Monday, April 13, 2020   
IHL authorizes refunds for college students due to COVID-19 closures
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees voted to authorize room, board and parking refunds to students during a special called teleconference meeting on Friday morning. The refunds will be issued on a prorated basis via direct payment or a credit to students' Fall 2020 account. Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum detailed his university's refund procedures in a statement on Friday. MSU students who did not remain on campus to live in university residence halls after March 16, 2020 will receive a prorated refund of their Spring 2020 housing contract. Students whose housing was paid from institutional scholarships, MSU foundation scholarships or MSU Athletics will not receive a refund. Housing refunds will be applied to student accounts by May 10, 2020.
Faculty, students try to find rhythm in all-online class format
Much has changed in higher education because of the pandemic. Precautions have already been taken by four-year colleges around the Golden Triangle in the interim, as both MUW and Mississippi State have moved all classes to online only for the remainder of the spring semester. MSU has taken another precaution and shifted all summer courses online. Bryan Jones, an associate professor in the MSU College of Engineering, said department faculty will do their best to replicate typical courses online in the summer. "The beautiful thing is, there are so many things available on the web," Jones said. One of the most frustrating things for professors was having to shift some courses that were not designed to be online to virtual classes in the matter of a week, said James Vardaman, an associate professor of management at MSU's College of Business. Vardaman said he's seen about an 80-20 ratio of students adjusting to virtual work as opposed to students still experiencing frustrations with the new format. But he's optimistic MSU announcing all summer courses moving online early will result in a better product. "I think the advance notice will provide a lot of help to the faculty," Vardaman said. "It gives them time to brainstorm materials for online."
MSU Veterinary College loans two ventilators to local hospital
A Starkville hospital received two ventilators from Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Assistant Dean for Clinical Services and Clinical Professor Dr. Joey Burt said most of the college's ventilators are for large animals. The two ventilators loaned to the OCH Regional Medical Center were originally human oriented. The veterinary college later retrofitted the ventilators to be used for small animals, too. Dr. Burt said part of the veterinary degree is about looking at public health and how their animals play a role in it. He said it could be mental health, nutritional health and more. "So to be able to assist the human counterparts, human doctors during this time of need, like I said were more than thrilled," he said. Dr. Burt said the hospital will use the ventilators for as long as they need them in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Outreach services continue for individuals with disabilities
In the midst of the COVID-19 situation, the dedicated staff members of Mississippi State's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability and the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic are continuing to provide outreach services to individuals with disabilities and their families. "Our commitment to providing resources to families who need the specialized services available at the T.K. Martin Center and the ADDC are strong examples of the university's impact during the COVID-19 crisis," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. "It's a testament to the quality of our staff that they continue to find ways to serve these children and families despite the unprecedented challenges of this pandemic." Director Kasee K. Stratton-Gadke, a licensed psychologist and MSU associate professor of school psychology, said as of March 23, the ADDC will serve approximately 70 individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families through telehealth services. Stratton-Gadke co-directs the ADDC with Dan Gadke, MSU associate professor and head of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations.
At-home exercise can keep fitness level intact
Mississippians are finding ways to stay fit while sheltering in place to avoid looking like the humans in the animated movie "Wall-E" after generations of inert life on spaceships. Melissa Luckett, a Mississippi State University employee now working from home, is also exercising at home. "Initially, the biggest challenge was replicating the same level of intensity that I would get from my gym classes," Luckett said. "The online videos from my gym solved that problem, but another challenge is maintaining discipline. While there is more flexibility about when I exercise, I have to be careful because there is more temptation to delay my workouts which can led to skipping altogether." The MSU Extension Service offers Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health through Extension, or AIM for CHangE. The goal of this program is to create local coalitions to increase physical activity and promote access to healthier foods. Masey Smith, Extension project manager for AIM for CHangE, said adjusting to the new normal can be challenging on an individual, family and community level. "To maintain a healthy weight and prevent and reduce weight gain during quarantine, start by etching out a schedule," Smith said.
Extension specialists offer tips to manage finances
Increased social distancing measures and shelter-in-place orders are leaving millions of people with reduced income or without a paycheck. But there are some steps they can take to gain control over their finances. Becky Smith, a family financial management specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said people should immediately review their budgets and adjust their lifestyles. "Just the threat of COVID-19 triggers panic," she said. "The measures we are having to take to combat that threat are putting millions of families and individuals in dire financial circumstances. When we panic, we tend to lose perspective and focus too narrowly on a problem, which often makes things worse. Ignoring the situation can also make things worse. So, it's best to take control of your finances right away."
Meet Mounia Malki, Morocco's Youngest Aerospace PhD Holder
Dr. Mounia Malki, 24, is one of the youngest Ph.D. holders in Morocco, if not the youngest. After she submitted her thesis in mechanical engineering, Dr. Malki sat down with Morocco World News to share her inspiring story, and also to pay tribute to her parents who are on the frontlines of Morocco's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. When Mounia obtained her high school diploma, the International University of Rabat was the only Moroccan institution to offer an aerospace engineering degree. Mounia's high school grades allowed her to receive a partial scholarship to pursue her studies. Mounia finished her undergraduate studies at the UIR and received an invitation to pursue her dream in the US in 2016. The young student's hard work earned her an excellence scholarship at Mississippi State University, where she would go on to continue her studies. Flying to the US started a new chapter in Mounia's success story. Studying at MSU introduced her to a number of renowned engineers and physicists, including NASA astronaut Jim Newman, who supervised Mounia's master's thesis.
Outages reported across area, but little damage
One water rescue was reported Monday morning and numerous power outages, but luckily no major property damage as a line severe storms moved through the area Sunday night into early this morning. District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller took to social media Monday morning to say the county road department, along with the District 4 and Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department, rescued a man who tried to drive through flood water on Dry Creek Road before his vehicle stalled. The biggest impact to the county, though, came in the form of power outages from heavy rains and high winds. The 4 County Electric Power Association reported at 8 a.m. Monday that 167 outages impacted roughly 4,400 meters, mostly in Choctaw and Oktibbeha counties. The utility also said New Hope and other areas in northeast Lowndes County were also impacted by the storm. While Starkville and Oktibbeha County did see a tornado warning issued, which prompted emergency sirens, no major storm damage was reported to homes or businesses.
Easter storms sweep South, killing at least 20 people
Severe weather has swept across the South, killing at least 20 people and damaging hundreds of homes from Louisiana into the Appalachian Mountains. Many people spent part of the night early Monday sheltering in basements, closets and bathroom tubs as sirens wailed to warn of possible tornadoes. Eleven people were killed in Mississippi. The deaths in Mississippi included a married couple -- Lawrence County sheriff's deputy, Robert Ainsworth, and a Walthall County Justice Court deputy clerk, Paula Reid Ainsworth, authorities said. "This is not how anyone wants to celebrate Easter," said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, who declared a state of emergency Sunday night. "As we reflect on the death and resurrection on this Easter Sunday, we have faith that we will all rise together."
Monday Profile: Starkville native provides ingredients, Asian recipes at family-owned market and restaurant
When the first wave of COVID-19 panic buying swept through Starkville about a month ago, there was no run on toilet paper at Asian Foods Market on Highway 12. Asian Foods Market sells a little of most everything and a lot of some things, but no toilet paper. That doesn't mean the family-owned business was immune to panic buying. "For us, it was rice," said Kevin Yang, whose parents opened the store in 2011 and added a restaurant next door two years ago. Yang, 22, is the first native-born American in his family. His parents immigrated to the U.S. from China in the mid-1980s, settling in Brooklyn, New York. The family moved to Starkville when Yang was 2, buying the old Taste of China Restaurant before later shifting the focus to a market, something the family felt filled a void in the market where Mississippi State's large Asian student population has started to grow. "A lot of our business comes from Mississippi State," Yang said. "Our store is about the only place they can find many of the things you need in Asian cooking. We filled a niche and we've grown our business pretty steadily over the years."
Gov. Tate Reeves schedules 2:30 news conference Monday
Gov. Tate Reeves will have a news conference at 2:30 p.m. Monday. He will give an update on the Easter Sunday storm damage and recovery across Mississippi and discuss the state's ongoing strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19. Joined by members of the state's emergency and COVID-19 response teams, Reeves will also make himself available for questions from the media.
State health department reports 161 new cases, 2 additional deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 161 new presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with two additional deaths. The statewide total of known cases is now 2,942, with 98 deaths. Lee County, Northeast Mississippi's population hub, continues to have the most positive cases with 46 people who are presumed to have tested positive for the virus. With 44 cases, Tippah County follows closely behind as the second-highest positive case count. Northeast Mississippi has approximately 23 additional positive cases reported with Calhoun, Chickasaw, Clay, Lafayette, Lee, Marshall, Monroe, Prentiss and Tippah Counties each reporting new cases.
'The bottom just fell out': Small, rural businesses grapple with COVID-19 crisis
Small business owners did not see the COVID-19 fallout coming. It wasn't like a hurricane, where there's time to board up the windows and evacuate. Coronavirus crept into communities, grounding business to a screeching halt. "All of a sudden, it's just like the bottom fell out. It wasn't a slow thing. It happened in just a couple of days," said Matty Bengloff, manager at Delta Meat Market. Gov. Tate Reeves issued a shelter-in-place order to go into effect April 3, which meant that restaurants could no longer serve dine-in meals. The Meat Market had transitioned into only offering to-go meals and curbside pickup weeks before the order was announced. As those changes were being made, Delta Meat Market laid off almost their entire staff -- around 50 employees -- and is now doing approximately one-twentieth of the business, owner and operator Cole Ellis said. Of course, the Meat Market is not alone in what most businesses across the country are suffering right now. But in a small town populated with small businesses, it feels different. It's more personal.
Will the thriving Coast wedding industry recover from coronavirus? It's complicated
In less than a month, Meghan Lynch lost $10,000 in income. And she doesn't know when she'll be able to work again. Since the first case of coronavirus in Mississippi was confirmed on March 11, Lynch, a wedding photographer and owner of MbM Photography, had four couples cancel and three others reschedule. March through May are three of the busiest months for Lynch, a 29-year-old from Gulfport. Her calendar has been almost completely cleared. Lynch is one of many professionals in the Mississippi Coast's bustling wedding industry who have no primary source of income right now because of COVID-19. The wedding industry is one of many in Mississippi that is in limbo as non-essential businesses have been ordered closed as part of the state's shelter-in-place order set by Gov. Tate Reeves. And while the future is unclear with coronavirus, a question looms: Can the Mississippi Gulf Coast's wedding industry recover?
As anticipated, pandemic not major drag on state's March revenue collections
The economic slowdown across Mississippi and the nation did not have a significant impact on state tax collections for the month of March. Revenue collections for the month are $26.3 million or 6.5 percent above collections for the previous March, according to the report recently released by the staff of the Legislative Budget Committee. Through the first nine months of the current fiscal year, collections are $189.9 million or 5 percent above collections for the same period of the previous fiscal year. April, May and June, the final quarter of the fiscal year, are expected to be much worse. "Everything is going to be significantly downward in the fourth quarter," Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann recently said. While the economy has taken a major hit with record unemployment claims being made because of the coronavirus, state leaders were not expecting a major drop in revenue for the month of March.
Mississippi starts paying extra $600 in unemployment benefits
Unemployed Mississippians who qualify for benefits will now begin receiving an extra $600 each week, officials said Friday. The money -- which comes on top of existing state benefits -- is provided by the federal government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law late last month. Mississippi Department of Employment Security officials had been awaiting guidance from the feds on how and when they could begin distributing the extra money to the growing ranks of unemployed people. The agency said it was among the first state in the country to start distributing the extra funds. Officials said those who have been approved for benefits will now begin seeing the extra money on their unemployment debit cards, or via direct deposit. Benefit recipients so far have only received a maximum of $235 per week.
Mississippi's GOP postpones state convention
Mississippi's Republican Party is putting off its annual state convention because of the coronavirus. In a news release Friday, the party said the event, initially set for May 15-16, has been postponed amid the state's ongoing response to COVID-19. The state convention is held to allow the party to select delegates who will go to the Republican National Convention, where votes are cast to select the party's nominee for president of the United States. The party said it hopes to reschedule "as soon as it is safe to do so." In addition, the MSGOP is postponing all precinct caucuses and county conventions that would have been held this month.
Analysis: More jail review sought over coronavirus concerns
The coronavirus pandemic is prompting the Mississippi attorney general and the state public defender to seek a temporary change in rules governing the criminal justice system. The goal is to require more frequent judicial review of conditions for pretrial detainees -- people being held in county jails as they wait to go before a grand jury or to trial. Many are held for months because they cannot afford to post bail. The state's top prosecutor and the public defender are adversaries, by design of the justice system. Their current alliance is prompted by concern that the highly contagious virus could spread swiftly inside detention centers, harming those who might be medically vulnerable and rapidly overwhelming jails' health care capabilities.
Concussion drug company ensnared in welfare fraud scandal plans relocation to south Mississippi 'medical city'
When professional football legend and Mississippi native Brett Favre introduced the state's top welfare officials to the founder of a company developing concussion treatment drugs, it set off a chain of events leading to what the state auditor calls the largest public embezzlement case in state history. A Hinds County grand jury indicted the founder of Mississippi Community Education Center, Nancy New, and her son Zach New in February for allegedly transferring $2.15 million from a federal grant, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, into personal investments in Prevacus. They've pleaded not guilty. The company is developing a pharmaceutical nasal spray called Prevasol which that, when used after a head injury, reduces harmful swelling and inflammation. The founder of Tallahassee-based Prevacus, Dr. Jake Vanlandingham, told Mississippi Today that he signed an agreement with the nonprofit, Mississippi Community Education Center, outlining the goals of the program.
'National security issue': What Congress wants to give farmers for coronavirus downturn
Don't let bought-out grocery shelves fool you -- farmers are having a lot of trouble because of the novel coronavirus. They're seriously hurting if their main income came from selling products to schools, restaurants, amusement parks, sports arenas or any other enterprise that shut down to slow the spread of the virus. Dairy farmers, for instance, have seen a 30 to 40 percent decrease in the prices they receive as huge buyers of milk and milk products shut their doors. Farmers are "price takers, not price makers," as Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, a longtime almond farmer, put it. But farmers have been mostly left out of the economic stimulus packages President Donald Trump has signed so far. "Food is a national security issue. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans don't think it is, because you go to a grocery store and there's all the food you want," Costa said.
U.S. Meat Supply Is 'Perilously Close' To A Shortage, Smithfield CEO Warns
One of the country's largest pork-producing plants closed indefinitely after nearly 300 of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. And the company's CEO warned that the coronavirus pandemic is pushing the nation's meat supply "perilously close" to the edge. "It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running," Smithfield Foods CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement. Smithfield decided to close its plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., which provides 4% to 5% percent of the pork produced in the United States. The move came after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem urged the company to "do more" to address the pandemic. "The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply," Sullivan said. Smithfield is one of several meat-producing companies that have suspended or cut back on production in recent weeks.
Lawmakers prod USDA to aid local food growers hit by pandemic
More than 30 senators from both parties called on the Agriculture Department to provide robust aid for small growers and meat producers who are the backbone of the farm-to-table movement. In a Thursday letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, 29 Democrats, independents Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said public health restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus have imposed extra expenses for packaging, sanitizing and transportation, or closed restaurants, university dining halls, farmers markets and other venues that these farmers depended on for sales. Food businesses that remain open are operating under social distancing requirements and limited service, which means fewer orders for their suppliers. State and local officials have been particularly divided over how to address farmers markets, with some shuttering them and others declaring them an essential service that should continue, albeit with restrictions.
Reopening U.S. economy by May 1 may be unrealistic, say experts, including some within Trump administration
Public health experts on Sunday debated the question of when to reopen portions of the U.S. economy, shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic, with several Trump administration officials cautioning that a target date of May 1 -- floated by President Trump, among others -- may not be realistic. "It is a target, and, obviously, we're hopeful about that target, but I think it's just too early to be able to tell that we see light at the end of the tunnel," Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said on ABC News's "This Week." "I think it's just too early for us to say whether May 1 is that date." The comments by Hahn and other officials came on Easter, when the number of confirmed cases in the United States stood at more than 550,000 and the number of deaths reached more than 21,000. Some experts, such as Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, argued Sunday that rather than a sudden reopening of the entire country, the United States should institute a "rolling reentry" into normal life depending on the conditions in different regions.
U.S. Weighs When to Restart Economy as Europe Looks to Ease Lockdowns
The U.S. is weighing when to reopen the economy as coronavirus infection rates showed signs of stabilizing, but officials in the country and elsewhere voiced concern that moves to ease lockdowns that have crippled the global economy could spur new outbreaks of the disease, which has claimed more than 115,000 lives world-wide. In the U.S., confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, approached 560,000 on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. hit a peak of 35,100 new cases Friday. A decline in daily U.S. infection rates since Friday's record prompted some officials to express cautious optimism that U.S. infections may be hitting a plateau as mitigation efforts take hold. But any hopes that U.S. infections are nearing their peak must be measured against concerns among governments elsewhere that have appeared to bring outbreaks under control, only to face second and third rounds of infections as they and their neighbors began reopening their economies, global health and economic experts say.
Inside America's 2-Decade Failure to Prepare for Coronavirus
The nation's health secretary was warned about a possible pandemic -- and, he admits now, he didn't take that first warning seriously enough. But he studied with experts at the Centers of Disease Control. He read papers on virology. He took his concerns to the president. And months later, the administration unveiled a plan to tackle the virus emerging out of Asia, investing in therapies and warning Americans to stock up on canned goods. It's a moment that feels ripped from the headlines about the current coronavirus crisis. But the year was 2005, not 2020. And for his troubles, that health secretary -- Bush appointee Mike Leavitt -- was mocked as an alarmist by political rivals and late-night comics, even as that year's threat of avian flu petered out around the globe. Speaking to POLITICO this month, Leavitt described a trap that health and national security officials know too well: Prepare too early and you're called Chicken Little. Act too late -- and millions may die.
Overwhelmed hospitals, equipment shortages: Coronavirus pandemic plays out as state planners expected
As the coronavirus scuds across the USA, killing thousands and depleting medical resources, the pandemic is playing out precisely as emergency officials around the country assumed when they drafted response plans over the past decade: A spreading disease would overwhelm hospitals, raising a strong possibility that physicians would have to choose which patients get life-sustaining care and which would die because of a shortage of medical equipment. This heart-wrenching choice, known as the "crisis of care" dilemma, is an anticipated last resort in a severe pandemic, according to a USA TODAY review of 14 states' preparedness plans. Those plans predict state and local emergency management agencies, with limited caches of supplies, would afford little help. They would plead with neighboring states and vendors for masks, gowns and ventilators. But in a pandemic, inventories would be depleted worldwide, and factories would not be able to churn out products fast enough.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, MVSU prepare to issue student refunds
The Institutions of Higher Learning's board of trustees met Friday to give Mississippi's universities guidance on how refunds should be issued to students who have not been on campus since mid-March due to the coronavirus. The universities were given permission to pro-rate refunds on housing, meals and parking. Here's how the schools are handling refunds.
Mississippi's public universities to provide spring semester refunds
The Mississippi College Board is allowing the state's public universities to refund students' spring semester fees. Since mid-March, students have been away from their campuses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Eligible students will be refunded. The College Board (IHL) oversees the state's public universities.
IHL authorizes pro-rated refund for students
There's a refund coming for some students at Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. Students who lived on campus in residence halls will receive a pro-rated refund. According to MSU President Mark Keenum and Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce, all refunds will be applied to students' accounts and will first apply to any current outstanding charges. Any unused balance will be distributed to students via direct deposit or refund check. All late payments and financing charges will be waived through the end of the semester. The refund dates are based on the date the universities closed following spring break.
MUW Summer classes offered online, alternate delivery
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi University for Women's summer 2020 classes will be conducted online or through alternate delivery methods. This will include all summer terms, both full and accelerated. Students enrolled in professional and graduate programs will be notified of any exceptions to meet clinical or licensure requirements as soon as plans are put in place. "Knowing that our students have experienced so much disruption over the past few weeks and knowing this public health emergency will have continued impact in the weeks to follow, making the decision early to transition to remote instruction allows our students time to plan accordingly," said Scott Tollison, provost and vice president for academic affairs at The W. The transition allows students greater flexibility in handling any additional demands brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic while also presenting reasonable pathways for students to maintain their degree progression throughout the summer.
The W announces option for alternative grades
In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi University for Women will allow students the option for alternative grades for spring 2020. The option will allow students to focus on learning outcomes and successful course completion. Academic Council approved the COVID-19 Emergency Grade Policy to allow students maximum flexibility in light of the changed circumstance. "The COVID-19 pandemic has made the spring 2020 semester an extraordinary time with many disruptions and stressors for us all. Providing this alternative grade option can relieve some additional stress and anxiety that our students may be feeling," said Nora Miller, president of The W. This temporary policy does not retroactively include First Term classes but does apply to both Full Term and Second Term courses that are currently in progress.
Coronavirus in Mississippi: Health care cuts costing lives, former UMMC chancellor says
State cuts to the health care system over the past decade are costing lives now in the battle against a coronavirus pandemic, says the former chancellor over the University of Mississippi Medical Center. "No question about it," said Dr. Dan Jones, the Sanderson Chair in Obesity, Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. In 2013, the state Legislature rejected plans to expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands more Mississippians. Five rural hospitals have closed since then, and 42% of rural hospitals remain financially "vulnerable," according to a study released in February. In contrast, neighboring Arkansas expanded Medicaid funding and has seen one rural hospital close. The Mississippi Legislature has also cut the state Department of Health, which had 2,358 employees at the end of 2012. By the end of last year, the department had declined to 1,812 -- a loss of more than 500 employees. In recent years, the department has shut down most of its regional offices and a number of its local health clinics across the state -- a move the department attributed to low patient turnout.
UM professor designs reusable mask for healthcare professionals
Chip Wade was making lunch at his home in Oxford when his wife, who was swiffering the floor, asked him to get her another filter for the mop. At that moment, something clicked. Understanding that there is a national shortage of personal protective equipment to protect healthcare professionals from COVID-19, Wade thought, "Why can't we use this same technology -- a reusable device with an interchangeable filtration system -- in the masks used by nurses and doctors on the frontlines of this crisis?" Wade, an assistant research professor of biomedical engineering, an assistant professor of integrated marketing and communication and the co-director of the Center for Diagnostics, Design, Devices and Biomechanics at the University of Mississippi, made a few phone calls. He called Troy Drewry, a professor of practice in biomedical engineering at Ole Miss, to gauge whether or not this would be a feasible endeavor. Drewry said, "Give me a day." Within 24 hours, they had a 3D-printed prototype of a mask. In actual production, the devices won't be 3D printed. Rather, they'll be developed through injection molding -- a technique that allows manufacturers to scale production of the masks rapidly.
UMMC: 25 tested at Eupora drive-thru site
University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Mississippi National Guard and other state agencies set up for free testing on Thursday for pre-screened individuals in Webster County. The effort, which also involved the Mississippi State Department of Health, saw about 40 workers -- 20 or so being National Guard personnel -- working on the testing line. Those being tested at the mobile sites require a pre-screening through the C Spire Health smartphone app. The app is free to download and available to all users in Mississippi. Webster County reported the first virus-related death in the newspaper's coverage area two weeks ago and when the pandemic began, many were crossing county lines from Webster to get tested in places like Starkville. UMMC spokesman Marc Rolph told the Starkville Daily News that 25 tests were conducted in Eupora Thursday.
All Northeast Mississippi Community College summer classes to be held online
Northeast Mississippi Community College will offer all of its classes online only this summer. That decision was made because of the continued threat of the COVID-19 virus. Spring semester classes have been online only since mid-March. NEMCC President Ricky Ford said the school's iPad initiative and the faculty's use of technology in the classroom has made for an easy switch to online-only classes. "The students are buying into it. Northeast is blessed to have been well prepared for this and we will continue to share any information we have with any of our sister institutions because the bottom line is this, at the end of the day we must still provide a top-quality education for our students and Northeast is well prepared to do that," said Dr. Ford.
Meridian Community College precision machining students make world go round
After serving four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Sean Datusch faced a dilemma when he left the service in 2018 -- finding a career. A chance conversation with his uncle and another man sent him on a path that led to Meridian Community College. Cole Breland, a native of Brandon, started college after graduating high school, then dropped out and went to work. But, he kept feeling like he should be following a different road in life. The shop where he was working had CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machinery, and it piqued his interest. David Learmonth spent 12 years in the U.S. Army, joining after the 9/11 attacks. After he left the service, he worked a few jobs before ending up at MCC with a desire to become a mechanical engineer. But a fellow student's speech in class one day sent him in a different direction. Datusch, Breland and Learmonth have all discovered their career fields through MCC's Precision Machining Engineering Technology program. It is a highly successful program that has garnered a reputation within the state's industry circles for the caliber of its graduates and its ability to offer students advanced CNC machining training.
K-12 education takes on new methods, challenges during pandemic
Online education at the K-12 level has several variables that students, parents and teachers have had to adapt to quickly. It relies on technology and internet service when not everyone has equal access to both, and the home environment provides distractions that don't exist in classrooms. Teachers also have to be reachable via phone and video conference to make up for the lack of in-person interaction, and they have had to get creative with how they present their virtual lessons. Laura Daniels' two daughters attend Starkville High School and Armstrong Middle School, respectively. SHS teachers have conducted online study groups for Advanced Placement classes, and AMS teachers have assigned a variety of remote lessons, from virtual field trips to writing projects about students' experiences staying at home, Daniels said. "They've engaged them in creative ways, they've utilized online resources as well as been sensitive to the fact that they sometimes just need time to talk," she said.
Auburn University's community courses offer chance to continue learning
Auburn University is an education hub for 30,000 students who take classes on campus and pursue degrees from the school. However, behind the scenes is another education opportunity: community courses. Auburn offers more than 50 unique courses each semester for community member -- everything from basic painting to driver's education. "There's all these courses that fall into this category of life-long learning and adult education," said Mark Lipscomb, program developer for the outreach community courses. The courses are ways for community members or high school students to pick up a new hobby, learn a valuable skill, or take a crash course for the ACT or GRE. "Test preparation is one of the biggest things we do here," Lipscomb said.
Tennessee medical schools pivot to telemedicine during coronavirus
If it were a normal school year, Vanderbilt medical students Thomas Day and Tita Pena would be spending their time at the Shade Tree Clinic, offering free medical care for Nashville's uninsured. Coronavirus, however, has changed all that. The two executive directors of the clinic and third-year medical students have now moved the clinic completely online, offering telemedicine because they shouldn't physically interact with patients. "Our primary goal is to continue to provide resources that we have been all year," Pena said. Third-year students normally focus a lot on direct care of patients, Day said. It's how they put their training into practice on their way to becoming a doctor. At the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, students have been removed from working in the hospitals, said Dr. Donald Brady, senior associate dean. All classes have been moved online, and the school has even created a pandemic course in response to COVID-19. At the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, classes have also moved online. Students are no longer working in clinics or hospitals, and classes have focused on crisis management, said Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean of the College of Medicine.
Texas A&M veterinary school keeps running, treating animals
As people throughout the Brazos Valley worry about their health and the health of loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic, many also are concerned with the health of the beloved pets and other animals. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way some area veterinarians care for animals in need and interact with their owners. At Texas A&M's Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in College Station, a team of 100 to 150 faculty members, staff and student workers are keeping the facility running, treating pets and livestock around the clock. For about a month, the small and large animal hospitals have been accepting only emergency cases, as well as checkups related to those cases. "We are following recommendations coming out of Gov. Greg Abbott's office," said Wesley Bissett, associate professor and director of A&M's Veterinary Emergency Team. "[Abbott has] directed veterinary medicine [practitioners] to do only emergency procedures, not elective, so that we are not taking personal protective equipment from health care providers of human patients."
U. of Missouri Faculty Council puts out letter about COVID-19 and racism
The University of Missouri Faculty Council released an open letter regarding racial discrimination and COVID-19 after its meeting Thursday. The letter acknowledges that "some members of the Chinese, Korean, and other Asian communities" at MU have experienced racial discrimination tied to the pandemic. In response, the Faculty Council asks the MU community to: Refer to the virus as COVID-19 rather than by a name stigmatizing Asian people. Reject xenophobia related to the virus. The council's Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Committee wrote the letter. "We were concerned about racism attaching itself to the COVID-19 epidemic, so we drafted the statement, this open letter," committee chair Rebecca Graves said in the meeting.
Public colleges face looming financial blow from state budget cuts
With uncertain prospects in Congress for even half the $500 billion the nation's governors say they need to stabilize budgets, many states face budget cuts. And they will look at slashing funds for public colleges. "Higher education is often considered the balancing wheel of state budgets," said Thomas Harnisch, vice president for government relations at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. "And if history is any indication, higher education is going to be at the front lines of the economic fallout from coronavirus." As Josh Goodman and Mark Robyn, senior officers with the Pew Charitable Trusts' state fiscal health initiative, noted in a recent blog post, the pandemic comes at an awkward time, as some states have already written the next fiscal year's budget or were in the middle of determining it. States generally base their budgets on revenue projections conducted in January or February. But the crisis has sent budget writers in state capitols scrambling to get a handle on just how much tax revenue they'll lose, and how much they'll have to cut. And higher education is already taking hits from state cuts.
China Implements New Restrictions on Academic Research into Coronavirus Origins
China has imposed new restrictions on academic research into the origins of COVID-19, CNN reported on Monday. The new set of guidelines directs that "academic papers about tracing the origin of the virus must be strictly and tightly managed." Papers must be submitted to a task force appointed by the State Council, the country's administrative authority, in order to obtain approval for publication in academic journals.The guidelines were first published on the website of Fudan University in Shanghai on Friday, and subsequently on the website of the China University of Geoscience in Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated. Both notices were subsequently taken down, although a cached version of the University of Geoscience's notice remains accessible. "I think it is a coordinated effort from [the] Chinese government to control [the] narrative, and paint it as if the outbreak did not originate in China," said a Chinese researcher who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. "And I don't think they will really tolerate any objective study to investigate the origination of this disease."
How will pass/fail affect students' future?
Many colleges and universities, after looking at the havoc the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked on student lives, have decided to offer a more forgiving grade structure. Binary grading schemes like pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory have been put in place at many institutions, sometimes after much back-and-forth. Some have made the change mandatory for all students, while others have simply expanded an existing option. The idea behind a binary scheme during the pandemic is that it can lessen students' anxiety. It can shield those who have been enormously burdened from a fatal hit to their grade point average. Moving home, taking online classes, losing jobs or dealing with family health care can all have a profound effect on student performance. But when a student is hoping to move on to graduate school, medical school or a four-year college, questions still abound about how a grade of "pass" is going to look to an admissions officer, or if community college courses will still transfer. The answers aren't neat.
Students say online classes aren't what they paid for
Arica Kincheloe said she took a risk quitting her job and moving halfway across the country from Seattle to attend the University of Chicago's nationally ranked master's program in social service administration. But now that her courses for the one-year accelerated program were moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kincheloe, a first-generation college graduate from a low-income background, is questioning what more than $50,000 in student loan debt will mean for her future. "It's a throwaway -- a shortened quarter. They took away one week of the quarter," she said. "I do not feel like I am getting the same education that I would have otherwise. The sort of enrichment and learning that I would have in the classroom isn't there." Students who were already struggling to stay afloat while managing the heavy cost of their education, which for Kincheloe exceeds $66,300 for one year, say they are being shortchanged by the online classes. They're not alone -- students at University of California campuses and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts have echoed similar concerns about tuition not adding up to the education they were promised. Students at Miami and Drexel Universities filed a class action lawsuit for tuition refunds, but most colleges have generally been offering refunds on room and board fees, not tuition.
Colleges Euthanized Lab Animals to Protect Employees From Covid-19. Now They Face an Onslaught of Criticism.
Ozgun Erdogan studies how tumors develop. Her work may help other scientists develop treatments for diseases like pancreatic cancer. But ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, she has been struggling to carry out that research without many of her most vital tools: mice. The pandemic largely shut down the Duke University cancer lab where Erdogan works as a postdoctoral associate. With her university minimizing animal-care time and her next experiment aborted, she had to euthanize the genetically modified rodents she'd been breeding for that study, killing about 168 mice in one day. As Erdogan copes with a setback that will take months to recover from -- a wrenching position for a scientist just starting her career -- she's also fielding criticism from animal-rights activists. The pandemic is curtailing all but the most critical lab research. Many scientists are responding by sacrificing mice as they shelve studies and seek to reduce work for the animal-care staff members who must risk their health to look out for the mice and other animals that colleges still possess. The euthanization, along with the broader lab slowdown, will very likely be a blow to research on diseases and disorders like cancer, autism, diabetes, and epilepsy. It has also become a rallying cry for animal-rights groups
Mississippi's Constitution through the years provides evidence state never intended a uniform school system
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Whether a group of African American parents prevail in their federal lawsuit, claiming the state of Mississippi did not live up to its 1868 commitment to provide a uniform education for all its children is anybody's guess. But the Southern Poverty Law Center and others who filed the 2017 lawsuit on behalf of the black Mississippians can rely on the very words placed in the state Constitution through the decades to build their case. The various versions of the Mississippi Constitution offer a roadmap of the state's intent not to provide that uniform education. The Constitution's education provision through the years provide demonstrative, irrefutable evidence that the leadership of Mississippi had no intention of providing an equal or uniform education. The lawsuit contends that the unequal educational opportunities that marred much of the state's history still exist. At the heart of the lawsuit is a federal law that placed mandates on Mississippi when it was re-admitted to the Union in 1870 after the Civil War.
Mississippi senator shows leadership in crisis
Mississippi restaurateur, chef and author Robert St. John writes: In the 20-plus years I have written this weekly column I have covered all manner of topics. ... Though in all of those years, I have never – even once – written anything political. ... Today we will focus on the unprecedented global pandemic that has radically changed our lives and our nation's economy in a matter of weeks. It is my opinion that, of all of our powerful Mississippi senators over the past 70 years, none have affected the financial future and stability of -- not only Mississippi, but -- the nation as much as Sen. Roger Wicker in his position as the current chairman of the Commerce Committee. ... Wicker's staff has been on top of the situation like no other I have witnessed, and his staff has held a master class in constituency follow-through during this entire ordeal. The CARES Act, the largest bill in our nation's history, threw a lifeline to small businesses that had been shuttered all over the nation. It even gave aid to many businesses that are still thriving through this pandemic. Yet we have only reached second base for the restaurant industry.

Mississippi State hires Nikki McCray-Penson as women's coach
Mississippi State hired former Old Dominion women's basketball coach Nikki McCray-Penson to replace Vic Schaefer as the Bulldogs' head coach. Athletic director John Cohen called McCray-Penson "a proven winner who will lead one of the best programs in the nation" on the department's website. McCray-Penson, a former Tennessee star and Women's Basketball Hall of Famer, said it's been a dream to coach in the Southeastern Conference and she's "grateful and blessed for this incredible honor and opportunity." McCray-Penson was 53-40 the past three years at Old Dominion, her first head coaching job with the storied program following nine seasons as a South Carolina assistant under Dawn Staley. She owns an impressive pedigree as a college and pro player, coupled with her vast coaching resume and initial success at ODU. She helped Staley lead South Carolina to its first Women's Final Four in 2015 and to the NCAA title in 2017.
Mississippi State tabs Nikki McCray-Penson as women's hoops coach
Mississippi State has chosen a basketball Hall of Famer to lead its women's basketball program. And everything she's done to this point, Nikki McCray-Penson said, was leading to this moment. The Bulldogs announced the hiring of McCray-Penson as their eighth head coach on Saturday after a three-year stint at Old Dominion. McCray-Penson replaces Vic Schaefer, who departed last Sunday to take the head coaching vacancy at Texas. "It's been a dream of mine to be a head coach in the SEC, and I'm so grateful and blessed for this incredible honor and opportunity to lead Mississippi State women's basketball," said McCray-Penson, who was an outstanding player for Pat Summitt's powerhouse Tennessee program in the 1990s. "This is a national brand with incredible people, a storied tradition and an outstanding community that is second to none. I am confident that my experiences as a coach and player have prepared me for this, and I will pour everything I have into our student-athletes and program. My family and I are so happy to be a part of the Bulldog Family and we can't wait to get started."
'Proven winner': Mississippi State hires Nikki McCray-Penson as women's basketball coach
Athletic director John Cohen officially introduced Nikki McCray-Penson as the head coach of the Mississippi State women's basketball program on Saturday. In a video disseminated on social media, Cohen described the hire as a "home run" and McCray-Penson appeared after him wearing a Mississippi State sweatshirt and ringing a cowbell. "It's been a dream of mine to be a head coach in the SEC, and I'm so grateful and blessed for this incredible honor and opportunity to lead Mississippi State women's basketball," McCray-Penson said. "This is a national brand with incredible people, a storied tradition and an outstanding community that is second to none." n her playing career, she was a two-time SEC Player of the Year for Tennessee. She also won two Olympic gold medals and was a three-time WNBA all-star.
It's official: Old Dominion's Nikki McCray-Penson to replace Vic Schaefer at Mississippi State
Mississippi State officially has its women's basketball coach. Following a search that lasted just five days to replace Vic Schaefer, who left Starkville for the head coaching job at Texas, Old Dominion's Nikki McCray-Penson has officially been named the head coach per MSU Athletics. "Nikki brings energy, creativity, and a winning mentality to Mississippi State that will inspire our student-athletes and community," MSU Athletic Director John Cohen said in a news release. "She has earned a national reputation as an outstanding teacher of the game, dynamic recruiter and a developer of young women on and off the court. Nikki has achieved success at every step of her career, both as a coach and player. She is a proven winner who will lead one of the best women's basketball programs in the nation. We are excited to welcome Nikki and her family to Starkville and are thrilled that she will lead us into the next chapter of Mississippi State women's basketball."
Former Collierville standout Nikki McCray-Penson heading to Mississippi State
Nikki McCray-Penson is headed back to the Southeastern Conference. Late Thursday, several media outlets reported that McCray-Penson, who had a stellar high school career at Collierville before going on to the University of Tennessee and beyond, would become the next women's basketball coach at Mississippi State. She'll replace Vic Schaefer, who left Starkville earlier in the week to become Texas' coach. McCray-Penson graduated from Collierville in 1990 and is the leading scorer in Shelby-Metro history with 3,594 points, a mark that is also tops all-time in the state of Tennessee in the 5-on-5 era. Her 1,720 career rebounds are also a record. McCray-Penson then played at Tennessee under the legendary Pat Summitt and was SEC player of the year and an all-American in both 1994 and 1995. As a pro, she was Most Valuable Player of the now-defunct American Basketball League while playing for Columbus during the 1996-97 season and was also a three-time WNBA all-star. McCray-Penson also helped the United States win gold medals at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 2000 Games in Sydney and was part of the World Championship squad in 1998.
Mississippi State point guard Nick Weatherspoon skipping senior season; turning pro
The Mississippi State men's basketball roster turnover continues. One day after Robert Woodard II declared for the NBA Draft, junior point guard Nick Weatherspoon also announced his intentions to go pro on his Twitter account. "Thank you MSU," Weatherspoon said in a tweet. "#Hailstate for everything always a Bulldog at heart. #0 out." A Mississippi State official confirmed Weatherspoon's departure Friday morning. "I want to thank Nick for his contributions and hard work in helping build our program over the last three seasons," MSU coach Ben Howland said in a statement. "We wish him the best as he pursues his pro career playing the game he loves."
MHSAA has plans in place if seasons resume
Rickey Neaves has a plan, but he's not optimistic it will be implemented. Because of COVID-19, high school sports in Mississippi have been suspended since March 16, and they will resume no sooner than April 20. That is when school is tentatively set to resume. Neaves, an associate director with the Mississippi High School Activities Association, was tasked with formulating a plan that allows spring sports to finish their seasons and play for state championships. "I have a plan right now if we can go back to school on April 20 of how we can finish seasons and have playoffs," Neaves said. "I even have another plan for if we cannot go back until May 4, which would get through the April 30 deadline that the president has set." Gov. Tate Reeves will announce Tuesday when the state's schools can reopen, if at all.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher on Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin in SEC: 'Every week will be interesting'
he state of football in the state of Mississippi grew more intriguing in the offseason, thanks to two hires turning heads not only across the Southeast but across the nation. "The SEC West ... we just keep adding to it, and it's as good as it gets," Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said of Mississippi's hiring of Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State's of Mike Leach. "Every week will be interesting, that's for sure." Fisher, entering his third season at A&M, said he knows Kiffin better than Leach, the former Texas Tech and Washington State coach best known for his Air Raid offenses. "Mike, I don't know him, but I have great respect for him as a guy who's been successful wherever he's been," Fisher said. "He's won, and he has his style and way of doing things." Then-A&M coach Kevin Sumlin's failures against the Mississippi schools in SEC West competition played a role in his firing following the 2017 regular season.
SEC Network announces 'Friday Fan Night' to replace lost spring sports
The SEC Network has announced a new "Friday Fan Night" initiative to replace programming lost by a lack of spring sports. Each Friday, the SEC Network will feature a baseball and softball doubleheader chosen by fans from around the world. On Tuesdays, a Twitter poll will be published to determine which baseball game will be featured, and a second poll will follow on Wednesday to determine the softball game that will be aired. The first poll will be published on April 14. The softball game chosen by fans will air at 7 p.m. the following Friday, proceeded by the baseball game that won the vote at 9 p.m. Additionally, starting April 16, every Thursday the SEC Network will broadcast a championship-clinching game from a previous baseball NCAA College World Series, beginning with the 1996 showdown between LSU and Miami. Beginning April 20, a game from the Women's College World Series or a featured matchup from the SEC Tournament will be aired every Monday.
Loss of College World Series hits Omaha hard
Rich Tokheim's sports apparel shop is right across the street from TD Ameritrade Park. More than half his annual revenue comes in the 11 or 12 days of the College World Series each June. "We're here," he said, "because of the College World Series. It's just so many people." Those people won't be in Omaha this year. The Division I baseball championship, decided in this city of just under a half-million for the past 70 years, is a prominent sports casualty of the coronavirus pandemic -- a blow not just to the ledgers and coffers of local businesses but to the identity of the city itself. Omaha has long prided itself on hosting the eight-team tournament and even built $100 million TD Ameritrade Park a decade ago in exchange for an NCAA promise to keep the CWS here through at least 2035. Thousands of full- and part-time jobs are tied to the event. The economic impact has been estimated at $74 million per year, with more than $6 million generated in local and state taxes. All that is lost in 2020.
Duke's Coach K wants 'unified voice' from college coaches on coronavirus, urges public to listen to scientists
If you need a play drawn up with your team down by a bucket in the final seconds, there are few college coaches you'd want more than Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. He's one of the greats -- a Hall of Famer with an impeccable resume. But if it's epidemiological advice you seek, Coach K is urging people to look to the professionals of the medical field. In an interview this week on Fox Sports with Colin Cowherd, Krzyzewski addressed the topic of college coaches speaking out on coronavirus, sometimes smartly, sometimes ... not so much. In it he pushed for a more unified message from coaches to educate the public appropriately amid the pandemic. "It's disappointing that we don't come out with a more unified voice," he said, adding that it's his desire that there be a commissioner for the sport to streamline and simplify messaging. "As a college coach, we represent the college player, not the college coach. And we should be the voice of the college player in the environment that that college player is in now -- not 10 years ago or 20. And we should help streamline the changes that are needed to help the college player. And we don't do that. There's no way we do that. And that's a failing. That's why we're in the dark ages in some of these things."
Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy apologizes for comments on coronavirus response
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on Saturday apologized for comments he made earlier this week during a teleconference in which he talked about the national and state responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Gundy said on Tuesday that his goal was to return to the football building on May 1 because he hoped that tests for COVID-19 would be available in a few weeks to clear both employees and players -- a proposed timetable the university and its athletic director quickly disputed. "I have been made aware that comments from my press conference have offended some," Gundy said in a prepared statement on Saturday. "It was never my intention to offend anyone and I apologize. My first priority is and will always be the student-athletes and doing what is best for the program and the university." COVID-19 has shut down sports across the globe, and college football has set no date for players to return to practice.

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