Monday, April 20, 2020   
'Everyone is going through this together,' says Mississippi State's Kim Kavalsky
As Mississippi State continues to closely monitor COVID-19 news and information, the university's mental health outreach coordinator is offering tips for coping with stress and maintaining productivity during these uncertain times. Kim Kavalsky of MSU's Department of Health Promotion and Wellness said individuals and families practicing self-isolation and social distancing can remain close through phone calls, texting, FaceTime and other forms of technology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines social distancing as "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible." "It can get lonely practicing social distancing, and it's important that you continue to connect with your support system," Kavalsky said. "Everyone is going through this together."
MSU-Meridian student recognized with Spirit of State Award
Alan Bracken, a senior psychology major at MSU-Meridian is one of 15 Mississippi State students recently honored with the Spirit of State Award, the university's premier student recognition for exceptional personal contributions to campus life. "We congratulate our 2020 Spirit of State recipients on all of their many accomplishments and thank them for their service to Mississippi State," MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said in a Spirit of State recognition video on Facebook. The university typically honors Spirit of State recipients during a springtime campus ceremony but decided to host an online recognition program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MSU mailed each honoree a commemorative certificate and watch and encouraged the students to take selfies with their mementos -- a way to share their Bulldog spirit at a time when it is needed most. "Alan is always willing to volunteer to help with events, both on and off campus as a member of the Maroon Elite, a student ambassador organization on the Meridian campus," said Kristi Dearing, coordinator of academic advising at MSU-Meridian. "I know I can always count on him to not only be there -- but to be early."
Mississippi State invites community to report vultures
Vultures and airplanes have difficulty sharing air space. Now the predominantly black bird of prey may be sporting a bright orange wing tag, designed to help researchers study its flight path. Scientists at Mississippi State are asking for citizen scientists to report sightings to help determine, among other things, the flight pattern of the mammoth bird. Scott Rush, an associate professor in the wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture department and scientist in the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center, is spearheading the project. He and his team have begun the process of tagging vultures. Over the years, vultures have inflicted a toll on military and civilian aircraft. Navy student pilots at Naval Air Station Meridian encounter the birds on a nearly daily basis, making landing, taking off or any low-level flying a dangerous challenge. Moreover, it appears the scavenging bird population is steadily increasing.
Blackjack Road construction is underway
After years of planning, the repair and renovation of Blackjack Road is finally underway. This February, county supervisors selected the bid from Burns Dirt Construction, a Columbus-based, family-owned company with years of experience with both Oktibbeha County and Mississippi State University's campus. According to Nic Parish, Burns' vice president of operations and contracting, construction technically started in late March with preliminary engineering, traffic control and erosion control. The work currently being done with utility markers and traffic barriers is the last step before formal construction begins. The project is a culmination of efforts from the county and the university. According to Bricklee Miller, Oktibbeha County supervisor and Mississippi Horse Park director, the project is a testament to the collaboration of the county and university.
Testing tops 300 mark at Starkville drive-thru site as case number stays flat
Testing at the lone drive-thru testing site in Oktibbeha County has officially topped the 300 test mark as the case total for the county seems to have leveled off for now. Data compiled by Dr. Cameron Huxford, whose clinic has been conducting drive-thru testing on Strange Road, has seen the lion's share of confirmed cases for the county come through his site. Since testing began on March 16, Huxford's clinic reports testing 303 total individuals as of Sunday. April 6 represented the peak testing day at the Huxford Clinic thus far during the pandemic, with 40 individuals tested for the virus in a single day, which is higher than the entire number of those tested last week at the clinic. The week of April 6 was far and away the busiest for testing, with 89 tests conducted from April 6-10. The numbers dropped significantly over the following week though, as the clinic only tested 37 pre-screened individuals last week.
77-year-old from Oktibbeha County dies of COVID-19
A fourth person in Oktibbeha County has died from the COVID-19 coronavirus, coroner Michael Hunt confirmed this morning. The 77-year-old woman was a patient at OCH Regional Medical Center and had come from a long-term care facility. She died Sunday night. Hunt could not release any additional information as of press time. Oktibbeha County's first three deaths were an 89-year-old woman on April 5, a 62-year-old man on April 15 and a 63-year-old man on April 16. Lowndes County saw its first death from the virus on April 16. Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency Director Kristen Campanella said the state had 4,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 160 deaths. Oktibbeha County has 43 confirmed cases, Lowndes County has 32, Clay County has 25 and Noxubee County has 22.
Starkville aldermen to consider furloughs, pay cuts for city staff amid pandemic
Starkville aldermen will consider a proposed $737,500 in cuts to the city's budget to start to make up for what Mayor Lynn Spruill said she anticipates to be a $1.3 million sales tax revenue shortfall due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The cuts include a 20-percent pay cut for the mayor, board of aldermen and all city department heads and a furlough of 15 percent of the city's employees, both until further notice. Spruill's salary (an annual pay of $75,000) would be cut by $1,250 per month with this measure. The aldermen, now with an annual salary of $20,000, would see their pay slashed by roughly $333 per month. Other cost reductions include reduced gas and oil usage, forgoing training in some departments and choosing not to open the Moncrief Park pool or hire seasonal Parks and Recreation staff, Spruill said at the board's Friday work session.
Monday Profile: Birthday surprise helps Italian exchange student enjoy time in Starkville during pandemic
Carlotta Tenore had plenty of concerns before she came to Starkville from Milan, Italy, on Aug. 1, 2019, as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. Would she make friends at Starkville High School? Would she get along with her host family? Would she like the new city she was going to be living in? One worry, though, never crossed her mind. "I never thought about a global pandemic," Tenore said. The COVID-19 outbreak -- which hit Tenore's home country hard before it spread rapidly across her new surroundings -- cost the high school senior the end of her final semester, deprived her of the enjoyment of her weekly Rotary Club meetings and will likely delay her graduation as well. "It's not exactly how I thought it would be," Tenore admitted of her time in America. But less than two weeks ago, her host parents, Tim Schauwecker and Erinn Holloway Schauwecker, teamed up with the Starkville Rotary Club to provide Tenore with a sweet surprise that she never saw coming.
Mississippi tornadoes ravage Soso, poultry producers, other businesses
Somehow, Royals Western Store is open for business in Soso. A tornado on Easter Sunday tore off the lighted sign on the business, and the falling sign ripped off part of a wall. The roof on the two-story section of the store needs to be completely replaced as part of $50,000 in damage. Roughly a quarter mile away, a tornado ravaged Greer's, the only grocery store in Soso, and obliterated a home nearby. The scenes in Soso represent a fraction of the damage and disruption to life in Mississippi. At Greer's, frozen chicken and other food were condemned by the state Department of Agriculture. A lot of chickens never had a chance to make it to grocery stores in Mississippi because of tornadoes. Birds died at poultry farms and chicken houses around the state. The poultry industry was worth an estimated $2.7 billion to Mississippi in 2019, according to Mississippi State Extension Service. The most significant damage to the state's poultry industry was in Covington County near Collins, according to a report from the Extension Service. Early indications were that at least 90 poultry houses were damaged or destroyed, along with an additional six breeder houses.
Organizers to determine Mississippi Book Festival fate in May
The fate of the Mississippi Book Festival will be determined next month, once organizers have a clearer picture of how it could be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Organizers of the annual event will decide in May whether to cancel the 2020 festival or move ahead with it as planned. Right now, the event is slated for August 15, 2020. Executive Director Holly Lange said the decision has to be made so early, in part, for logistical reasons. "We don't want to get into contracts with vendors if we have to cancel in August," she said. "That way, vendors aren't out of money and we haven't made commitments we can't honor." In light of the outbreak, Lange also is concerned about whether authors would want to travel to the state this year and whether they would want to participate in an event that draws such a large crowd. Panel discussions, which are held at various downtown Jackson venues, including Galloway United Methodist Church and at the Mississippi State Capitol Building, are typically packed, with standing room only.
10 years after oil spill, will BP funds help Mississippi make up losses from coronavirus?
Ten years ago Monday, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform killed 11 people, the effects of the resulting spill reached South Mississippi long before the oil. Tourists stopped coming to the Coast, and teams of workers roamed the warm sand in hazmat suits instead of families in bathing suits. Consumers worried about the safety of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. Businesses closed. The explosion happened on April 20, 2010. Now 10 years later, a portion of the $2.2 billion BP paid Mississippi in damages could help Mississippi get through the economic crisis caused by the new coronavirus pandemic. "We're dealing with unprecedented times right now," said Sen. Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, a member of the Senate appropriations committee. He envisions many demands for assistance to help Mississippi's economy as part of the COVID-19 response. The Coast delegation is looking at every opportunity available to help strengthen the economy and operate the state, he said --- "Including but not limited to the BP settlement."
Mississippi betting revenue plummets in March
Mississippi's sports betting revenue fell sharply in the past month, after the popular National Collegiate Athletics Association basketball tournament was cancelled and the state's casinos shut from March 16. Revenue for the month dropped 86.8% year-on-year to $648,646.60 (or 69.2% month-on-month) after the March Madness tournament, which drove customer activity in the prior year, was cancelled as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Amounts wagered declined 66.8% from March 2019, to $10.7m, which also represents a 68.8% fall from February 2020. This was followed by the shut-down of the state's casinos from March 16, which due to retail betting being the only legalized option in the state, effectively brought the month to a premature end.
'We are still in the eye of the storm': Gov. Tate Reeves extends shelter-in-place order, reopens lakes and beaches
Beaches and lakes can reopen Monday, and even businesses deemed to be nonessential can reopen for curbside service, under an amended shelter-in-place order being enacted by Gov. Tate Reeves. Reeves, who is in his fourth month as the state's chief executive officer, announced the modified shelter-in-place order during a Friday morning news conference. The new order to combat the coronavirus will last a week, but he did not rule out reluctantly extending it. The initial order, which began on April 3, is set to expire at 8 a.m. Monday. The second order begins Monday morning so the modifications, such as the opening of the lakes and beaches, will not be in place this weekend. Of the shelter-in-place order, Reeves said, "This is not a sustainable position long term. I want it to end as soon as it possibly can." Reeves said, "I wanted to announce that we can all ease up and reopen today, but we can't. We are still in the eye of the storm" in trying to curb the impact of COVID-19 by social distancing and limiting travel.
Analysis: Mississippi mayors set local path on coronavirus response
Mississippi mayors are responding to the coronavirus pandemic with stern warnings about the importance of social distancing and friendly reminders of good health practices like keeping clean hands. Gov. Tate Reeves has said many times that the coronavirus response is federally funded, state supported and locally executed. That means mayors have lots of power to make decisions. Some mayors have butted heads with Reeves over local restrictions, including on the closure of bars and restaurants in cities before the governor set statewide limits. As the economy falters and tax collections fall short of expectations, city leaders are making tough decisions about curtailing local government jobs and services.
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben tests positive for COVID-19
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben announced on Facebook Saturday he tested positive for the coronavirus. Chief Ben said he currently does not have any symptoms, but has self-quarantined to follow the CDC guidelines. He also said he will move his office to his home and continue to work from there. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians have reported 16 positive cases out of 80 total tests. Chief Ben says it only takes one person that has been exposed to the virus to go out into the public and spread it unknowingly.
Unequal impact: Black Northeast Mississippians discuss impact of COVID-19 within their communities
On March 21, less than two months after the death of his wife, L.C. Conner was not feeling well and told his son so. In the days following, Marquel Conner, of New Albany, saw his father continue to ail, reporting flu-like symptoms. Testing identified the presence of COVID-19. His health continued to deteriorate. Within short order, the elder Conner was taken by ambulance to the hospital in New Albany, and was then later transferred to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo. He fought the disease there for a week and then died on April 1. When Marquel Conner lost his father to COVID-19 on April 1, official reports had not yet sketched out the brutal impacts of the pandemic on black Mississippians. But local communities were feeling the effects all the same. As of last Thursday, data from the Mississippi State Health Department indicates that 56 percent of all then-known COVID-19 patients in the state were black. Of the then-current number of deaths linked to COVID-19, 66 percent were black. Black residents are about 38 percent of Mississippi's total population, making them over represented in the state's known cases of the novel coronavirus.
More COVID-19 Testing Coming to Mississippi Delta
Delta Health Center and Community Health Center Association of Mississippi are working together to provide free drive-thru testing in the Mississippi Delta -- an area where many have pre-existing conditions but lack access to healthcare. Testing is for everyone -- no matter their age, health or the type of symptoms they are having. And they don't have to be screened first. Dr. John Fairman is with the Delta Health Center. He says testing can identify those without symptoms who still have COVID-19 -- and could spread the virus without knowing it. "We think it is our moral responsibility to do what we can to help those persons who are spreading it unknowingly realize that they have it and they can take proactive measures to protect their own life, as well as that of their friends, neighbors and coworkers and loved ones," Dr. Fairman said.
Fearing coronavirus, many rural black women avoid hospitals to give birth at home
Pregnant women in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi have been calling nonstop to CHOICES Midwifery Practice in Memphis, but the center is booked. The callers are terrified that they or their babies will contract the novel coronavirus if they deliver in hospitals. Some women live in rural areas far from hospitals and obstetrics units. The center's clients are primarily black and other women of color. "They've told us they're going to risk it all and have an unassisted home birth," said Nikia Grayson, a certified nurse midwife and director of perinatal services. "That's very scary, and that's what people are researching and seeing as a viable option." Many pregnant women are seeking out midwives to deliver their babies in homes or birthing centers rather than in hospitals, where they fear being exposed to the virus. But midwives and other maternal health experts say desperate women also are delivering without any medical assistance. "It can go left real fast," Grayson said.
After Inmate Deaths, Mississippi Faces Pressure To Reform Its Prisons
At the end of a workday, Cheryl Porter pulls into the gravel drive of her one-bedroom travel trailer in Brandon, Mississippi. "I actually want to get rid of this one and get a bigger one," Porter says. "I want a two bedroom 'cause when Michael gets home, Lord willing." Michael, her 29-year-old son, has been incarcerated since he was a teenager on several felony charges, including burglary. He's due for release in 2022. "If he gets to come home alive," she says. Her son was in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman when deadly riots broke out at the end of last year -- the result of gang warfare, according to state officials, and accounts from inside the prison. The state is facing lawsuits and a federal probe into rampant violence, decrepit conditions, and a culture of neglect and corruption that has plagued Mississippi prisons for decades. But some say the inmates are responsible for conditions inside prisons. "They're not taking care of what they were provided," says Jimmy Anthony, a retired police officer from Batesville. "I understand how people are concerned about prisons and the unfair conditions," he says referring to the widely available pictures of clogged toilets, busted sinks, and holes torn in walls. "Well, if they tear the sinks out, and they pull the piping loose to make tools to kill each other, who's at fault for that?"
Sizing up the new farm rescue package
President Donald Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled their plan to buoy farmers and ranchers who are hemorrhaging profits and dumping their products. Similar to its trade aid efforts since 2018, USDA plans to directly pay farmers based on their market losses and to buy up commodities and redistribute them to food banks. Where the money goes: USDA didn't publish the specifics on how the $16 billion for direct payments is divided among commodity groups, which farmers are eligible for aid or how the size of their checks will be determined. But Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations agriculture panel, shared some of the details: Cattle, dairy and hog farmers will get $9.5 billion in aid, with the rest divided among row crops ($3.9B), specialty crops ($2.1B) and "other" crops ($500 million). The latter group could include anyone from hemp or horticulture growers to sheep and goat farmers -- if they can show adequate price damage from the pandemic.
USDA unveils $19 billion aid plan for farmers, food industry
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue rolled out a $19 billion rescue plan Friday for a long list of agriculture sectors that say the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic through supply chains and markets will force many farmers out of business. Perdue is likely to come under scrutiny over fairness in distributing billions of dollars in direct payments to a cross section of farmers and ranchers, just as he was regarding distribution of trade aid to compensate farmers for lost foreign markets during trade disputes. However, few in agriculture are likely to question the need for help during the pandemic. In a statement, the secretary said he is pulling together funding and authorities provided in two economic relief packages and using $873 million of existing USDA funding for food purchases. The department's umbrella name for the aid package is the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Several agriculture-related industries and their congressional supporters, including apple, biofuel, bison, catfish, cattle, corn, cotton, dairy, pork and soybeans, have argued for aid since Congress approved the most recent U.S. economic relief bill.
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) welcomes program to benefit Ag producers hurt by COVID-19
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today welcomed news of a two-pronged coronavirus relief plan for U.S. agriculture, including provisions that should benefit Mississippi livestock and agricultural producers hurt by price disruptions and market loss with the onset of the COVID-19 national emergency. Hyde-Smith praised President Donald Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as they unveiled the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program on Friday evening. The program entails the distribution of $19 billion from the CARES Act. Approximately $16 billion is to be provided in direct support to producers, while an additional $3 billion in commodities will be purchased to support food banks, nonprofits and faith-based organizations. "Agriculture and livestock producers in Mississippi and across the country share in the extraordinary hard times facing our nation today. Coronavirus Food Assistance Program resources can help support their operations and the products they produce to feed and clothe Americans," said Hyde-Smith, who serves on Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Agriculture Committee.
Andrew Cuomo, coronavirus' golden governor, threatens to tarnish his own image
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's uncontrollable impulse to publicly shame New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is threatening to damage his well-crafted image as a model of managerial competence in a nation under siege. In normal times, the venomous Cuomo-de Blasio relationship is the most entertaining and enduring psychodrama in New York politics. The act grows wearisome, if not dangerous, when the stakes are so high. With some 700 New Yorkers dying a day, refrigerated morgues overflowing outside public hospitals and crematories running around the clock, Cuomo's inability to refrain from kneeing the mayor at the epicenter of a global pandemic threatens to rattle the confidence Cuomo has cultivated during the crisis. "I was definitely pleased with the way he initially seemed to put his ego and pettiness aside when coronavirus first hit New York," said Christina Greer, a Fordham University professor who had been a frequent critic of Cuomo before the pandemic. "And obviously [last] weekend to see him go back to the back-biting with the mayor was just such a disappointment." Greer was referring to a recent Cuomo aside that briefly punctured the projection of unity the governor is so fond of evoking.
Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association announces alumni awards
The Mississippi University for Women Alumni Association recognized three outstanding alumni for their achievements in the following areas: Distinguished Alumni Achievement, Outstanding Recent Graduate and Alumni Service. Recognized for their service to the university and significant contributions in their respective career fields were Bonnie W. Camp, PhD, MD (Class of '49, Denver, Colorado), Jennifer Suess ('06, of Washington, D.C.) and Phillip "Flapp" Cockrell, PhD, ('03, of Columbus, Ohio). The MUWAA Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Bonnie Camp, who spent her career as an educator, research scientist and doctor. She graduated from The W with a Bachelor of Science in psychology, and went on to obtain her doctorate in clinical psychology and became a medical doctor in pediatrics in 1965. The 2019 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award was presented to Jennifer Suess. She received her undergraduate nursing degree from The W, going on to obtain her master's in clinical nurse leadership. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in nurse leadership at Yale University. Phillip Cockrell was awarded the 2020 MUWAA Alumni Service Award. After graduating with a degree in family studies, Cockrell has served both his community, his industry and his alma mater. He holds a master's degree in educational leadership from Florida International University and a doctorate in urban higher education from Jackson State University.
U. of Mississippi professor dies due to complications from COVID-19
The third coronavirus-related death in Lafayette County was reported on Saturday, when the University of Mississippi announced professor Kevin Malloy had passed away after fighting the virus. The Mississippi State Department of Health reported a third death in Lafayette County Saturday morning, which was later confirmed by the University as Malloy, who died April 16 at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. Ole Miss Provost Noel Wilkin alerted students, faculty and staff of Malloy's passing in an email sent out on Saturday evening. Malloy was an instructor in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and had been employed at Ole Miss since 2006. Malloy's wife, Dr. Rhona Justice-Malloy, has also tested positive for COVID-19 according to Wilkin's email. Malloy is also survived by his daughter, Amanda. Rhona is a professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at Ole Miss. Wilkin noted that the University would normally not release the circumstances of the death of one of its faculty members, but Malloy's wife had granted permission for them to do so and to share her positive status.
MSDH, UMMC announce upcoming mobile testing sites
The Mississippi State Department of Health and the University of Mississippi Medical Center have announced upcoming locations for COVID-19 testing across the state. This week, the MSDH and UMMC will be setting up one-day testing sites in Bolivar, Yazoo, Montgomery, Perry and Claiborne counties with each site opening from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Testing is by appointment only. Mississippians who are screened as being at high risk for having COVID-19 are given an appointment at a testing site to provide a specimen sample, via a nose swab, without exiting their vehicle. The fastest and easiest way to get screened and tested is with the C Spire Health app. It's available daily from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Those using the C Spire Health app will be given an appointment if a medical provider determines their level of risk for COVID-19 is high. They'll be asked questions about symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. UMMC will contact those tested with their results.
Colleges try new options for spring graduates
College commencement ceremonies are being postponed and rescheduled statewide. Many college students are hanging up their cap and gown for now with the outbreak of COVID-19 preventing colleges from hosting graduations. Administrations are finding options that allow graduates to still celebrate their accomplishments, even if it wasn't the initial plan. Copiah-Lincoln Community College postponed its commencement ceremonies until Aug. 4 for all three campuses. A joint ceremony for all three campuses will be held on the Wesson campus. Public colleges and universities have made various decisions regarding graduation. Mississippi State University will stream a virtual commencement ceremony May 1. As of now, an additional option is to have Spring 2020 graduates participate in the December ceremony. Private colleges and universities have also made various decisions regarding graduation.
Arkansas colleges tallying costs for housing refunds
Students and their families are receiving reimbursement credits for campus housing shutdowns during the coronavirus crisis, with Arkansas colleges putting their costs into the millions. The decisions on prorating refunds have been described as the right thing to do by families and university leaders. But schools have taken various approaches in calculating reimbursement amounts as they deal with the sting of unplanned costs arising from the outbreak. Incoming federal aid to colleges is not expected to fully cover expenses, some schools said. The University of Arkansas estimates its housing reimbursement costs at about $3.9 million and meal-plan reimbursements to be about $2.2 million. Campus housing closed on April 3. A spokesman has said fewer than 200 students remain on campus, after about 4,950 students were in UA-managed housing earlier this spring. Asked if reimbursements could be lowered based on a student's institutional aid, Amy Schlesing, a UA spokeswoman, said in an email "no adjustment would be made on that basis."
U. of Florida labs team up to outfit hospitals
When the COVID-19 virus started to make a serious impact in the U.S., with hospitals nationwide overwhelmingly underequipped with protective gear, some Gainesville-area jacks-of-all-trades went to work. The collaborative effort started with Forrest Masters, a University of Florida engineering professor, sending messages to other labs on campus on March 19 to see if something could be done. By April 1, the group met for the first time. "He put a call out to all of the labs to sort of mobilize us," said Juan Griego, director of UF's DCP Fabrication Lab, which was created out of a collaboration between the School of Architecture and School of Art. "First he wanted to figure out how many labs were around and what we all had in equipment. A lot of labs were trying to figure out what to do. It was sort of scattered, and this was a good way to bring everyone together." Masters, an associate dean for research and facilities who works with Scott Powell at Powell Family Structures and Materials Lab, said it became clear to him hospitals were in need.
Texas A&M, TEEX explore robotics applications to protect health workers
Faculty and staff members from Texas A&M and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, as well as other universities in the country, are researching using robots to improve the safety of health care workers. Robin Murphy, chair of the Robotics for Infectious Diseases group, has been helping in the aftermath of disasters since 1995 and has been in 29 disasters where she helped introduce robots to the situations, she said. During the 2015 Ebola outbreak, Murphy, a Raytheon professor of computer science at A&M, was on the team with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, while Jason Moats, TEEX associate division director for emergency services training, was on the Ebola Task Force in Dallas. The goal is not to replace doctors, nurses or any other health care worker, but to reduce those workers' risk of contracting infectious diseases.
Brett Giroir, Trump's coronavirus testing czar, was forced out of a job overseeing a vaccine project at Texas A&M
Brett Giroir, the federal official overseeing coronavirus testing efforts, says that his experience working on vaccine development projects at Texas A&M University helped prepare him for this historic moment. He once said that his vaccine effort was so vital that "the fate of 50 million people will rely on us getting this done." But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired. His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M, the local newspaper reported, said he was "more interested in promoting yourself" than the health science center where he worked. He got low marks on being a "team player." During two recent interviews with The Washington Post, Giroir blamed his ouster on internal politics at the university, not on any problems with the project. "If you're not familiar with academic politics, it makes politics in Washington look like a minor league scrimmage," he said.
Students sue universities for tuition and fee refunds
"Are you a college student who was forced to leave campus? You may be entitled to compensation," a notice on announces. The website was created by a law firm currently capitalizing on the growing anger and activism by students -- and indignant parents, too -- who believe they're owed partial tuition and fee refunds for semesters cut short, courses moved online and off-campus, and unused housing and meal plans, among other disruptions that occurred at colleges and universities across the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The advertisement by the Anastopoulo Law Firm, which has offices throughout South Carolina, appears to have struck a chord. It is currently representing students in three class action lawsuits filed in the last two weeks against Drexel University, University of Miami and the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado, as calls from students for tuition and fee refunds grow stronger. Separate class action lawsuits against the Arizona Board of Regents and Liberty University were filed on behalf of students that attend one of the three institutions in the Arizona university system or the Christian liberal arts university in Lynchburg, Va.
Major Cost-Cutting Begins in Response to Covid-19, With Faculty and Staff Furloughs and Pay Cuts
Weeks after colleges across the country shut down campuses in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, there is little to indicate that anything approaching normal will happen on most campuses through the summer and possibly into the fall. The only certainty is that the disruptions caused by the pandemic will lead to budget shortfalls and cost-cutting at institutions of all types, probably for many months to come. The institution taking the broadest steps, so far, is the University of Arizona, which is projecting a $250-million loss in revenue because of the coronavirus, including $66 million by the end of its fiscal year, on June 30. Arizona announced on Friday that it would offset revenue losses with furloughs or direct pay cuts for nearly all employees until the summer of 2021. Robert C. Robbins, Arizona's president, said the decision to cut pay was a difficult one but would keep employees working during the crisis. "We could do this now or we could fire a bunch of people," he said. "Nobody wants to fire a bunch of people."
College seniors face job worries, family stress amid virus
Sent home from college because of the coronavirus outbreak, Carter Oselett is back in his childhood bedroom, paying rent on an empty apartment near campus and occasionally fighting with his parents over the television remote. He's handling the grocery shopping for an aunt recovering from COVID-19 and watching his mom, an optician, try to file for unemployment benefits. His summer program at a university in Brazil has been canceled and he's not sure he will graduate from Michigan State University in December as planned. And to top it off, he turned 21 quarantined at home with his folks. For many of the nearly 2 million people expected to earn U.S. bachelor's degrees in 2020, the pandemic has taken away their housing, friends and long-held dreams of a graduation ceremony. Some college seniors have been jolted into instant "adulting" as they try to support themselves or struggling family members. For others, it's adulthood delayed, as their post-college work, travel or internship plans are nixed for a dispiriting move back home.
'A Very Small World': How Data on Student Enrollment Could Help Colleges Stop Coronavirus's Spread
Last month the spread of the coronavirus forced classes online and sent students and faculty members home. College campuses, places that are designed to bring people together to learn and develop ideas, had become a potential hotbed for a dangerous disease. Now that governors are talking about a leveling of new coronavirus cases, colleges are laying off staff members, and record numbers of unemployment claims are being filed, campus leaders will need to devise plans to reopen their classrooms. A small number of researchers, who study and analyze social networks, think they can help. They're turning to data about students and what courses they take -- data collected in some cases to encourage more and deeper connections -- and using it to map the risks of bringing students back together. Last month the spread of the coronavirus forced classes online and sent students and faculty members home. College campuses, places that are designed to bring people together to learn and develop ideas, had become a potential hotbed for a dangerous disease. Now that governors are talking about a leveling of new coronavirus cases, colleges are laying off staff members, and record numbers of unemployment claims are being filed, campus leaders will need to devise plans to reopen their classrooms. A small number of researchers, like Weeden, who study and analyze social networks, think they can help. They're turning to data about students and what courses they take -- data collected in some cases to encourage more and deeper connections -- and using it to map the risks of bringing students back together. "Such a small-world community is great for spreading ideas," he said. "It's also, in some ways, great for spreading a contagious disease."
Students are weary of online classes, but colleges can't say whether they'll open in fall 2020
College students threatened to revolt if universities put another semester of classes online to avoid spreading the coronavirus -- but that's increasingly what campus leaders are considering doing. For Ryan Sessoms, a marketing student at the University of North Florida, the transition to online classes has been rocky. The thought of paying the same amount of tuition for another semester of lackluster classes is a nonstarter. It's harder to find the motivation to complete his assignments, he said, when not surrounded by his peers. "Fall is my last semester as well," said Sessoms, 24. "All my hard work I have put in, I'd prefer to walk across the stage and wrap up some last-minute connections on campus as well. If it's going to be online at the same tuition price, then I'll just wait for the spring semester." The reality is no one knows what the fall semester will look like, said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president for the American Council for Education, a national trade group of universities.
Students on campus talk about experiences
Most students have left campus now. Aside from a couple of exceptions, such as the University of Washington and Long Island University, colleges have closed residences to stop spread of the new coronavirus. Students now need permission to stay on campus. But many students who applied were not allowed to stay, said Chris Sinclair, executive director of external affairs at FLIP National, a nonprofit that supports first-generation and low-income students. "What they won't acknowledge," Sinclair said, making an example of the University of Pennsylvania, "is nearly everyone who applied to stay in campus housing because they couldn't afford to leave was rejected with no appeals process." Just how many students were permitted to stay obviously varies by institution. Some are hosting many students. At the State University of New York at Buffalo, 1,500 of the usual 8,000 students have been allowed to remain on campus. In contrast, at Georgetown University, which has nearly 7,000 undergraduates, dining workers have said the campus is only hosting about 200 students, mostly international.
This Harvard Epidemiologist Is Very Popular on Twitter. But Does He Know What He's Talking About?
Eric Feigl-Ding isn't shy about all-caps declarations. "VIRUS REACTIVATION!" the epidemiologist tweeted not long ago. "This is bad." He's fond of words like "wowzers," "oof," and "whoa." He's liberal with emojis too, sprinkling in plenty of yellow warning signs, red alarm lights, and crying faces. While other scientists adopt a sedate, explanatory tone, Feigl-Ding often reaches for the exclamation point. Feigl-Ding, who is a visiting scientist in Harvard's nutrition department, promotes himself as a source for unvarnished truth about the virus. Several epidemiologists who were interviewed for this article spoke on the condition that their names not be used. ("I'm not really looking for backlash," one wrote in a message. "I don't have 100k followers like him.") But one of the nation's most prominent infectious-disease researchers, Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard and director of the university's Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, has made no secret of his disdain for Feigl-Ding's virus-related commentary, repeatedly calling him out as an unqualified publicity-seeker.
Law Students in 'No Man's Land' as Coronavirus Delays Bar Exams
Sarah Beechay is graduating from Hofstra University's law school this spring and has a job lined up working in the family law department of the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County in New York. Now she isn't sure when she will be able to work. Like many graduating law school students, she has seen her plans turned upside down as the coronavirus pandemic has spread and led states to cancel or postpone the July bar exam. Passing the bar before practicing as an attorney is a requirement in most states. Ms. Beechay and the roughly 46,000 other soon-to-be law graduates across the U.S. who planned to take the July bar exam are now uncertain what their job status will be if they can't take the test that permits them to be an attorney. In addition to a delayed bar exam, the job market for lawyers is starting to dry up. Law firms have reduced staff and cut pay as courts are largely closed, settlement discussions are on pause and few new deals are being struck.
Highly contagious pandemic not ending in two weeks
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Call with doctor's office last week: "The doctor is not taking new patients at this time. Call back in two weeks when this pandemic is over." Gov. Tate Reeves: Friday Reeves extended his shelter-in-place order for a week until April 27, saying the state is not ready yet to re-open its economy. He did allow more small businesses to provide curb service. Latest stats: Mississippi coronavirus cases and deaths have not yet peaked. Reeves said he believes we're near that key turning point which will allow him to phase-in more economic activity. President Donald Trump: Ready to re-open the national economy, Trump announced new guidelines states can choose to follow to phase-in economic activity as certain criteria are met. He did not include widespread testing. Dr. Anthony Fauci: "We're not there yet," said The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and key public health advisor to the president. He added that the U.S. does not yet have in place the critical procedures needed to re-open the economy. Hmmm, which way is up?
Like everything else, state's transportation system likely to suffer due to COVID-19
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: It is too early to see actual data, but it is highly likely that among the many negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the tragic loss of life, will be to Mississippi's highways and bridges. The primary source of revenue for Mississippi's Department of Transportation is the state's 18.4-cent per gallon tax on motor fuels, primarily gasoline. With the state under a shelter-in-place order, it is logical to assume Mississippians are not driving as much. And if folks are not driving, they are not buying as much gasoline, resulting in a reduction in revenue from the tax on gasoline. If people are not driving as much, it also could be logical to assume damage is not being done to the state's infrastructure system. But many argue that the roads and bridges already were in a deteriorated condition that a lack of use cannot fix. Besides, the large semi-trucks that do the most damage thankfully are continuing to travel up and down the roads, delivering much needed supplies, such as food and presumably toilet tissue, though, it is often hard to prove toilet paper has been delivered by looking at the store shelves.

'My DNA is winning championships': How Nikki McCray-Penson's identity has been defined by her former coaches
As he introduced Nikki McCray-Penson as the eighth head women's basketball coach in school history on Tuesday, Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen echoed a familiar tone in his opening remarks. Cohen lauded McCray-Penson as "a proven winner," and "a dynamic recruiter," and "someone who understands, demonstrates and instills discipline while creating a sense of family." But for all the cliches and positive spin in Cohen's wording, his description merely scratched the surface of McCray-Penson's complex and evolving identity. "I'm a competitor," she said via Zoom on Tuesday. "My DNA is winning championships. I want to be playing on the last day every season. That is a beautiful thing. I know what it feels like, and I know what it tastes like. It's a beautiful thing."
Greg McElroy: College football will be played 'come hell or high water'
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans want college football this season. SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy took a different perspective Thursday during his appearance on "Golic and Wingo." The former Alabama quarterback said college athletics needs football in wake of the coronavirus. "Right now, football has to be played," he said. "Literally, it has to be played. So, they are going to play it come hell or high water. It's going to happen. It's just we're not sure exactly when it's going to happen. Because if it's not, college athletics will literally implode." McElroy said football programs make up 80 percent of the revenue for the majority of athletic departments around the country. "And television revenue is one thing, but for some of these schools in the Group of Five - the MAC and the Mountain West and the American Athletic Conference, even though they're essentially the Power Six -- they rely so heavily on that gate revenue it would be really, really difficult for them to put forth other programs to support other varsity sports and to provide 200 scholarships annually."
Aligned against an 'invisble enemy,' Louisiana athletic directors long on hope, short on answers
College athletic directors are adept at adapting. They deal with budget constraints, coaching changes, contracts and the annual prospect of some natural disaster, scandal or calamity enveloping a single sport, or the entire department. For even some of the worst scenarios, there is precedent. And remarkable adaptability. After Hurricane Katrina turned LSU's campus into a triage facility in 2005, the school hastily moved its football season opener with Arizona State to ASU's campus in Tempe. Tulane didn't play a single game in what was then its home stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which was ripped to shreds by the storm. But the Green Wave defiantly managed to complete an 11-game football schedule, which included "home" games in Tiger Stadium, Cajun Field, Shreveport, Ruston, Monroe and Mobile, Alabama. But there is no precedent for the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the United States economy to its knees and frozen American sports along with it. That leaves people like LSU's Scott Woodward grasping for answers against what UNO AD Tim Duncan aptly referred to as an "invisible enemy."
Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek named to governor's economic task force
Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek was one of 27 people appointed to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson's task force for economic recovery Saturday. Hutchinson announced the task force during his daily covid-19 news conference that was held at the Arkansas Department of Health. The committee includes representatives from various fields related to the state's economy. "Whether it is agriculture, whether it is outdoor recreation or whether it is sports, and sports is a part of our economy," Hutchinson said, "they will be represented in this task force, as well as the small businessperson, represented through the National Federation of Independent Business, having representative there, the retail associations will be on there, on and on down the list really every aspect of our economy. The expectation of this task force is that they will meet in their industry group and will look at their own guidelines within their industry to see how they can, consistent with the public health requirement, allow them to expand in their industry, to open up more and to put this economy in a higher gear. But to do it in a way that is consistent with public health requirements and that gives the public confidence." Hutchinson has announced a target date of May 4 to begin lifting some restrictions related to the coronavirus, but the date could be pushed back if the virus sees a resurgence inside the state.
Greener on the other side: Texas A&M grounds crew working hard to ensure playing surfaces better than ever when sports resume
With college spring sports canceled across the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic, few in the Texas A&M athletic department are deemed essential and still have to venture in to the Aggies' sports venues. Six of those employees are continuing their work in hopes that the grass will be greener on the other side of the outbreak -- literally. A&M athletics field manager Craig Potts and his staff have continued to maintain Aggie sporting fields from Davis Diamond to football's Coolidge Practice Fields. While there is certainly disappointment that there can be no games this spring, Potts said they want to utilize the extra time to produce the best playing surfaces Aggieland has seen when sports resume. "That's the hope," Potts said. "The more we can do on that, the better off we'll be in the long run." Athletic departments across the country are using this time for large-scale field projects, including laying down completely new turf, but Potts said they are trying to be budget conscious through the unknowns of the global pandemic and its effects on the economy.
Inside the Upside-Down World of College Football Recruiting During a Pandemic
Miller Moss had big plans for this spring and summer. One of the top quarterback recruits in the nation, Moss had scheduled campus visits to both LSU and Alabama, wanted to watch hometown programs USC and UCLA hold spring practice, and was set to participate in the preeminent high school quarterback event, Elite 11. At some point along the way, certainly by the time summer ended, he planned to publicly commit to a university. The coronavirus pandemic shattered all such plans. Like so many during this near nationwide shutdown, Moss's future is cloudy. His next move is uncertain. "I was hoping to make a decision in the next couple months," he says during a phone conversation this week from his Los Angeles home. "I want to lock in where I'm going to school, but I won't make any preemptive decision. It's set my timeline back." The month of April normally kicks off what experts might consider the busiest evaluation period on the recruiting calendar.
If colleges cut sports programs, could new models emerge?
College sports programs are already being cut and more are likely on the chopping block. The coronavirus pandemic has triggered fears of an economic meltdown on campuses around the country. The cancellation of the NCAA men's basketball tournament cost schools $375 million and more losses are expected, especially if football season is disrupted in the fall. In tough times, athletic administrators often drop sports programs to save money. In the past few weeks, Old Dominion said it will drop wrestling and Cincinnati will no longer have men's soccer. Warnings of tough times ahead have come from all over college athletics, even some of the wealthiest Power Five schools. Some observers see the coming crisis as a chance for schools to consider radical changes to how athletic departments are run or for new development paths to emerge for young athletes.
Youth Sports Worry About Weathering Pandemic, and Future Play
Like the hospitality industry, youth sports is a leisure industry reliant on bringing children and their families together on fields and in gyms. The summer, of course, is its big money season because family vacations can be planned around travel team tournaments -- in cities like Chicago or in sports megacomplexes, like LakePoint Sports in Emerson, Ga., that have flourished across the United States -- catering to and cashing in on the estimated 45 million children that play in youth leagues and on club teams. Before the spread of Covid-19, youth sports generated more than $15 billion annually and created the "tourna-cation circuit," as it is known, by becoming like a cruise ship for sporting families with all-inclusive offerings. Now, however, there has been an enormous reckoning, one that has evaporated tens of millions of dollars and is getting worse daily as events and camps are canceled into the summer. The damage is likely to be brutal and long-lasting. More than 113 youth sports organizations signed a letter asking Congress to create an $8.5 billion recovery fund to help the industry recoup anticipated financial losses from camp and event cancellations.

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