Tuesday, April 14, 2020   
Dr. Cliff Story to give latest university health update in Thursday online session
Dr. Cliff Story will provide a health update for the Mississippi State community Thursday [April 16]. The online forum continues a series of university information sessions hosted by the director of University Health Services. The one-hour forum begins at 10 a.m. and may be accessed on Webex. Story will be available to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and address medical questions that may be submitted by viewers participating online. Story is a university physician at MSU's Longest Student Health Center. He is board certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Mississippi State to hold spring commencement online
Spring commencement is moving online this year for Mississippi State students, a decision made April 9 by the university so that graduates can get recognition for their hard work. "Many of our graduating students have expressed that some type of recognition is important. As we have all experienced over the past couple of months, engagement through technology gives us a chance to come together and give these graduates kudos for not only their accomplishments, but their adaptation and perseverance," said David Shaw, MSU provost and executive vice president. Also, graduates can participate in the traditional December graduation ceremonies with their regalia if they wish.
MSU history professor to host live forum on coronavirus concerns
A Mississippi State University professor specializing in the history of medicine is hosting a live Q&A on Wednesday to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtney Thompson, an assistant professor in MSU's Department of History, will use her expertise in the history of disease and pandemics to answer questions in a Facebook live event called "Understanding the Pandemic'" on Wednesday, April 15 at 2 p.m. on the Institute for the Humanities Facebook page. "We will discuss the nature of the current coronavirus crisis by drawing some comparisons with other historical pandemics, including the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, HIV, AIDS and perhaps other disease experiences like the bubonic plague, smallpox or cholera," Thompson said. Thompson said the event is designed to be interactive. Viewers can ask questions in the comments to help shape the conversation based on their interests and concerns. According to MSU's Institute for the Humanities director and history professor Julia Osman, this event is not necessarily looking at the pandemic from a medical standpoint, but instead, it is meant to shed light on how to make sense of this unique time.
Testing slows at Starkville drive-thru site to begin week
Testing appears to have slowed down at least slightly at Oktibbeha County's busiest testing site to begin the week as the county's total number of virus cases stayed at 37 to begin the week. Dr. Cameron Huxford, whose clinic has been conducting drive-thru tests on Strange Road since mid-March, has seen the majority of the area's positive cases resulting from tests done at his site across the road from OCH Regional Medical Center. To start the week, Huxford said the drive-thru site was slower than usual, conducting nine tests on Monday. "It seems to be decreasing in the drive-thru, nine [Monday], which may be a good thing," Huxford said. The lower number of patients coming through Huxford's clinic on Monday followed the same trend as previous days since the MSDH and University of Mississippi Medical Center held a drive-thru testing site in Eupora last Thursday, where 25 people were tested -- roughly the number of patients that had been coming through Huxford's clinic each day since the testing began in mid-March.
Yokohama plant in Clay County to remain closed until further notice
Yokohama Tire in Clay County will remain closed until further notice. The company said the continuing impact of COVID-19 is behind the decision. In a press release, Yokohama said it was committed to the health and safety of its employees, along with the community at large. Yokohama also shut down its plant in Salem, Virginia. Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi makes commercial truck tires.
Bonnet Carre Spillway closing on 11th day of operation, U.S. Army Corps says
The New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday that it will begin closing the Bonnet Carre Spillway as the flow rate of the Mississippi River slows down. Assessments along the river will continue because it is still high in the New Orleans area, where a spillway opening prevents flooding. The spillway opened April 3, to the consternation of Mississippi officials worried about what damage it might do to aquatic life in the Mississippi Sound unaccustomed to the lower salinity levels that accompany high volumes of polluted river water. Joe Spraggins, executive director the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, said he expected damage in the Mississippi Sound to be limited as long as the spillway closed by the end of April. This is the third year in a row the spillway has opened, which has never happened before. In 2019, the spillway opened for an unprecedented second year in a row and also opened twice -- for a record-setting 123 days total -- decimating oyster beds in the sound and harming other aquatic life.
Dillard's closes 200 stores, all six in Mississippi
All six of the Dillard's department stores in Mississippi have temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. They are among at least 200 stores closing out of 285 in the Little Rock-based retail chain. The closing of the Dillard's in Northpark mall in Ridgeland leaves the mall without any of its three anchor stores, the others being Belk and J.C. Penney. All stores are maintaining their online sales, according to company spokesperson Julie Johnson Guymon. The other Mississippi stores are in Biloxi, Meridian, Southaven, Vicksburg and Hattiesburg.
Businesses struggle with limited sales
Madison resident and business owner Marlana Walters said she is experiencing the worst career low in her lifetime. Walters, owner of Everyday Gourmet, said her business centers around things currently not allowed as they typically draw a crowd of 10 or more and do not comply with social distancing, including entertaining, conferences, events, weddings and more. "It's the worst thing that I have experienced in my career. It has brought me to my knees," Walters said, although she understands the need for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and government-ordered shelter in place in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Staff at Buffalo Peak, a family-owned outdoor retail business in Highland Village, has set up a Venmo account for donations to help its workers during this time while closed. According to a statement from Buffalo Peak: "One hundred percent of all donations will go directly toward Buffalo Peak employees. We know this is a trying time for everybody." The Venmo account will also serve as a way to make purchases. While the storefront is closed, Buffalo Peak is still offering curbside pickup and free delivery in the metro area.
$1.65 billion in contracts awarded to three Mississippi Coast shipbuilders
Shipbuilders in South Mississippi are considered an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic, and a trifecta of new contracts have been awarded to three Coast firms. The contracts awarded in the last three weeks include: United States Marine in Gulfport on Monday was awarded Monday a $108 million, five-year contract to build boats for the U.S. Special Operations Command. "This Mississippi-based company has grown to be one of the premier suppliers of special warfare boats to our nation's military, and the Combatant Craft Assault continues that legacy," said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker. Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula received a $1.5 billion contract for the detail design and construction of amphibious transport dock LPD 31. VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula and Moss Point was awarded a $39.9 million contract option in late March for the U.S. Navy's fourth Auxiliary Personnel Lighter–Small 67 Class berthing and messing barge.
NAS Meridian sailors to deploy to COVID-19 hot zone
Senior Medical Officer Lt. Commander Michael Racs is trying to steady his nerves as he anticipates being deployed to a COVID-19 hot zone. Racs said a call such as this is what he and others signed up for when they joined the military. "I think a lot sign up for military for that challenge and being part of something bigger than yourself," Racs said. "It is something we are prepared to do and we are glad to do it." Racs is a member of a Naval Air Station Meridian team that is going to be deployed to a COVID-19 hot zone. The LIMA team has already received a notice and will be notified of a location within 48 hours before leaving. The team will travel to Naval Hospital Pensacola, Florida on April 14 for a few days of training, before they're assigned a destination. The team will include seven other hospital corpsmen of various specialists and ranks. Hospital Corpsman Chad Nelson already left the base last week to serve on the USS Comfort.
Mississippi now has more than 3,000 cases
Mississippi now has more than 3,000 known cases of COVID-19, with 145 new cases and 13 additional deaths reported by the State Health Department Tuesday morning. In Northeast Mississippi, Lee County remains at 46 cases and has four deaths. Tippah County follows closely with regard to its case count, with one new case bringing its total to 45. However, the sparsely-populated Tippah County continues to have the highest known death toll in Northeast Mississippi, at 6. Mississippi's known total of COVID-19 stands at 3,087. The total hospitalization rate of known COVID-19 patients in the state is 29 percent, and large racial disparities continue to persist in the known cases with black residents overrepresented relative to their share of the population.
Mississippi inmate who died tested positive for COVID-19
A Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman inmate who died tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The unidentified man is the first reported inmate in the state prison system to test positive for the coronavirus. MDOC issued a statement Monday evening about the inmate, but didn't provide details on when the inmate died. Interim MDOC Commissioner Tommy Taylor told the Clarion Ledger on Monday night that he was informed Sunday of the inmate's death. He said the inmate died at Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville. He said the inmate had been sick for weeks. Last week, MDOC announced three employees tested positive for COVID-19. The MDOC statement said the inmate, who had underlying health conditions, was tested when he began exhibiting symptoms and was immediately medically isolated pending results. The results did not come in until after the inmate had died. Whether the inmate died because of the coronavirus has not been determined, according to Taylor.
Lenore Loving Prather, 1st woman Mississippi Supreme Court justice, dies
The first woman to serve as a Mississippi Supreme Court justice has died at the age of 88. Retired Justice Lenore Prather died Saturday at her home in Columbus, according to a news release issued by the court Monday. Prather was appointed to the nine-member court in 1982 by then-Gov. William Winter. She was also the first woman to serve as chief justice, holding that role from January 1998 until her retirement in January 2001. "She served with class, character, scholarship and impeccable integrity," one of her Supreme Court colleagues, Bill Waller Jr., said in the news release. Prather was interim president of Mississippi University for Women from July 2001 to June 2002. She earned her bachelor's degree from the school in 1953, when it was still called Mississippi State College for Women. She was one of only three women in law school at the University of Mississippi when she started studying there in 1953. She completed her law degree in 1955.
'Not just a 'woman's problem': Organizations call attention to scarcity of feminine hygiene, baby products
On a recent Wednesday morning, Chelesa Presley and one volunteer packed double the amount of menstrual products and infant diapers into brown paper bags and plastic wrap to distribute across the state. With jobs lost and schools closed due to COVID-19, the demand for these items are high, especially for some communities in the Mississippi Delta. But the supply is getting low, said Presley, executive director of the Diaper Bank of the Delta. The Diaper Bank, a nonprofit addressing diaper needs along with period needs and childhood poverty in North Mississippi, has stored more than 50,000 items -- tampons, pads, liners, baby wipes, and infant diapers, to name a few. The organization provides an essential service in Mississippi, where nearly 20 percent of the state lives in poverty, according to U.S. Census data. Now, there is another issue impacting women already struggling to make ends meet -- coronavirus has caused thousands of Mississippians to lose their jobs, and with the state under a shelter-in-place order until at least April 20, Presley isn't sure how long this batch of supplies will last.
Farm Bureau, food banks seek new voucher program
Tens of thousands of people are lining up for hours at food banks while American-grown fruits and vegetables and milk are being wasted by the ton. Can't USDA do something about the massive disconnect? The American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America, a network representing food banks, wrote to USDA in a letter released on Monday asking for a new program that would be more rapid than the existing commodity purchasing mechanisms the department already has at its disposal. The request is short on details, but the partnership between the Farm Bureau and food banks is notable. The groups told USDA they want a "voucher program that would deepen the relationships between farmers and food banks, allowing them to work directly with one another instead of relying upon third parties and what is sometimes a longer pathway to get food from farms to food bank shelves." They acknowledged there may need to be some "regulatory flexibility" to stand up such a program.
Virus reveals conflicting pressures in meatpacking plants
COVID-19 is battering the network of beef, chicken and pork packing plants as the virus spreads, forcing industry giants to temporarily close facilities as some workers die and others are sickened. The pandemic is uncovering the conflicting interests in the meat industry as plant closures affect both supply and demand, meaning farmers and ranchers are likely to receive lower prices when they sell and consumers pay higher prices at the store. Meanwhile, workers in the plants, many of whom labor in conditions that allow COVID-19 to spread easily, are sometimes absent for work in a sector deemed essential by the administration. And labor unions are demanding more protective gear -- and even higher pay -- for the employees. "If you go in these plants you have people working in very close proximity to each other," said Jayson Lusk, a professor and director of Purdue University's agricultural economics department. "It wasn't crazy to imagine that something like what we're seeing would play out."
A Second Round of Coronavirus Layoffs Has Begun. Few Are Safe.
The first people to lose their jobs worked at restaurants, malls, hotels and other places that closed to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Higher skilled work, which often didn't require personal contact, seemed more secure. That's not how it's turning out. A second wave of job loss is hitting those who thought they were safe. Businesses that set up employees to work from home are laying them off as sales plummet. Corporate lawyers are seeing jobs dry up. Government workers are being furloughed as state and city budgets are squeezed. And health-care workers not involved in fighting the pandemic are suffering. The longer shutdowns continue, the bigger this second wave could become, risking a repeat of the deep and prolonged labor downturn that accompanied the 2007-09 recession. The consensus of 57 economists surveyed this month by The Wall Street Journal is that 14.4 million jobs will be lost in the coming months, and the unemployment rate will rise to a record 13% in June, from a 50-year low of 3.5% in February. Already nearly 17 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits in the past three weeks, dwarfing any period of mass layoffs recorded since World War II.
Trump And Fauci Seek To Present United Front At Coronavirus Briefing
President Trump and the leading immunologist on the White House coronavirus task force attempted to present a united front Monday, following speculation of a shake-up within the federal pandemic response effort. Dr. Anthony Fauci -- one of the more recognizable faces on the task force -- and Trump pushed back on the notion that Fauci was on the outs with the president. The pair's remarks came in response to weekend comments by both Fauci and Trump that seemed to imply a degree of disagreement between the two on the national coronavirus response. In the at-times contentious briefing, Trump defended his handling of the pandemic, including showing reporters a campaign-style video of flattering media clips from throughout the crisis. As the pandemic continues to ravage the globe, Trump says he plans to unveil a council dedicated to "reopening" the country soon. Members of the committee are expected to be announced this week.
Army lab developing COVID-19 test for people without symptoms, key to 'normal' return
Researchers at the Army's premiere infectious diseases lab are working on a more sensitive test that could detect the coronavirus in people who have no symptoms -- a critical step in getting the nation back to "a new sense of normal," the lab's chief viral expert told McClatchy. The experimental work underway at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland comes amid increasing concern among public health officials that existing tests are producing false negatives, risking continued spread of the virus and exposure for people with more vulnerable immune systems. The Army scientists are focused on creating a "more sensitive" coronavirus test than those currently approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said John Dye, chief of viral immunology at Fort Detrick's research institute. The experimental test is part of a larger project at Fort Detrick to develop methods to identify all individuals who have had COVID-19, which will be the key to returning Americans "back to whatever the new normal is," Dye said.
IMF Says Great Lockdown Recession Likely Worst Since Depression
The International Monetary Fund predicted the "Great Lockdown" recession would be the steepest in almost a century and warned the world economy's contraction and recovery would be worse than anticipated if the coronavirus lingers or returns. In its first World Economic Outlook report since the spread of the coronavirus and subsequent freezing of major economies, the IMF estimated on Tuesday that global gross domestic product will shrink 3% this year. That compares to a January projection of 3.3% expansion and would likely mark the deepest dive since the Great Depression. It would also dwarf the 0.1% contraction of 2009 amid the financial crisis. While the fund anticipated growth of 5.8% next year, which would be the strongest in records dating back to 1980, it cautioned risks are tilted to the downside. Much depends on the longevity of the pandemic, its effect on activity and related stresses in financial and commodity markets, it said. "This crisis is like no other," Gita Gopinath, the IMF's chief economist, wrote.
Colleges in Mississippi face difficult transition to online courses
Mississippi instructors have reworked their lesson plans and grading requirements to comply with online distance learning. Andy Harper, Instructional Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi, says his assignments blend well with the online format, but for other professors, it's not that easy. After professors convert all their materials to online resources, some students still may not have access to it. Sade Turnipseed, Assistant Professor at Mississippi Valley State University, says half of her students don't have internet access. To help bridge the digital divide, Mississippi State University students are allowed to rent computers from the library. The school has extension service locations in every county that will serve as wifi hotspots. Sid Salter is Chief Communications Officer at MSU. "So we're doing everything that we can to keep our students on their path. And we know that this was not something they chose, not something they signed up for, so it's incumbent on us to try to help our students stay on their path, and stay on time and on task."
UMMC's Dr. LouAnn Woodward announces opening of respiratory clinic
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, who is the vice-chancellor and dean of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is "cautiously optimistic" about the leveling of the coronavirus outbreak, however, her and her team at UMMC are still working hard to provide patients with any and all resources during this unprecedented time. On the most recent episode of The JT Show, Woodward announced that the medical center will be opening a respiratory clinic to the public on Tuesday, April 14. "We have got a number of physician practices and clinics that are closed right now, yet they still have patients that belong to those clinics and feel as if they have some symptoms...so we started a respiratory clinic," Woodward said. Once a patient calls in and goes through a virtual screening, an appointment will be made for them. According to Woodward, the respiratory clinic will be another "avenue for people who right now may not be able to see their regular primary care doctor."
Mississippi leaders eyeing Itawamba Community College as possible care site
Mississippi's emergency management chief indicated the state may have narrowed its focus on where to go in north Mississippi if extra hospital beds are needed during the coronavirus pandemic. Mississippi Emergency Management Agency executive director Greg Michel said there have been discussions with the president of Itawamba Community College (ICC) about using its Fulton campus. Michel said during the state's Monday afternoon coronavirus news conference the site would be ICC or somewhere close to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. According to Michel, the site would not be for coronavirus patients but would provide step-down care. However, Gov. Tate Reeves added it appears the extra hospital beds will not likely be needed.
Itawamba Community College plans to transform facility into alternate care site for COVID-19 overflow
Itawamba Community College has plans to transform a facility on its Fulton campus into an official alternate care site if local rural hospitals were to become inundated with COVID-19 patients. While still in the planning phase, the facility would free up to 100 hospital beds during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak. The college is working with Gov. Tate Reeves' office, the Mississippi Emergency Management Association, Mississippi State Department of Health, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other officials on the plans. "We have the availability of a solitary residence hall and a large open space facility that can be used in this isolation setting," ICC President Dr. Jay Allen said. "While this may not be an ideal situation, we are glad to assist the state in this historic time of need. It is our hope that the projections prove accurate and our alternate care site is never occupied, but we are prepared if the need arises."
Supervisors give $125K to aid Forrest County students at Pearl River Community College
The financial burden of obtaining a higher education will get a little lighter for many Forrest County residents attending Pearl River Community College. On Monday the Board of Supervisors presented a check for $125,000 to the school to provide tuition assistance for county residents. "The Board of Supervisors is proud to help provide qualified health care providers and from an economic development perspective, skilled manufacturing technicians through PRCC's associate programs with Forrest County students primarily at their Forrest County campus," said David Hogan, board president. "It's a priority to assist Forrest County residents acquire successful employment opportunities locally." Accepting the check on behalf of the college was Jana Causey, vice president for Forrest County Operations at PRCC. "We believe this program has been a contributor to increasing our enrollment which means students are able to get an education that would not otherwise," Causey said.
Art programs at Auburn given a blank canvas during remote instruction
Biggin Hall is near and dear to Bryony Talley. In addition to being the building where her art classes meet, it's a retreat for her inspiration, a place usually buzzing with other Auburn artists. When she visited on April 3, however, she found it unnaturally quiet. She wasn't there to attend class or work alongside others in her major -- she would be in and out in minutes to gather her supplies and return to her hometown in northeast Alabama. "[The University] was only allowing one student in the building at a time," Talley said, sophomore in studio art. "All the classrooms were locked and they're normally not. Normally there's people in every studio at all hours of the day." Because of the University's recent move to remote instruction, classes have needed to quickly tailor their coursework to an online format, but it hasn't been so cut and dry for more specialized programs like Talley's. In the studio art program, she said students thrive off one another's feedback and professors' in-person guidance.
Other Lifelong Learning Institute at Auburn University providing medical masks
The Other Lifelong Learning Institute at Auburn University has begun making homemade masks for hospitals and first responders in the area. "OLLI at Auburn has a dedicated and talented base of members who are eager to help during this public health crisis," said organizer Scott Bishop, director of OLLI at Auburn. "One of the most extraordinary aspects of the Auburn Family is it capacity and willingness to help the community in times of need," said Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University. OLLI is not alone in its initiative. Other departments within the university have pledged monetary support, advice or supplies. The Auburn University Foundation is providing $20,000, the Auburn University Medical Clinic Director, Fred Kat, helped advise for the design of the masks, the Industrial Design Department Head, Clark Lundell, provided templates and several other faculty members and departments are providing help as well.
Texas A&M engineering students offering free online tutoring
Local elementary and middle school students can get free online tutoring from Texas A&M University engineering students to help with homework, reading assignments or general learning. The A&M chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers has 150 volunteer tutors ready to provide 30- to 60-minute sessions weekly for students who sign up. Registration is available via the Texas A&M SPE website at spe.tamu.edu. After signing up, a volunteer tutor will be paired up with the student. The tutoring will be done through Google Hangouts, a videoconferencing tool that is free to download and is compatible with Apple and Android operating systems. Many of the volunteers are bilingual and will be able to help students whose first language isn't English.
SEC honor awarded to U. of Missouri atmospheric sciences professor
University of Missouri professor Anthony Lupo received the Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award on Monday. Lupo is one of ten professors awarded so far this year. The SEC gives out the awards to staff members with notable undergraduate teaching and research records from each school in the conference, and then one professor from this group is awarded with the SEC Professor of the Year Award. Lupo has been teaching atmospheric science at MU for over 20 years, according to a news release from MU. After graduating with a doctorate in atmospheric science from Purdue University, he was drawn to the school by a desire to return to the Midwest and by the meteorology department's reputation. In 1997, his application was accepted, and he started as an assistant professor. As a professor, he said his main focus is really getting students to walk away from his classes "knowing a heck of a lot more about the topic." He balances traditional lectures, case studies and humor to accomplish this.
'We're on the edge of the precipice': How the pandemic could shatter college dreams
The pandemic and the nation's brutal economic collapse are combining to crush the college hopes of low-income and first-generation students. Some high school seniors are dropping their first-choice schools in favor of colleges that are cheaper and closer to home, early surveys have found. Others are thinking about going part-time, or taking a gap year so they can work and bail out families whose breadwinners are suddenly out of work. Those who work with low-income students worry freshmen from poor families who were sent home this semester may never return and high school seniors won't get the hands-on help they need with their financial aid applications. The effects of these decisions could ripple across not just campuses but the U.S. for years to come. Students could be stuck in lower-paying jobs for the rest of their lives, lacking the financial boost brought by a four-year college degree. Requests for additional financial aid will ramp up, and colleges with their own financial struggles may not be able to meet the demand. Colleges could see the widening of an already existing gap between low- and high-income students entering their doors, and many are trying to make it easier for applicants whose lives are in chaos.
How Has Grading Changed Since Coronavirus Forced Classes Online? Often, It Depends on the Professor
As Jenny Davidson tracked the news early last month about the coronavirus, it began to seem inevitable: Her university would move instruction online for the rest of the semester. She immediately thought about the chaos that would envelop her students' lives as they packed up their dorm rooms and moved home or elsewhere. To ease the strain, Davidson, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, told them they would all receive A's in the course. Columbia subsequently moved classes online and announced a mandatory pass/fail policy. Students will either pass a course or fail it, with no option to petition for a letter grade. As students were sent home and professors retooled courses for online delivery, instructors and colleges encountered a quandary about how or even whether to adjust how students' work is assessed. While the pass/fail option reduces the pressure to earn a high letter grade, students who choose it may be penalized later, when they apply to graduate school or for grants or scholarships. Professors at institutions across the country have developed an array of grading approaches based on the needs of their students and the course content.
Coronavirus could change where students go to college, if they go at all
Zach Klein wanted to go to college in a major city. The high school senior lives in Princeton, New Jersey, but he wanted to feel the energy of a big metro area. He was considering schools such as Fordham University in New York City and Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Now that the coronavirus outbreak is underway, Klein, 17, is wishing he had applied to a wider variety of schools, specifically those in rural areas that might be less affected by the virus. He is glad, though, that he applied to his mother's alma mater, Miami University in Ohio. It initially wasn't high on his list, but now he is reconsidering. After all, he said, what's the point of living in a bustling city if he can never leave his dorm under a quarantine? Klein joins thousands of students around the country rethinking their fall 2020 college decision -- or wondering whether they'll be able to go to college this fall at all. Their sundry reasons, according to surveys by college advisory groups, include a desire to be closer to home, disrupted financial situations and concerns that another semester may go digital-only.
Teaching lab sciences and the fine arts during COVID-19
Line by line and curve by curve, Michael McGreal recently transformed a block of ice in his backyard into a swordfish. He drew a small, socially distanced crowd as he went: the buzz of his chain saw and the spectacle of ice carving during a pandemic caught the attention of some passersby. McGreal was happy to provide distraction and a bit of beauty in a strange time. But this was about work. The chair of culinary arts at Joliet Junior College near Chicago was taping himself for an upcoming meeting of his ice-carving class. Typically, he makes swordfish live on campus in front of students, who then chisel away at their own blocks of ice with power tools. But this is the COVID-19 era, in which instructors who teach fundamentally hands-on courses across fields are finding ways to make remote learning work. Michelle Stocker, assistant professor of geobiology at Virginia Tech, agreed that "for this semester we can make it work. I wouldn't necessarily say we like doing this at all, though." Aided by the many scholars of anatomy who have rushed to share 3-D mesh and other kinds of skeletal images online over the last six weeks on such websites as MorphoSource and Sketchfab, Stocker has been able to continue teaching a lab course on vertebrate morphology with relative ease. Even so, one graduate student in the mixed-level class already asked to sit it on it the next time Stocker teaches it, for the authentic experience. Her answer? Of course.
Sociologists say their findings on student interconnectedness suggest caution needed in reopening
As colleges grapple with the question of whether and when it will be safe to resume in-person instruction, a newly published working paper analyzing course enrollment patterns at Cornell University found that nearly all students are connected via a shared classmate. "Over a typical week, the average student will share classes with more than 500 different students," one of the paper's authors, Kim Weeden, said in a summary of the results on Twitter. "This number is higher for lower-division students, because they tend to take more large introductory courses. The average student can 'reach' only about 4 percent of other students by virtue of sharing a course together, but 87 percent of students can reach each other in two steps, via a shared classmate. By three steps, it's 98 percent." Weeden and Benjamin Cornwell, both sociology professors at Cornell University, also found that a hybrid model in which large courses would be taught online and smaller ones would be taught via face-to-face instruction "would not appreciably reduce the interconnectedness of students in the full course enrollment network." They found that even after eliminating the 126 classes that had 100 or more students from the analysis, "the campus-wide network remains highly connected." "These results suggest caution in reopening colleges and universities for face-to-face instruction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," Weeden and Cornwell wrote in their working paper.
Study: Amid Pandemic, U.S. Colleges More Financially Vulnerable Than International Peers
U.S. colleges and universities are more vulnerable than international peers to financial hardships caused by coronavirus-related shutdowns, says a new report. Though schools across the globe are expected to see lower enrollment and lost income from ongoing campus closures, U.S. institutions will likely experience more stress due to their reliance on state funding, endowment investments and international students, according to a new report by Moody's Investors Service, a bond ratings agency. Moody's is forecasting a 2% contraction in U.S. GDP in 2020, which means states' revenue will likely take a significant hit in the near future. When it comes to appropriations, states may have to prioritize other priorities, such as healthcare, before education. As a consequence, public universities in the U.S. will be particularly vulnerable, as they will likely see funding from states dip. "State funding cuts represent an immediate risk for some U.S. universities," says Moody's.
Coronavirus outbreak adds urgency to searches for new college presidents
For college leaders, the coronavirus outbreak has been a crash course in crisis management. Closing campuses to protect students and staff has forced a migration to online learning for which many colleges were underprepared. Room and board refunds and other credits to students are creating holes in operating budgets. The outbreak's toll on the market has led to diminished endowment values and cautious donors. The boards of several colleges with retiring presidents are asking them to stay on through the outbreak. The University of Central Florida recently completed its search for a new president after moving the process online in March. Reflecting on the search, Beverly Seay, Board of Trustees chair and chair of the search committee, found that the online interview process actually yielded more community engagement. "We had over 1,000 [people] viewing in the open forums," she said. "Most of us had read through all of the 500 responses to the candidates, so we got a lot more feedback than we normally would have received."
Thanks to all our heroes helping during this pandemic
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: As we Mississippians know well, crises bring out the best and worst of us. Heroes emerge to do all sorts of innovative and caring things. Villains emerge to take advantage of the suffering in myriad ways. We should be thankful for the heroes among us and celebrate them. Here is a small collection of stories about those making a positive difference during this coronavirus pandemic. ... Hattiesburg Clinic, facing a shortage of coronavirus test kits, partnered with the University of Southern Mississippi to produce its own test kits. USM researchers not only provided materials needed for production but also pilot tested the kits to gain Mississippi Department of Health approval to use them. ... Taylor Machine Works in Louisville, using circuitry developed at the High Voltage Laboratory at Mississippi State University, is converting hundreds of battery powered ventilators stockpiled to fill temporary needs after disasters to AC power for longer term use at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. ... Then there are untold numbers of Mississippians making a difference hand sewing masks, delivering food to shut-ins, and more.

Mississippi State coach to players: 'I know what winning a championship looks like'
By now, Nikki McCray-Penson's resume is familiar to most Mississippi State fans. Successful college player at Tennessee. WNBA all-star. Olympic gold medalist. Championship assistant at South Carolina. Program builder at Old Dominion. Her track record was part of her pitch to Mississippi State players when athletic director John Cohen introduced her to the team via conference call, a necessity because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a video Mississippi State shared on social media, Cohen described McCray-Penson as someone with "incredible discipline." "She understands meaning of family," he said. "She has toughness, and she has unbelievable drive." Then, McCray-Penson took over in the video and said she was "truly honored" to be the head coach.
Under Nikki McCray-Penson, you can expect Bulldogs to retain a defense-first mentality
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Vic Schaefer has left Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs women's basketball identity likely will not change with the hiring of Nikki McCray-Penson. Under McCray-Penson, the Bulldogs likely will retain a defense-first mentality. If I heard Schaefer say it once, I heard it a hundred times, "I believe you win with defense." His teams played that way. From all accounts, McCray-Penson's will, too. Listen to Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor talk about McCray-Penson. "She's one of the best defensive players to have ever played the game," Chancellor said. "Honestly, I don't know if I ever saw one better. She was a great, great player and it was mostly because of her defense. I've always thought you could tell a lot about how a coach coaches by the way they played when they were a player. I believe that's the case with Nikki." Chancellor, also a Naismith (international basketball) Hall of Famer, went on: "Besides all that, she's a hard worker and classy person with a warm, infectious smile. She's a great hire for Mississippi State."
Analysis: With roster seemingly in place, Nikki McCray-Penson can win now at Mississippi State
Nikki McCray-Penson is used to rebuilding jobs. When she joined Dawn Staley at South Carolina ahead of the 2008 season, the Gamecocks had been to just two Sweet 16s since 1990. Over the nine years they spent together in Columbia, Staley and McCray-Penson brought four SEC regular season championships, three conference tournament titles and the 2017 national title. Though not quite to the same heights, McCray-Penson also bolstered an Old Dominion program that boasts a robust history but had been lacking for some time. Under longtime coach Wendy Larry, the Monarchs reached seven Sweet 16s and the 1997 national championship game before the team fell off. Despite that, if not for the outbreak of COVID-19, McCray-Penson was slated to guide ODU to its first NCAA tournament since 2008 and complete a turnaround that saw her win eight games her inaugural year in Norfolk to 24 this past season -- earning herself Conference USA coach of the year honors. But as McCray-Penson takes the reins from Vic Schaefer in Starkville, the Bulldogs are not a program in need of a rebuild. Rather, it's whether they're built to last that remains the largest question around the program.
Clemson and South Carolina athletic departments project modest financial hits from coronavirus
Clemson and South Carolina expect their athletic departments to take a revenue hit because of the coronavirus, but neither anticipates significant financial distress. Clemson estimates a loss of about $1 million due to the virus for the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The school expects to fall $3.4 million short of projected revenue, but will spend about $2.4 million less than expected because of the shutdown. South Carolina expects to turn a slight profit. "Unless there's some unforeseen circumstances that arise, we certainly expect to end this fiscal year in the black," Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner told The Post and Courier on Monday. Exact financial figures were not made available. Neither department as of Monday afternoon had laid off, furloughed or cut pay for any full-time employees -- coaches, administrators, tutors, academic advisors, mental health counselors and others. Clemson and South Carolina both generate much of their annual revenue during the football season, which concluded months before the pandemic forced a pause on American life. Medical experts have yet to point to a definitive date for reopening the economy, putting in doubt the projected start of the coming football season.
Colt Gaston resigns as Mizzou tennis coach
Missouri head tennis coach Colt Gaston has resigned to pursue other opportunities, the school announced Monday. Gaston came to Columbia in 2015 and served as an assistant coach for one year before taking the helm and leading the Tigers for the next four seasons. Gaston posted a 46-53 record as head coach. "It was a very difficult decision to make, as I've poured my heart and soul into making this program the best it can possibly be," Gaston said Monday in a statement. "However, I believe this decision is the best for me personally. I want to thank (MU athletic director) Jim Sterk for taking a chance on me and the community for its support. Mizzou will always hold a special place in my heart." Gaston said he informed his staff and players of his decision Monday before the official announcement. Gaston played at LSU and was a second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection in 2006 and an Intercollegiate Tennis Association Doubles All-American in 2007.
College football to have spring season? Chris Fowler's 'informed speculation' on potential scenario
Chris Fowler said it would be "impossible" for there to be a normal college football season as the country continues to flatten the curve due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ESPN analyst, however, does believe there will be a season in the 2020-2021 academic season. In an Instagram video in which he cites "informed speculation," Fowler lays out a couple of scenarios that could play out after talking with people he said were planning - not deciding - college football's course of action. "The first scenario is the season starts on time and the season isn't altered much," Fowler said. This seems unrealistic at this point. Still, other scenarios could see a delayed start to the season. "Scenario 2, the season starts late and maybe gets shortened a bit," Fowler said. So, the scenario that makes sense to Fowler is moving the college football season completely. "There is a third scenario that's gaining momentum, which may sound preposterous on the surface but I think a lot of reasonable people feel like it might be the most prudent course of action, and that is football in the spring," Fowler added.
ESPN Asking Top Talent To Take 15 Percent Pay Cut
ESPN has asked its 100 most highly paid commentators to take voluntary 15% pay cuts over the next three months, as the network deals with the financial implications from the sports world shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic, SBJ has learned. ESPN executives, including Connor Schell, Norby Williamson and Stephanie Druley, spent the morning calling the network's commentators and their agents to ask them to take what is being described as voluntary pay cuts. It is not known yet how many of the 100 commentators have agreed to the salary reductions, which ESPN has said would be in place for the next three months. In their phone calls with talent and agents, ESPN executives appealed to the commentators and their agents that these cuts would deter further furloughs for ESPN employees who may be in more precarious financial positions than some of the on-air commentators. The moves mirror salary cuts that hit ESPN's executive ranks earlier this month, which amounted to 30% for Exec VPs, 25% for Senior VPs and 20% for VPs.

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