their children. Now that most everyone is sequestered at home, it is clear that, perhaps, all that togetherness can be somewhat challenging. However, this is the perfect time to make the best of a less than ideal situation. The first and best step to establishing some family harmony and figuring out a way to also get one's work completed, is to craft a schedule where everyone gets a list of household jobs, time for school/work, free time, and some family fun time. By providing a schedule, everyone can recognize himself as a key member of the family and understand that everyone must work together to keep the dishes and laundry clean, food prepared, and his work completed.

'Their best option': Why Mississippi State baseball upperclassmen will likely return
College baseball could be better than ever next year. The NCAA announced earlier this week that all spring sports athletes will be granted an extra year of eligibility because of the experience they lost when their seasons were canceled as concerns about the coronavirus pandemic intensified. The situation is still sticky for upperclassmen baseball players. For juniors, there is always the option of foregoing senior seasons to enter the MLB Draft. Current seniors are in the same boat. They could come back to campus for one more ride in the collegiate ranks, but they could also leave it all behind to turn pro. Mississippi State pitching coach Scott Foxhall told the Clarion Ledger he expects most of Mississippi State's juniors and seniors to stay at school, which would give the Bulldogs back their most important pieces from a 2020 roster that was just rounding into form before the pandemic outbreak. "I think the older guys, for the most part, it looks like we're going to get them back," Foxhall said. "The landscape of professional baseball is in such question right now. Are they going to play a season? What's the draft going to look like? How are they going to pay you from the draft?"
Analysis: Who wins and who loses for Mississippi State with a shortened MLB draft?
Following reported changes to the 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Commissioner Rob Manfred's decisions figure to have a major impact on Mississippi State this summer. As the MLB tinkered with potential formats over the past few weeks, ESPN's Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel reported that the draft will be shortened to as few as five rounds and could be bumped back as far as July 20. And while the final details continue to be ironed out, it's worth looking at how the decision affects the Bulldogs. It's about time fans received some positive news on the front of sophomore ace JT Ginn. A former first-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers out of high school, Ginn was slated to go as high as the top 10 picks before an arm injury ended his season after a single start against Wright State. The potential for Ginn to return is slightly higher now given he will maintain his eligibility as a sophomore, giving him three years' worth of bargaining power.
Mississippi State football to play Tennessee State in 2021
Mississippi State has found its pre-2021 Egg Bowl opponent. Tennessee State -- an FCS school in Nashville -- has agreed to a Nov. 20, 2021, meeting in Starkville, according to a news release. TSU becomes the final chip to fall in MSU's nonconference schedule for the 2021 season, as the Bulldogs previously added home games against Louisiana Tech and North Carolina State in addition to a road contest versus Memphis. MSU previously scheduled a home game against Eastern Illinois for Oct. 2, but that has been canceled and will now be an open date. The rest of the schedule will comprise eight Southeastern Conference games.
Mississippi State hosts Tennessee State in football in 2021
Lately, Mississippi State has made a habit of scheduling its FCS opponent for its 11th football game of the season and 2021 will be no different. The Bulldogs will host Tennessee State on Nov. 20, 2021 in Davis Wade Stadium. MSU was initially scheduled to play FCS opponent Eastern Illinois on Oct. 2 that season. It will be the first ever meeting between the Bulldogs and Tigers. MSU also has home non-conference games scheduled against Louisiana Tech (Sept. 4) and N.C. State (Sept. 11) in 2021 and a road game at Memphis (Sept. 18). This fall, Mississippi State is scheduled to meet FCS opponent Alabama A&M on Nov. 21 five days prior to playing at Ole Miss. The Bulldogs beat Abilene Christian 45-7 prior to the Egg Bowl this past year.
WBCA tabs Mississippi State's Jessika Carter, Rickea Jackson All-American honorable mentions
Jessika Carter and Rickea Jackson of Mississippi State were each selected as All-American honorable mentions by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association on Thursday. Carter, a 6-foot-4 sophomore from Waverly Hall, Georgia, led the Bulldogs with 8.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game and totaled 11 double-doubles. She was also second on the team in scoring at 13 points and topped the Southeastern Conference shooting 65 percent from the field. Jackson led MSU averaging 15.1 points and reached double figures 23 times. The 6-foot-2 freshman from Detroit, Michigan had eight 20-point performances during SEC play and scored a career-high 34 against Auburn. It is the fifth straight season that MSU has had players picked as WBCA All-American honorable mentions. Victoria Vivians (2018) and Teaira McCowan (2018-19) were named WBCA first team All-Americans during that span.
MDWFP announces additional closures in response to COVID-19
In response to the coronavirus outbreak in Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks has announced changes in how business is conducted and closures which will go into effect today and remain effective until further notice. State and regional offices are currently closed to the public. State lakes and park lakes will close to the public beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020. State parks will close to the public beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020. The Clark Creek Natural Area is also currently closed to the public. The Museum of Natural Science and the North Mississippi Visitor Education Center are closed to the public. MDWFP shooting facilities, Turcotte, McHenry, and McIvor, will close to the public beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, April 3, 2020. MDWFP wildlife management areas will remain open.
Virus sickens USM athletics' budget
The coronavirus not only emptied the playing fields at the University of Southern Mississippi this spring, but has torn a nearly half-million-dollar hole in the program's current budget. USM athletic director Jeremy McClain acknowledged Wednesday that an almost 70 percent reduction in NCAA-distributed funding for fiscal year 2019-20 will leave USM far shy on what already was a military-bedsheet-tight budget. "The problem for us is earlier in the week the NCAA announced that our distribution is going to be about less than 30 percent of what it normally is," McClain said. "We get those payments normally in May and June, so our part of that (loss) is going to be significant. We're looking at a several hundred-thousand-dollar hit from the revenue standpoint from the NCAA." McClain said USM's usual NCAA distribution came in at around $1.5 million annually. This year, that figure will be less than $500,000. USM's fiscal year runs through June 30.
ADs cite academic progress, finances among concerns in COVID-19 'state of athletics' survey
Academic progress, mental wellness and finances are just some of the issues weighing on the minds of university athletic directors across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. With winter sports cut short and spring sports canceled due to COVID-19, ADs are now facing uncertain times. The LEAD1 Association, which represents the athletics directors of the 130-member schools of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and Teamworks, the leading athlete engagement platform for collegiate and professional organizations, announced the results of their joint "State of Athletics in the Face of Coronavirus" survey Thursday. The survey finds that the majority of the more than 100 FBS athletics directors who responded are seeing the strain on their student-athletes, with finances also top of mind for every department. While there was unity among the FBS in many areas, concerns about 2020-21 revenue streams illustrated key differences between Power Five and Group of Five ADs.
LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri voices concerns about college baseball's future post-pandemic
It has been three weeks since LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri learned the NCAA canceled the college baseball season during a live interview with Paul Finebaum on the SEC Network. Since that surreal experience in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Mainieri has experienced others, including a news conference from his home via Zoom on Thursday afternoon. While detailing his focus on preparations for the 2021 season, Mainieri also voiced concerns about how the pandemic could reshape college baseball. "The future of college baseball is concerning if football season gets canceled in the fall," Mainieri said. "If college football gets canceled and all that revenue doesn't come in, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that belts will have to get tightened all around the country. The problem with our sport is that there aren't a lot of teams that are self-sufficient like LSU is."
AD Jim Sterk: Mizzou sorting through eligibility decisions
Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk and compliance director Andy Humes spoke with the reporters via Zoom on Thursday afternoon. In the fluid nature of changes and delays because of the coronavirus pandemic, MU still has unanswered questions of its own and is figuring out how to serve its student-athletes with the NCAA eligibility relief decision this week. Below are the highlights of the conversation, slightly edited for clarity and length.
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills: League needs broad testing to reopen
The NFL's chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, who is spearheading the league's response to the new coronavirus pandemic, said widespread testing would have to be available before the reopening of the league could be contemplated. He cautioned against assuming that earlier comments from league officials about the league's focus on starting the season on time mean it will definitely happen. "I don't think that I would interpret those comments to say that that is absolutely what's going to happen," Sills said in a telephone interview Thursday. The widespread availability of point of care testing -- where a test could be administered, and the results returned quickly -- will be critical to decisions about when teams can report to facilities, Sills said. Such tests would have to be administered to players and other team personnel, perhaps frequently. Those tests are not currently available. Sills said he is confident they eventually will be, but he can't say when.
Sean Payton on Saints' NFL draft war room at brewery: Maybe 'safest setup' in league
Drafting from a brewery? The New Orleans Saints' decision to relocate their draft war room to a brewery owned by team owner Gayle Benson surely raised some eyebrows in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but Saints coach Sean Payton -- recently recovered after contracting the COVID-19 virus -- staunchly defends the arrangement as a solid option. The war room, which the team began using on Wednesday for draft meetings, is situated in upstairs office space at the Dixie Brewery, located in a remote area of New Orleans. "We might have the safest setup in the league for these meetings," Payton texted to USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. "Remote location. Nobody here!" As Payton indicated earlier this week during an interview with USA TODAY Sports, he reiterated Thursday that a maximum of four people, including general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant GM Jeff Ireland, will be in the spacious room – and they will follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines for social distancing.
Learfield IMG College CEO Greg Brown Stepping Down
Learfield IMG College's longtime President & CEO Greg Brown has stepped aside, clearing the way for Cole Gahagan to move into the top job as the college sports marketing giant transforms into a media- and tech-focused company. Brown, 58, has been a fixture in the college community, starting his career at Learfield in '84 and running it as chief executive since '09. Gahagan, 43, was hired in December to lead new initiatives in social media, content, digital and data analytics with the expectation that he would be Brown's successor at some point. It just wasn't expected to happen this quickly. Brown has been on SBJ's top 50 "Most Influential" list for three straight years. Gahagan was in the '17 class of SBJ's "Forty Under 40." Brown and Gahagan said the timing was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They decided to make the leadership transition now, effective immediately, to cause the disruption while the sports industry already is on pause. Learfield IMG College, based in Plano, Texas, has 2,200 full-time employees plus part-timers spread across 300 offices nationwide.
No Live Sports on TV? Consumers Want a Refund
Nobody knows when major sports might be played widely again. Games would certainly be embraced by fans, but the sports ecosystem has taken a back seat to deeper concerns of public health and the global economy. But already sports leagues, television networks and television distributors are firing the opening salvos in what will be an exhausting war to determine who should pay for hundreds of millions -- perhaps billions -- in economic damages. "You always lawyer for the thing that will never happen," said Erin McPherson, the head of consumer content and partnerships at Verizon. "And the thing that you think will never happen, happened." As that takes shape, most American households will have little choice but to continue paying for live sports even as sports channels are reduced to reruns of historic games, documentaries and sports video game simulations. Regional sports networks, along with teams and leagues, face the biggest threat from a prolonged shutdown of live action, according to Moody's Investor Service.
PGA Tour's ambitious revised schedule aims to play Masters in November
After weeks of daily conference calls in a frantic bid to rescue a season crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic, golf's governing bodies are close to unveiling a new schedule that would see at least three major championships -- including the Masters in November -- and the Ryder Cup contested this year. The details of the ambitious revised schedule were outlined to Golfweek by three people close to the discussions, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity since they are not authorized to address the matter publicly. The planned joint announcement of a new schedule has been delayed while the R&A decides if the 149th Open Championship -- slated for July 16-19 at Royal St. George's in England -- will be postponed or canceled entirely. A rescheduled Open would take place at the same venue from Sept. 17-20 -- just one week before the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. If the R&A opts to cancel, that slot on the calendar could see the U.S. Open played at Winged Foot.

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: April 3, 2020Facebook Twitter