Monday, April 6, 2020   
Mississippi State will send more than 550 ventilators to UMMC for COVID-19 response
Gov. Tate Reeves mentioned Wednesday, during his announcement of a two-week "shelter-in-place" order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that Mississippi State University would send ventilators to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Lex Taylor said he contacted MSU President Mark Keenum as soon as he heard. "I didn't think anything would come of it, but I immediately got a call (back)," said Taylor, the chairman and CEO of The Taylor Group in Louisville. A team from Taylor Machine Works and a 12-person team with MSU's Paul B. Jacob High Voltage Laboratory will work together to convert more than 550 battery-powered ventilators to automatic current power, meaning they can be plugged into a wall. The teams started the conversions on Friday and are sending the finished ventilators to Jackson in installments, planning to send the last ones Monday, High Voltage Laboratory manager David Wallace said. The Taylor Group has a longstanding working relationship with MSU's engineering department since it employs several of its graduates, Taylor said. The family business has been in Louisville since 1927. Wallace said Taylor Machine Works sent an airplane to Fort Worth, Texas on Friday to collect the last of the parts needed to convert all the ventilators.
MSU lab to retrofit hundreds of ventilators for UMMC
Students are converting hundreds of ventilators from battery-powered to AC-powered. The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson asked the High Voltage Laboratory at Mississippi State University to retrofit about 300 ventilators, said Lab Manager David Wallace. He said Taylor Machine Works in Louisville is also helping out. Wallace said he has a team of about 10 students helping him with the project. Wallace said his team began unpacking the ventilators on Friday. He said the ventilators run for about 48 hours with batteries. However, once his team converts the ventilators to AC power they will run continuously as long as they're plugged in. Wallace said hospital staff will have the option to use batteries or plug the ventilator into a wall socket.
MSU High Voltage Lab works to retrofit 550 ventilators for use in COVID-19 response
Mississippi State University researchers are working to convert over 550 ventilators from battery power to AC power so they can be used in the state's medical response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. MSU's Paul B. Jacob High Voltage Laboratory was contacted by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning this week to discuss converting the battery-powered ventilators, which are designed to fill temporary needs in the aftermath of emergencies like hurricanes. Once converted to AC power, which will allow for easier long-term use because they can be plugged into a wall, the ventilators will be sent to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. "I am proud that our talented researchers can put their expertise to use as Mississippi continues the battle against COVID-19," said MSU president, Dr. Mark E. Keenum. "These ventilators will allow our state's outstanding medical professionals to save more lives and provide needed care, and I appreciate the team at our High Voltage Lab working to put these to use as fast as possible. MSU stands ready to assist in this fight in any way we can."
Mississippi State summer classes to be held online, with more options available
Mississippi State University's summer 2020 classes all will take place online to help students stay on their academic paths despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and students will have the added advantage of a number of additional course offerings. The decision to continue with all-online instruction through the summer comes as university leaders continue to evaluate and respond to this unprecedented crisis. "As our students navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to do everything in our power to help them stay on their academic paths, or even get ahead," said MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw. "I encourage students to talk with their advisors about the many online summer school offerings available to them. We know that for many of our students, their normal plans have been disrupted, so we wanted to offer them as many options as possible for moving forward academically with summer school."
New tool could help scientists dig deeper for prized crop genes
A new computer application from Agricultural Research Service scientists could speed the search for genes that underpin important crop traits, like high yield, seed quality, and resistance to pests, disease or adverse environmental conditions. Known as the Pathway Association Studies Tool, the app allows users to build on the results of genome-wide association studies of crops. GWAS takes a kind of bird's-eye look at a crop plant's genome for marker regions called single nucleotide polymorphisms. Finding SNP markers near the gene or genes encoding a desired trait can flag the genomic whereabouts of those genes and also help plant breeders follow the trait's inheritance and expression. This makes it easier to select plants that have the desired trait and develop new, elite varieties from them for producers. However, GWAS's use of a statistical threshold means that only markers with the strongest gene associations are identified, noted Marilyn Warburton, a geneticist with ARS's Corn Host Plant Resistance Research Unit at Mississippi State University. She credited Adam Thrash, a MSU graduate student, Daniel Peterson of the MSU faculty, Mason Deornellis, a MSU undergraduate, and Juliet Tang, an ARS postdoc and now a scientist with the Forest Service, with assisting in the development, testing and release of PAST.
Those veggies and flowers you never had time to grow? Just look at us now
Thursday's sun shone high and bright on 7-year-old Lucy Ann Richardson and big brother Craig, 14, as they helped their mom with gardening at home in Caledonia. Because of the novel coronavirus, Victoria and Chad Richardson's raised vegetable beds are about two to three weeks ahead of schedule than they'd normally be this time of year. Chad, in the construction industry, continues working, but Victoria, a culinary arts teacher with the Lowndes County School District Career Technology Center, has been home with the children ever since a week-long spring break became a long sequester. Gardening has been a beneficiary. Those vegetables you always meant to try your hand at? The vibrant flowers you envisioned in the yard but never got around to planting? This is it. "With the call to practice social distancing and staying home away from group gatherings, what better time than now to get outside, breathe the fresh air and start a vegetable or flower garden?" said Mississippi State University Extension Service Agent Reid Nevins.
Roses and thorns, 4-5-20: A rose to Mississippi State University
A rose to Mississippi State University, which has donated more than 700 N95 masks to OCH Regional Medical Center, increasing the hospital's total inventory of the mask by a third. The MSU Aerospace Engineering Department donated 680 masks, with another 25 masks coming from the National Wildlife Research Center, boosting the hospital's supply of masks to about 2,100. The donation again affirms the symbiotic relationship between the university and its host community. We applaud the university for stepping up to fill this important need.
Coroner confirms first Oktibbeha COVID-19 fatality
An 89-year-old Starkville woman on Sunday became the first Oktibbeha County resident to die from the COVID-19 coronavirus, Coroner Michael Hunt confirmed. Hunt did not release the identity of the deceased. She died at OCH Regional Medical Center. As of Sunday morning, the last time Mississippi State Department of Health updated its website, there were 1,638 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 27 alone in Oktibbeha County. There have been 15 reported cases in Lowndes County, seven in Clay County and five in Noxubee County.
Monday Profile: Starkville Kiwanis member makes a lifestyle of helping others
Nan Rushing couldn't focus on the book she was trying to read. The retired teacher and member of the Starkville Kiwanis club is normally enthusiastic about books, even organizing book drives every April. But this time, she said, she couldn't get her mind off the people in town who were in need now that the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus has forced businesses to shut down and people to stay home to keep safe from the pandemic. "I couldn't get my mind around it because I knew there were people here in Starkville who didn't have what they needed, so I went and bought some food and took it to the pantry," Rushing said. Rushing has been a member of Kiwanis since 2016 and coordinates book drives and food drives for the organization. She usually sets up shop for the book drive at the Starkville Community Market every Saturday from April to August, but the market is postponed so far this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So instead, Kiwanis collects food in tubs in front of Vowell's, Kroger, Walmart Neighborhood Market and the Starkville Daily News. Members sort the collection at a warehouse at Starkville Community Church, and nine local food pantries come to pick up items to distribute, Rushing said.
Meridian lampshade manufacturer begins sewing masks for local hospitals
On a normal day, siblings Meredith Roberts and John Rea are focused on making hardback lampshades in Meridian. For more than 40 years, Lake Shore Studios on Northeast Industrial Park Road has manufactured for retail, commercial and hospitality customers. On Friday, the staff of 28 people shifted their focus to help protect local healthcare workers from the spread of COVID-19, Roberts said. "My brother was actually talking to a friend and it kind of came up that way ... and we were like, you know, this might be a way to help people out, make sure our employees can stay employed during all of this, and we knew there was a need," Roberts said. Local hospitals had asked the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation to reach out to existing industries for help, said Bill Hannah, the president and CEO of the EMBDC. "Everybody's kind of jumping in, trying to figure out how they can help," Hannah said. "It's just phenomenal. It's very uplifting to be part of it and to know them and to know that they're part of this community and have been for a long time."
Analysis: Gov. Tate Reeves gets his Katrina with challenge of virus
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves was a first-term state treasurer when the state was rocked by a massive and expensive disaster with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He worked with then-Gov. Haley Barbour to shape the short-term response and long-term recovery. Now just a few months into his own time as governor, Reeves is in charge of Mississippi's response to the coronavirus pandemic, a global problem that endangers lives and threatens to destabilize the economy. Reeves appears to have learned lessons from Barbour, a fellow Republican he views as a mentor.
Governor to detail hospital surge plans during daily COVID-19 briefing
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves will host his daily briefing Monday afternoon to discuss his latest efforts to combat COVID-19 in the state. During the briefing, the Governor Reeves said he will detail hospital surge plans. "The faith, calm, and loving spirit demonstrated by so many Mississippians during a tragedy like this is truly humbling," the Governor said on Twitter. "You are daily motivating me to try and reflect your grit, humility, and courage." The briefing is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.
Coronavirus in Mississippi: State gets federal disaster declaration to speed aid
Mississippi on Sunday become the latest U.S. state declared a major disaster area by President Donald Trump amid the new coronavirus outbreak, giving the state access to more federal assistance to confront the pandemic. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Friday that he has asked Trump to issue a major disaster declaration for Mississippi because of the coronavirus, in order to make additional aid available. Trump's declaration was the latest in a series of major disaster declarations around the country. It makes federal funds available to eligible state, local and tribal governments and some private nonprofits for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance. Mississippi's declaration comes after a statewide stay-at-home order took effect Friday evening in a bid to slow the state's growing number of COVID-19 cases. Reeves has said people should limit their outings to essential errands like grocery shopping.
Two Mississippi doctors fired after speaking out about coronavirus safety
An Oxford doctor is one of at least two Mississippi physicians claiming they were terminated for speaking out about their employers' safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Samantha Houston says she lost her job of four years at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North in late March for "disruptive" behavior. In the weeks prior, Houston, a hospitalist, used Facebook to organize a local donation drive for masks and baby monitors so that hospital staff could cut down on face-to-face interactions with patients. Houston, 34, also says she sent several emails to colleagues raising concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for some workers. Dr. Jennifer Bryan, who chairs the Mississippi State Medical Association board of trustees, told Mississippi Today that she knows of at least one other doctor in the state who was also fired for advocating for stronger safety measures. Bryan declined to identify the other doctor or discuss specifics of either case, but said it is critical to have open lines of communication so that doctors feel comfortable speaking up about safety issues.
Food system faces 'tsunami' of changing demand
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a tidal shift in consumer behavior with restaurants shuttered and shoppers flocking to grocery stores instead. Farmers and food suppliers are maneuvering to meet the shifting demand, while regulators try to ease the logistical headaches that come with rewiring the food distribution network. The FDA in March gave restaurants and manufacturers a greenlight to sell packaged foods to retailers without the usual nutrition labeling requirements. Meanwhile, top grocers and foodservice distributors, like Kroger and Sysco, are teaming up to keep store shelves stocked and provide new job opportunities for furloughed workers. Meanwhile, farmers cut off from their usual markets have started tossing their fresh fruits, vegetables and milk. Dairy producers are asking the government to buy up more commodities and distribute them to food banks and school feeding programs.
Government plans to pay hospitals for COVID-19 care for uninsured
The Trump administration said Friday evening that officials plan to reimburse hospitals and health care providers for uncompensated care given to COVID-19 patients who do not have health insurance. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a White House press briefing that hospitals and health care providers would be reimbursed at Medicare rates for the treatment of uninsured patients. Providers would be banned from balance billing patients or sending them a surprise medical bill to make up the difference in costs not covered by the government. The announcement comes after about 10 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over two weeks in late March. Many workers who lost their jobs also would have lost employer-sponsored health insurance coverage during the pandemic. The Trump administration declined to open a special enrollment period for people to sign up for insurance on the federal exchange set up by the 2010 health care law.
Americans warned of 'Pearl Harbor moment' as Trump tells parts of the nation to brace for 'peak'
Americans are being advised to steel themselves for one of the most agonizing weeks in living memory, as President Trump and his advisers predicted parts of the country were nearing a peak of cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The president at Sunday's White House coronavirus task force briefing hailed numbers from New York showing a one-day decline in deaths while warning of New York and New Jersey, "they've really become a very hot zone." Still, Trump, along with Vice President Pence, projected confidence not matched by the White House's medical advisers. "We're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel," Trump said Sunday, even as Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top infectious-diseases expert, hedged earlier in the day, saying, "I will not say we have it under control. ... We are struggling to get it under control." Fauci, when asked if dire predictions were at odds with the promise of light at the tunnel's end, said a peak suggests a possible turning point in the path of the virus but "doesn't take away from the fact that tomorrow or the next day is going to look really bad."
Fed Goes All Out To Keep Economy Alive During Coronavirus Shutdown
As the United States tumbles into a coronavirus recession, the Federal Reserve is using its nearly unlimited power to generate cash to cushion the fall. "The Fed is doing everything they can to keep financial markets functioning and credit available to households and firms," former Fed Chair Janet Yellen said during a forum organized by the Brookings Institution. Since the middle of March, the Fed has purchased more than $1.2 trillion in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, and the central bank has made it clear that it will continue buying as much as necessary to keep credit markets from seizing up. With help from the Treasury Department, the Fed is also branching into nontraditional markets. It will now lend money directly to corporations. And it's preparing to roll out a "Main Street" program to help finance smaller firms. The Fed's actions have made a difference, preventing the financial pipes from clogging up, though credit is still harder to come by than it was before the crisis. The challenge now is whether the central bank can extend its helping hand to ordinary businesses whose customers have suddenly disappeared.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says it's likely coronavirus will be seasonal
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it is likely the coronavirus will become a seasonal occurrence. The infectious diseases expert told CBS's "Face the Nation" that it's likely the virus "will assume a seasonal nature" because it is unlikely to be contained around the world this year. "Unless we get this globally under control, there is a very good chance that it'll assume a seasonal nature," he said. "We need to be prepared that since it will be unlikely to be completely eradicated from the planet that as we get into next season we may see the beginning of a resurgence," he added. The possibility of a resurgence is why the federal government is working "so hard" to improve its preparedness, including developing a vaccine and completing clinical trials on therapeutic interventions. "Hopefully, if in fact we do see that resurgence, we will have interventions that we did not have in the beginning of the situation that we're in right now," he said.
Safety Advice If You Must Visit the Grocery Store
With communities across the country virtually shut down, there is still one place nearly everyone needs to visit at some point: the grocery store. Experts say deliveries are safer, but sometimes it can be hard to get one scheduled right away. So if you must go to the store, what's the best way to navigate the aisles and crowds? Information and guidance about the virus is changing quickly, so we asked the experts. Is it safe to go to the grocery store? Try to minimize visits to the store. "The biggest risk factor is really being around other people," says Benjamin Chapman, a professor of food safety at North Carolina State University. That's because the novel coronavirus is spread largely through droplets from nearby people coughing or sneezing. If you must go, maintain a buffer around yourself and try to go at off-hours. Randy Worobo, a professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, says instead of being preoccupied with wiping down packaging and containers, focus on washing your hands. "It's much better to treat your hands, wash your hands, rather than dealing with all the surfaces," says Dr. Worobo.
Walmart to limit number of customers inside store starting Saturday
Starting Saturday, April 4, Walmart will limit the number of customers who can be in each store at once. No more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet will be allowed in stores at one time. Walmart stores average around 180,000 square feet, and the company said the new guideline allows stores to reach only about 20 percent capacity. Floor markers inside stores will keep customers at least six feet apart, according to a release on the company's website. Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Walmart U.S., stated in the release, "While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people." Associates will mark a queue at a single-entry door, typically at the grocery entrance. They will direct customers from there, counting them and admitting them into the store one at a time. Once a store has reached its capacity, one customer will be allowed in as another exits.
U. of Mississippi Medical Center calls for mask donations
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is calling for the community to donate masks after the state's health department directed all health care professionals to wear a mask while at work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Using home-sewn masks allows health care workers to save personal protective equipment which is in limited supply as the world deals with the novel coronavirus, UMMC said. Dr. Laura Vick is an associate professor of general surgery at UMMC and a longtime seamstress. She led an effort make homemade masks for those at the medical center and posted her efforts on social media. Vick's videos show how to construct a basic mask which is cotton on the front and flannel on the back. Each person who wants to participate is asked to make five as a starting point, UMMC said.
Two weeks later: How U. of Mississippi students are adjusting to online classes
Week two of online courses is officially done, and students are working to adjust accordingly. The change benefited some students, such as Tyler Dodd, a junior broadcast journalism major. Dodd did not have access to the books required for his classes before classes were moved online. The high costs of books are a problem for many students, but the university made online book services available for all students because of the pandemic. "I try to do everything cheaper," Dodd said. "I try to get the books online, like a PDF file, but now I'm pretty much using online services." For Savannah Armistead, it has not been so easy. The freshman elementary education student said she has felt overwhelmed and disorganized during the crisis. She had to move back home to Columbia, Missouri, which is seven hours away from Oxford. Instead of having her own space within her dorm room, Armistead now shares her space among her five siblings and her parents.
Millsaps College Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
A Millsaps College employee has tested positive for novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. That individual received the positive test on April 3, 2020 and is in self-isolation under medical supervision. All known close college contacts of the impacted employee have been notified by Millsaps and asked to self-quarantine as a precaution. The last day this individual was on campus was March 17, 2020. All students, faculty and staff of the institution have also been made aware of the situation and have been reminded to continue following workplace safety guidelines, including proper hygiene and social distancing protocols. In keeping with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, employees of Millsaps College must notify their supervisor of any potential exposure and/or diagnosis of COVID-19.
COVID-19 forces changes to Itawamba Community College commencement, summer classes
The COVID-19 virus continues to impact Itawamba Community College's normal operations and schedule of activities. Among the latest are the 2020 commencement ceremony and summer classes. As advised by the Center for Disease Control and the Mississippi Department of Health and after much deliberation, ICC is postponing the May commencement ceremony and is exploring options "to celebrate the accomplishments of our outstanding graduates," according to ICC President Dr. Jay Allen. In addition, ICC is continuing its summer schedule, but will transition all courses to an online format until it is safe to conduct face-to-face classes. Registration is currently underway for intersession classes, which begin May 11, and for traditional first summer/full-term, eLearning full-term and first and second four-week classes. Traditional first and full-term classes begin May 26, and eLearning, June 1.
Court revives suit over Mississippi school funding disparity
A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit that says Mississippi allows grave disparities in funding between predominantly black and predominantly white schools. The Thursday ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the 2019 decision by U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour to dismiss a lawsuit filed against state officials by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The suit was filed in 2017 on behalf of low-income African American women who said their children and other black children attended schools that were in worse condition and had lower academic performance than some wealthier, predominantly white schools. Barbour said state officials were immune from being sued. The appeals court said sovereign immunity "is not limitless" and people may sue a state as long as the suit seeks changes going forward and not compensation for past practices.
In the poorest county, in America's poorest state, a virus hits home: 'Hunger is rampant'
On the cracked country roads of Lexington, deep in the Mississippi delta, an empty yellow school bus drives slowly, making life-sustaining drop offs on the way. Here, in the poorest county, in America's poorest state, the coronavirus has yet to ravage the jurisdiction with infection. There has been one recorded Covid-19 death in the county, Clinton Cobbins, Lexington's first African American mayor. But even now the coronavirus still poses a serious threat to life. In Holmes county consolidated -- the school district to which Lexington belongs -- every single child qualifies for free school meals, a marker of pervasive poverty. For many, said superintendent Dr James L Henderson, breakfast and lunch at school are the only nutritious meals a student will eat in a day. For a few, they are the only meals. When the coronavirus pandemic led to statewide school closures, Henderson, who was born in the county, left for most of his adult life, but returned in 2018 to assume his position, was left with a significant dilemma: how to feed the 3,000 children under his authority.
New research to enhance chicken raising practices
University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture biosystems engineer Hao Gan was one of six recently announced recipients of a Phase I grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research SMART Broiler Initiative. The initiative is awarding more than $4 million in grants and technical support to develop automated monitoring tools that precisely assess broiler chicken welfare. Gan, and his research partners from Mississippi State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and BioRICS NV, intend for the system output to be a flock benchmark score for use by the farmer, food retailer and, ultimately, the consumer. For the first time, the poultry industry and consumers may have a tool that works to improve raising practices and that provides an animal-based metric to help purchasing decisions, the University of Tennessee said.
U. of Florida offers pass-fail option for grading due to COVID-19
Students' semester was cut short and lives were uprooted due to the coronavirus, but their grades are one area that may show mercy. After students expressed concern about their ability to proceed with academics normally because of COVID-19, University of Florida administrators announced the school would give students an opportunity to elect satisfactory-unsatisfactory, or pass-fail, grading for any of their courses. UF spokesman Steve Orlando said it is planned that graduate students will have a pass-fail grading option available by Monday for courses determined by each college to be reasonable. "We recognize that transitioning to new living and learning environments mid-semester because of the pandemic of COVID-19 has resulted in upheaval in many of our students' lives," Orlando wrote in an email. "Not every student will be impacted at the same level and in the same way."
More than 300 Aggies looking for solutions to virus problems
More than 300 Aggies are looking for solutions to COVID-19-related problems, from finding ways to deliver supplies to at-risk patients to improving over-the-phone diagnoses. The 71 teams, made up of Texas A&M students from departments across the university, will compete in the Aggies Against COVID-19 Virtual Competition throughout the month. Students are tasked with creating a 7- to 10-minute video showcasing a problem they identified, its impact and their proposed solution. Five teams with the best ideas will be entered into the annual Engineering Project Showcase -- a chance to present their videos to industry leaders. Top teams will also be invited to join the Engineering Incubator, which provides teams with funding and time with experts who can help move ideas forward. The overall goal, Executive Director of Industry and Nonprofit Partnerships Magda Lagoudas said, is to connect students with people who could benefit from their solutions and find ways to make the ideas a reality.
As colleges announce room and board refund plans, students are asking for more
It's been nearly a month since colleges began to close their residence halls in response to the new coronavirus outbreak, but many are still figuring out exactly how to address room and board refunds. Refund decisions are ever changing. Students in Arizona have also been leaning on their universities to pay them back for services not rendered -- but instead of just petitions, they took the universities to court. Students have filed a class action lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents in an attempt to receive prorated room and board and student fees refunds from three universities -- University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University -- after they moved classes online. The sued for breach of contract -- a common class action claim, according to Kent Schmidt, a lawyer at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney who is keeping a running blog of coronavirus-related class action suits.
Colleges change policies and get personal to enroll students
Throughout the country, colleges are facing a serious challenge: how to recruit students in an uncertain environment without being able to show off their campuses (at least in person). Some colleges are changing policies -- there was a major push in the last week for test-optional admissions. Some of the colleges are only switching for a year or two or three. Other colleges are also adopting a range of policies to make it easier for students to say yes to an offer of admission in a very uncertain time. And colleges are moving to make online content and one-on-one virtual meetings good enough to persuade students to enroll. Test-optional admissions has, of late, attracted all kind of colleges, with most of the attention going to those that are the most competitive in admissions. But many of the less competitive colleges are adjusting their policies as well. In particular they are changing the rules for when deposits are due.
Colleges plan for unprecedented wave of illness among faculty members
"The absenteeism of professors is not a new issue," said Chuck Staben, former president of the University of Idaho and current professor there. "What is a new issue is the scale of what we're potentially facing." In the face of rising coronavirus cases, the scale of professor absenteeism could be much larger than anything colleges have seen in recent decades. The devil's arithmetic isn't hard to follow. Some models have predicted over 40 percent of the American public will get COVID-19. Nineteen percent of cases need to be hospitalized, and 6 percent need intensive care. The White House predicts now 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, at best, from the new coronavirus. At least four prominent faculty members already have passed away. Some academic leaders have begun to ask how to prepare for what seems increasingly inevitable. What happens if professors, on a never-before-seen scale, get too sick to teach? What happens if they die?
How the last recession affected higher education. Will history repeat?
One of the peculiar things about higher education is that it runs in the opposite direction of the economy. When the economy stalls, demand for college typically rises as the unemployed decide to go back to school to improve their job prospects. Since it seems near certain that the coronavirus pandemic is triggering a new recession right now, I thought it would be useful to recap what happened to colleges and universities during the Great Recession of 2008 to help us think through what might and might not repeat this time around. The number of students who enrolled in college jumped by almost 2.5 million, or nearly 16 percent, from 15.6 million undergraduate students in the fall of 2007 to a peak of 18.1 million students in the fall of 2010. Most of the increase was driven by older adults, according to Doug Shapiro, executive research director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, rather than typical college-age students who had recently graduated from high school. These older adults tended to enroll in two-year community colleges and for-profit online schools, such as University of Phoenix. The back-to-school rush didn't happen right away. There was a long 18-month lag.
The Hard Choices Presidents Will Have to Make
Colleges and university leaders are working overtime to take care of their students and faculty and staff members amid the greatest crisis ever facing higher education. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads more widely across the country, most institutions are thoughtfully considering their situations, conducting scenario planning, and developing strategies accordingly. A survey of presidents conducted in late March reveals that 70 percent expect revenue decreases of 10 percent or more on their campuses. As a result, a large majority are freezing hiring, and more than half expect to lay off staff and implement furloughs. Perhaps just as importantly, nearly all presidents say they expect to examine their processes and make changes to how people do their work, academically and administratively.
Trump changes tune, but will his followers?
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Personal freedom stands as the most liberal innovation of human civilization. How ironic that it stands as a key political manifesto of today's conservative movement in America. Adopting the mantra that limited government empowers personal freedom, conservative groups for the past two decades have been promoting the need to tear down what they see as over-reaching government authority. Donald Trump became their avatar upon his election as elected President and tore into his role with a vengeance. Key targets have included science based policies. Prominent among them has been climate science. Until the last few weeks, health science was also disdained. Fortunately, the President has begun to primarily listen to real health scientists rather than pseudoscience prognosticators to deal with the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus relief package not likely to provide ill-prepared states money to deal with COVID-19 economic fallout
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: The cruel fact about state government is that when it is most needed it is in the least position to help. When the economy turns bad or a disaster hits, and citizens of a state need the most help, the state normally will have less revenue to provide aid. When crises occur, state revenues normally drop. States normally depend on sales taxes on retail items and taxes on income -- both of which normally take major hits during economic downturns. The sales tax and income tax make up about 70 percent of Mississippi's general fund revenue. ... The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also called CARES, provides funds to states for expenses incurred fighting the virus, funds to hospitals that have faced additional costs, enhanced unemployment benefits, direct payments to most adult Americans and many other goodies to help fight the virus and to deal with the extreme economic slowdown created by the illness. In many ways the CARES Act is similar to federal packages provided in the midst of the so-called Great Recession in 2009 and the relief provided to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005. There are key differences.

So long, Vic: Schaefer departs MSU for Texas after eight seasons
After eight years at Mississippi State, women's basketball head coach Vic Schaefer is heading back to the Lonestar State. A source with immediate knowledge of the situation told The Dispatch Sunday that Texas will cover Schaefer's $1.25 million buyout. MSU Athletic Director John Cohen spoke with the team after Schaefer informed the Bulldogs he would no longer be the head coach -- though it remains unclear whether they were told before word leaked onto social media. "Earlier today, I met with our young women and informed them that a national search for our next head women's basketball coach is underway," Cohen said in a news release. "I shared with the team that we will be thoughtful and thorough during the process, and that I am confident we will find a great leader for this program. We are looking for a relentless recruiter, someone who understands our deep meaning of family, someone who understands the Mississippi State culture, and a hungry competitor with an elite work ethic. We want someone who knows the game inside and out and has an innovative skill set."
Former Texas A&M assistant Vic Schaefer takes over as Texas women's basketball coach
Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer is coming home to the Lone Star State, but it's not the destination his fellow Aggies predicted. The former Texas A&M assistant and Aggie Class of 1984 was hired by the University of Texas on Sunday. Longhorn athletic director Chris Del Conte broke the news via Twitter, posting a picture of himself, Schaefer and his family -- wife Holly, daughter Blair and son Logan -- all flashing the Hook 'em hand sign with the caption, "Guess who's coming to the Forty?" The 59-year-old Schaefer spent 15 seasons as an assistant for Gary Blair before leaving after the 2011-12 season. Many Aggies expected Schaefer one day would return to Aggieland, including Blair. "Most marriages don't last 15 years," Blair said in 2012, getting emotional. "Vic has been like a brother to me. Once he gets tired of Starkville, and it won't take long, hopefully he'll be able to come back [and replace me]." But retirement has never been in Blair's plans, and Schaefer hasn't been waiting for a call from his alma mater.
With the high-profile hire of Vic Schaefer, Texas women's basketball is making a bid to resurrect its powerhouse legacy
A few decades ago, Texas was on the short list of powerhouse women's basketball schools. With the high-profile hire of Vic Schaefer as the new women's coach on Sunday, athletic director Chris Del Conte is clearly making a bid to resurrect that legacy. He wasted little time bringing Schaefer in from Mississippi State. On Friday, Texas announced the contract of coach Karen Aston would not be renewed after eight seasons. Then 48 hours later, Del Conte tweeted a photo of himself, Schaefer and Schaefer's family, writing: "Guess who's coming to the Forty..." Showing an on-point Twitter game, Schaefer quickly updated his Twitter handle to "@CoachVic_UT." It's a big hire for Texas -- and likely a big investment. Schaefer made $1.65 million last season at Mississippi State -- more than double what Aston earned at Texas. While dollar figures were not immediately available, Schaefer presumably will get a nice raise -- even with belt-tightening in athletic departments across the country.
Analysis: Who could replace Vic Schaefer as the next women's basketball coach at Mississippi State?
John Cohen's busy offseason has reached another impasse. With women's basketball head coach Vic Schaefer off to Austin to become the next head coach at Texas, Cohen will now be tasked with replacing a coach who reached two national title games, three Elite Eights and boasted the best winning percentage in school history. The process is also sure to be affected by the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, which could limit MSU's ability to bring potential candidates to campus. That said, here are a handful of potential replacements for Schaefer.
Report: Mississippi State hires Clemson's Eric George as new CFO
According to a report by, the Mississippi State affiliate for 247 Sports, MSU has hired Eric George of Clemson as the Bulldogs' new chief financial officer. George, an associate athletic director and CFO at Clemson, will replace Jared Benko, who was hired as the new athletic director at Georgia Southern on March 5. A native of College Station, Texas, George grew up a fan of Texas A&M and played for the Aggies before an injury ended his career. He joined the staff at Clemson in October 2015 after two years at the University of Texas.
Former Southern Miss football player recovers from coronavirus, defends actions
Former Southern Miss football player Dylan Reda said he tested positive for COVID-19, confirming what he suspected when he was hospitalized last month. Over the course of several days in March, Reda said he experienced a fever, body aches and loss of taste. One day, he even coughed up blood, he said. He went to an emergency room where he lives in Florida on March 20 and was diagnosed with a severe case of pneumonia. He was also tested for the coronavirus. Nearly two weeks later, he officially learned the results. Reda was only hospitalized for two days when he told the doctors he would like to go home in order for someone else to have a bed. When he was released from the hospital on March 21, doctors told Reda to practice social distancing. When Reda announced on social media he had been hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms, he said he received a lot of hateful messages. "I woke up to 15 to 20 messages of people saying that I've got blood on my hands because I put people's lives in jeopardy," Reda said. "A message saying they hoped my entire family got the virus so then I would know it's my fault they got sick." One neighbor posted a picture of him taking a walk with his wife and dog after being released from the hospital.
SEC extends suspension of in-person athletics activities due to coronavirus pandemic
The Southeastern Conference announced today all in-person athletics activities will be suspended through at least May 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a release, the SEC included all team and individual practices, meetings and other organized gatherings -- whether voluntary or required -- based on public health advisories related to continuing developments associated with the COVID-19. The SEC had previously announced that in-person athletics activities were suspended through April 15. In addition, virtual film review that does not include physical activity is permissible. Effective April 6, activity of this nature will be expanded to four hours per week consistent with an NCAA rule waiver and NCAA legislation, an increase from the previously permissible maximum of two hours per week.
LOL: Alabama fans reminded LSU is the best in social distancing messaging
People in Alabama having trouble measuring six feet had to use the hard reminder of the University of Alabama's loss to LSU in an effort to maintain social distancing. People in Tuscaloosa shared a picture of a sign showing the appropriate safe distance among others was the distance Alabama fans should stand from Tigers: 6 feet. Six feet, maybe 100 yards. The LSU football team trounced Alabama 46-41 in November. Sports fans could use anything to talk about right now as college and professional sports have been abruptly put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic. "In the midst of the coronavirus chaos, we have to smile," Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox said about the sign. Rivalries aside, the signs show a lighthearted spirit in a highly stressful time. The city's spokesperson said the mayor wanted to get stern messages out, but did not want to scare people. Instead, the city angled for lighter reminders about keeping a distance between people who were outside.
A look inside South Carolina's athletic department during the coronavirus pandemic
South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner summed up the predicament, the reality of these days for the USC Athletics Department. "We're working from home right now," Tanner said last week. With the university campus shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, the business of the department keeps going. It might require video conferencing, but the day's worth of meetings hasn't ceased for Tanner or for many other staffers. Even if the chances to duck out and see a game are on hold through the spring. "We have a daily conference call with the Southeastern Conference with the ADs and commissioner (Greg) Sankey," Tanner said. "That's every single day that we do that as a noon call. I'm on with the university two times a day. I'm on with my staff in one capacity or another, one department or unit, at least once a day. I'm talking to coaches in small groups instead of having 15 coaches, 16 coaches on the line. I'm talking to coaches in groups of four."
President Donald Trump tells sports commissioners he is hopeful NFL season will open on time
President Donald Trump held a conference call with many of the major sports league commissioners Saturday to discuss the nationwide response to the coronavirus pandemic and expressed his desire for sports to return by late summer. Trump said on the call that he is hopeful the NFL season will open on time and urged the NFL to continue with plans for its "virtual" NFL draft (April 23-25), a person with knowledge of details from the conference call told USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Trump also praised the commissioners for their outreach and support efforts during the pandemic and urged them to continue. The NFL reiterated that it realizes this is a fluid situation and that it will adjust as it has to this point, following advice from medical experts, while adhering to local and state authorities.
Nobody really knows if we'll play football in 2020, but history might give us a hint
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: In answer to a question I have been asked countless times these past few weeks: No, I have no idea whether or not there will be a 2020 college football season. Don't have a clue. John Cohen and Keith Carter don't know either, and neither does Jeremy McClain. Nobody knows right now, and if they tell you they do, they're lying. ... One plan is that a miracle happens and the coronavirus pandemic slows to a point they can start on time at the end of August and early September. Another is that they would delay the season a month and play the regular season through December. Another is that they would drop non-conference games all together and play a shortened season. That last plan would not be a first, you know. In the fall of 1918, when the U.S. was enduring not only the Spanish flu pandemic, but also World War I, Mississippi State and Ole Miss played abbreviated seasons and Southern Miss didn't play at all. State played five games and Ole Miss four -- and for the only time in history, Ole Miss and State played each other twice.

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