Thursday, April 23, 2020   
Mississippi State faculty use 3D printers to make face shields for Meridian hospitals
With personal protective equipment in short supply nationwide, a team of engineers and researchers at Mississippi State University is turning to an unlikely combination of 3D printers and office supplies to aid medical personnel tackling COVID-19. The team, led by faculty from MSU's Bagley College of Engineering and researchers at the university's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, is producing face shields by combining 3D-printed head bands with transparent plastic sheets and elastic bands generally found at office supply stores. The first batch was donated this week with more than 100 going to both Rush Foundation Hospital and Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian, where they are being used by medical professionals caring for patients with coronavirus. "We are in complete awe of the outpouring of support and donations we've received from residents and community businesses," Rush Health Systems Chief Executive Officer Larkin Kennedy said. "The donation of these face masks from Mississippi State University helps ensure our front-line staff remains safe while caring for patients."
Mississippi State faculty use 3D printers to produce face shields for Meridian medical personnel
With personal protective equipment in short supply nationwide, a team of engineers and researchers at Mississippi State University is turning to an unlikely combination of 3D printers and office supplies to aid medical personnel tackling COVID-19. The team, led by faculty from MSU's Bagley College of Engineering and researchers at the university's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, is producing face shields by combining 3D-printed head bands with transparent plastic sheets and elastic bands generally found at office supply stores. Working on the project are Linkan Bian, who holds the Thomas B. and Terri L. Nusz Professorship in industrial and systems engineering; Steve Elder, professor of agricultural and biological engineering; Wenmeng Tian, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering; Tyler Hannis, research engineer at CAVS; and Abdullah Al Mamun, an industrial and systems engineering Ph.D. student from Bangladesh. Bian said other university employees also have expressed interest in contributing to the project, including faculty and staff from both MSU's College of Business and Mitchell Memorial Library.
Mississippi State University research center tests materials for COVID-19 masks
As Mississippi's manufacturers begin producing supplies to aid in the state's COVID-19 response, Mississippi State University researchers are helping them assess the filtering capabilities of their materials.
Local Businesses Seek Guidance On Small Business Cares Act
Small businesses across the nation are facing unprecedented economic disruption from the coronavirus outbreak. Many owners are applying for loans to make it through these hard times. Others have not been as fortunate. In times of financial uncertainty, there aren't many resources for small businesses. However, in northeast Mississippi, many seek guidance from the Small Business Development Center at Mississippi State University. "I've counseled probably 35 different businesses in the last several weeks. A lot of those are pretty extensive conversations, so that's a large amount. It's set record levels for us in a short period of time," said SBDC Director Chip Templeton.
4-County extends deadline for broadband survey
4-County Electric Power Association has given its members longer to answer a broadband survey. The decision was made during the cooperative's April board meeting. In order to get more responses, the deadline to return the survey is now May 22. The survey was designed to gauge the interest of whether customers would want 4-County to enter the internet business and some of the costs that come with the business venture. "The COVID-19 pandemic sort of hit about the same time. And so, we understand that has disrupted a lot of people's lives, and so we want to make sure that everybody gets a chance to tell us what they think. So, we've extended the survey to May 22," said Jon Turner. The results of the survey will be announced at 4-County's annual meeting on June 4 and live-streamed on social media.
Meridian mayor considers extending curfew, adding COVID-19 restrictions
Meridian Mayor Percy Bland is considering additional restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including extending the city curfew to at least May 15. The 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. nightly curfew is set to expire on April 30. Bland said that he is leaning toward asking everyone going into a business in the city -- employees, customers and vendors -- to wear a mask. City employees have been asked to wear masks and have their temperature checked upon arriving at work. The city has 30 thermometers, but may need more, Bland said. Greater Meridian Health Clinic is expected to set up a mobile testing site for all city employees next week, Bland said. Lauderdale County has 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, according to the latest update from the Mississippi State Department of Health. The total is the highest in the state. Eighteen people from Lauderdale County have died from COVID-19, more than in any other county, records show.
Mississippi governor hints at reopening some businesses next week
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he expects to take steps next week in a gradual reopening of the state's economy during the coronavirus pandemic. He didn't specify what those will be, but said he's taking advice from public health experts. He also said he recognizes that people face economic hardships. "I've said it before and I will say it again: There is no such thing as a nonessential business to the owners and the people who depend on that business to provide for their families," the Republican governor said. Reeves's current statewide stay-at-home order expires Monday morning. He said Wednesday that he's likely to extend that order for people who are most vulnerable to the highly contagious virus -- those who are 65 or older or who have conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure.
Gov. Tate Reeves: Mississippi's full shelter-in-place unlikely to be extended
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday it's unlikely that the full statewide shelter-in-place order that's been in effect for nearly three weeks will continue past Monday. Reeves said he anticipates over the next two to four weeks, Mississippi's economy will reopen slowly in a piecemeal fashion -- possibly by industry or geographic region. Since April 3, Mississippi has been under a stay-at-home order, which bans gatherings of 10 or more people and generally requires residents to leave home only for essential reasons, such as grocery shopping and medical appointments. The order was extended once and is now set to end on April 27. "I do not think there's a high probability that we will extend the shelter-in-place in its entirety," Reeves said during a Wednesday news conference. Reeves indicated he plans to announce final decisions on what will happen after April 27 in the next 36 to 48 hours. Reeves has been saying he wants to reopen Mississippi's economy as soon as possible "in a safe, responsible way." State officials said the number of Mississippi's coronavirus cases has plateaued at a lower level than originally anticipated.
AG Lynn Fitch announces intent to file lawsuit against Chinese government
Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced on Wednesday that she intends to file a lawsuit against the Chinese government to hold the nation accountable for the "malicious and dangerous acts that caused death, health injuries, and serious economic loss from the COVID-19 crisis." Fitch's action follows a similar announcement by Missouri's attorney general. "Too many Mississippians have suffered as a result of China's cover-up," Fitch said in a press release. "They must not be allowed to act with impunity. Mississippians deserve justice, and I will seek that in court." Fitch, the state's top legal officer, is seeking monetary damages under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and has sent a letter to Mississippi's Congressional delegation asking them to become a cosponsor of a federal bill that would allow Americans to seek damages from the Chinese government.
Mississippi will sue China over coronavirus, attorney general says
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch intends to sue the Chinese government over the coronavirus pandemic, she announced Wednesday. The lawsuit intends to hold China "accountable for the malicious and dangerous acts that caused death, health injuries, and serious economic loss from the COVID-19 crisis," according to a news release from Fitch's office. In Mississippi, the coronavirus has sickened more than 4,700 people and killed more than 180. The state has been under a stay-at-home order since April 3, which has shut down large portions of the economy. Fitch is asking Mississippi's congressional delegation to support legislation that would make an exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to make it easier for Mississippi's pending lawsuit to proceed. The legislation is sponsored by Republican leaders from Arkansas and Texas and is called the "Holding the Chinese Community Party Accountable for Infecting Americans Act of 2020," according to the release.
Blues legend Bobby Rush recovers from coronavirus symptoms
Blues legend Bobby Rush is warning others about the seriousness of COVID-19. News outlets report Rush is feeling better after experiencing symptoms of the new coronavirus over the past several weeks. The 86-year-old was never officially diagnosed with the illness, but told news outlets he experienced weakness, a cough and a high fever. He says people should stay in the house and sanitize. Rush says he's looking forward to getting back on stage once it's safe for people to gather again. Rush is nominated for the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year award at this year's Blues Music Awards, which will be held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Q&A with Dr. Thomas Dobbs on Racial Inequity of COVID-19 in Mississippi
Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs is leading the public-health response to the COVID-19 crisis, directing the State Department of Health and serving as Gov. Tate Reeves' chief health adviser on the virus and the state's attempts to stem its spread. But the burden of COVID-19 is not equally shared among all Mississippians. Black Mississippians are acquiring the virus at a disproportionate rate, and their health outcomes paint an even harsher picture of health inequity. The day of this interview, MSDH announced a new total of 4,894 cases of COVID-19 across Mississippi, with 2,582 of those cases coming from the state's black population. Of the state's 193 deaths, there were 120 black fatalities. Earlier this week, MSDH reached out to the Jackson Free Press to schedule an interview on the subject of black health disparities in the coronavirus crisis, and MSDH's plans to address these burdens moving forward. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
African American leaders want more White House outreach to reduce coronavirus deaths
Black leaders say the White House has not made engagement with them a priority, despite assertions from President Donald Trump and his coronavirus task force that COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting African American communities. Conservatives are among those who are the most frustrated, telling McClatchy the White House should have worked harder to build up a robust network of black leaders it could tap into prior to the global health crisis. That coalition should have included activists with longstanding ties to the Republican Party, they said, highlighting a deficiency that black conservatives have been warning the White House about since Trump's first year in office. Conservative and liberal leaders disagree about the reasons why the coronavirus is afflicting African Americans at a higher rate in states like North Carolina, South Carolina and California that have released demographic data. Conservatives are more likely to point to individual behavior and pre-existing health conditions, while liberal leaders often cite systemic problems that keep African Americans from getting better jobs and improving their access to health care.
Mississippi voters fear a recession and disruptions in elections, survey says
Nearly 90% of voters in Mississippi are concerned with the coronavirus pandemic and the chances of themselves or someone in their family becoming infected. That's according to the spring quarterly State of the State Survey conducted by Millsaps College and Chism Strategies. Nathan Shrader is with Millsaps College in Jackson. He says more than two-thirds of Mississippians are also worried about being able to afford medical coverage for themselves and their families during the outbreak. "Seventy percent of Mississippians are concerned more now than pre pandemic about affording healthcare costs and insurance expenses," says Shrader. At the same time, the survey results show fear over economic security is weighing heavily on Mississippi voters. Thousands of local businesses are closed due to concerns over the coronavirus and more than 63,000 people are reported unemployed. The State of the State survey also finds more than 70% of voters are concerned about disruptions in the upcoming November elections due to the virus. The majority of the electorate now favors transitioning to a vote-by-mail system in November. The survey was conducted from April 8-9, 2020 with a sample size of 508.
Opponents Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mike Espy both support expanding small business loan program
Both Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy, her Democratic opponent in this November's general election, tout the virtues of the Payroll Protection Program that provides forgivable loans to allow small businesses (less than 500 employees) to meet their payroll during the current economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both support expanding the program that was originally passed by Congress as part of a larger federal rescue package in late March. "It is a no-brainer," said Espy recently of replenishing the program that has run out of money. Hyde-Smith had touted expanding the program, but has been critical of the congressional Democratic leadership for insisting that other items be included in the legislation. The $484 billion bill passed Tuesday by the Senate includes an additional $310 billion for the Payroll Protection Program, plus funds for hospitals that have been hit hard in dealing with the pandemic and funds for coronavirus testing.
Stopping virus a huge challenge at crowded US meat plants
Daily reports of giant meat-processing plants closing because workers tested positive for the coronavirus have called into question whether slaughterhouses can remain virus-free. According to experts, the answer may be no. Given that the plants employ thousands of people who often work side by side carving meat, social distancing is all but impossible. Because of that, the risk of catching the virus will likely remain even as companies take numerous steps to increase protections for workers. "It's not that people aren't trying. It's just that it is very difficult to control this illness," said Dennis Burson, an animal science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Even companies with the best intention may have trouble given that plant layouts make 6-foot distancing difficult, said Jim Roth, director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University.
Poultry industry struggles with plunging sales, coronavirus deaths
Poultry producers are suffering through plummeting sales as restaurants, schools and other venues close their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. The industry has also found itself in the same company as pork plants and slaughterhouses that have reported outbreaks and deaths related to the virus. There are now five coronavirus-related deaths at poultry processing plants, matching the death toll at pork and beef production facilities. But unlike the other industries, chicken processing plants have largely remained open, with closures being limited to a few days just for cleanings. And there appear to be fewer large-scale outbreaks at plants, though some chicken processors have been reluctant to release figures on how many employees have tested positive. Some experts say the highly regulated sanitation levels for chicken processing plants, particularly to guard against Salmonella, could be contributing to the lower case counts. Experts caution, though, that poultry supply chains aren't immune to the same problems that have hit other food industries.
Why Farmers Are Dumping Milk, Even as People Go Hungry
In normal times, the bulk bagging machine in Owyhee Produce's packing facility spins 50,000 onions -- red, yellow, and white ones -- into orange netted bags each hour. The bags go to a produce distributor and then to a food-service business: a restaurant chain like Applebee's or Chili's, a baseball park, a university dining hall. The bulk bagger at Owyhee Produce, an onion, asparagus, and mint farm straddling the Oregon–Idaho border, isn't getting much action these days. Most food service venues are closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders. Distributors are struggling to reroute produce before it spoils. Farmers are grappling with hiccups in the supply chain and are hunting for customers to take their crop. Americans still have to eat during a pandemic. But they're eating differently: less at restaurants and cafeterias, more at home. Changing where a farm's output goes is easier said than done. The people who plant, slaughter, process, pack, and move it aren't sure what's next. Federal and state regulators are relaxing some rules in ways that might ease the pain.
Why farmers are dumping milk down the drain and letting produce rot in fields
Many Americans may be surprised and confused to see farmers dumping milk down the drain or letting vegetables rot in their fields. Why would they be destroying food at a time when grocery stores and food pantries struggle to keep pace with surging demand during the coronavirus pandemic? As sociologists with a specialty in agriculture and food, we study how the structure of the food system affects people's lives and the environment. Seeing food destroyed at a time when people are going hungry highlights both short- and long-term problems with this system. Surprisingly, the supply chain for food bears a striking similarity to that of another product that has experienced shortages: toilet paper. Like the toilet paper market, the food industry has two separate supply chains for consumer and commercial use.
26 million have sought US jobless aid since virus hit
More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down, the government said Thursday. Roughly 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began forcing millions of employers to close their doors. About one in six American workers have lost their jobs in the past five weeks, by far the worst string of layoffs on record. That's more than the number of people who live in the 10 largest U.S. cities combined. Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%. The painful economic consequences of the virus-related shutdowns have sparked angry protests in several state capitals from crowds insisting that businesses be allowed to reopen. Thursday's report, showing that the pace of layoffs remains immense, could heighten demands for re-openings. Yet those scattered re-openings won't lead to much rehiring, especially if Americans are too wary to leave their homes.
State, city workers could be next wave of layoffs as tax revenue dries up amid COVID-19
State and municipal employees could be among the workers who lose their jobs in the next wave of layoffs as tax revenues that pay their salaries plunge during the coronavirus pandemic. Sales and income taxes, two of the most critical revenue streams for states and some cities, are expected to plummet as shoppers are confined to their homes, tourists postpone travel, and businesses ranging from restaurants to retail shut down and cut jobs. Now, cash-strapped governments are starting to pare their payrolls, joining the growing list of employers looking for ways to make ends meet. "There were significant layoffs and furloughs of state and local employees during the Great Recession and that is likely ... in this economic crisis as well,'' says Jared Walczak, director of state tax policy for the Tax Foundation. He notes some federal aid is available and that projects can probably be delayed to increase available funds for the short term. "But neither of these is likely to fully close that gap.''
COVID-19 vaccine development raises numerous questions
As scientists race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, policymakers and regulators face challenging questions including how to balance efficacy demands with a tight timeline, plans to pay for a potential vaccine and the best way to distribute it. Public health experts have indicated that a COVID-19 vaccine, which will take at least a year to 18 months to develop, is important for a return to normalcy. Last week, the National Institutes of Health announced an initiative to increase collaborative efforts to develop a vaccine and treatments for the COVID-19 pandemic. Several scientific and policy implications must be weighed as a vaccine is developed. One question is how high the standards for a vaccine's efficacy should be. Supriya Munshaw, senior lecturer at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and an expert in commercializing new medical technologies, said it's important to differentiate between vaccine efficacy, which is measured in clinical trials before the vaccine is approved, and vaccine effectiveness, measured after the vaccine is approved and is being administered in the general population.
Georgia's reopening plan gets thrown a curve as President Trump criticizes Gov. Kemp
President Donald Trump threw Georgia's easing of restrictions to quell the coronavirus into disarray late Wednesday, criticizing Gov. Brian Kemp for acting "too soon" to reopen shuttered businesses. Trump doesn't have the authority to force Kemp to reverse his decision. But the president holds tremendous political sway over Republican governors such as Kemp, who won his party's gubernatorial nomination in 2018 largely on Trump's endorsement. "I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree -- strongly -- with his decision to open certain facilities," Trump said in a White House briefing on the coronavirus outbreak. "It's just too soon. I think it's too soon." Shortly after Trump's remarks, Kemp said on Twitter that he is staying the course. Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, said he understood Kemp's desire to address economic hardships. But he said: "We need to make sure we have appropriate safeguards in place, and individuals need to make their own decisions. Just because the governor says gyms are open doesn't mean you need to go to gyms."
Louisiana moving closer to meeting President Trump's recommendations for reopening, John Bel Edwards says
Louisiana is moving closer to meeting 14-day trends recommended by the White House to begin reopening, officials said Wednesday. Gov. John Bel Edwards plans a Monday announcement for what coronavirus-induced restrictions on businesses and residents will look like on May 1, when the state's stay-at-home order is set to expire. The next phase of restrictions in Louisiana is highly anticipated as economic losses -- and the state's outsized death toll from the virus -- continue to mount. While officials race to figure out what measures will be in place starting next week, Edwards asked business leaders for help "managing expectations," indicating the state will still mandate strict social distancing when the economy begins to reopen. When that reopening begins, the governor also said the state will be watching closely for a spike in cases, which many epidemiologists say is all but certain, to make sure Louisiana doesn't again near a point of overwhelming hospitals. If that happens, Edwards could halt the reopening or ratchet restrictions back up again.
As society leans on COVID-19 testing to reopen, test problems remain, says U. of Tennessee Health Science Center official
A key medical leader involved in COVID-19 testing in Memphis says the area's virus testing system remains so flawed that it cannot be relied upon as a tool for quick reopening of society. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has said the ongoing expansion of COVID-19 testing will help residents make informed decisions and enable businesses to start opening up in the next few days. Yet Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean of the medical school at University of Tennessee Health Science Center, said he sees limitations of the power of testing to combat the pandemic. And his institution is one of the key players in running tests in Memphis. "What I'm gonna argue for is very much a phased-in plan (for reopening society)," Strome said. "Because if we go back to work right now, people are going to die. We're not prepared ... You can talk about contact tracing, you can talk about testing, you can talk about that all you want. It doesn't work that well." Others in the medical community argue that widespread coronavirus testing could play a positive role in helping the society reopen.
Researchers Cast Doubt On Theory Of Coronavirus Lab Accident
Virus researchers say there is virtually no chance that the new coronavirus was released as result of a laboratory accident in China or anywhere else. The assessment, made by more than half-a-dozen scientists familiar with lab accidents and how research on coronaviruses is conducted, casts doubt on recent claims that a mistake may have unleashed the coronavirus on the world. The accident theory has been prominently advanced by the Trump administration in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a set of State Department cables leaked to The Washington Post pointed to U.S. safety concerns at labs in Wuhan, the city where the virus emerged. Intelligence agencies are currently assessing the possibility of an accident, and last Wednesday, President Trump promised "a very thorough examination" of events. But after corresponding with 10 leading scientists who collect samples of viruses from animals in the wild, study virus genomes and understand how lab accidents can happen, NPR found that an accidental release would have required a remarkable series of coincidences and deviations from well-established experimental protocols. "All of the evidence points to this not being a laboratory accident," says Jonna Mazet, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Davis and director of a global project to watch for emerging viruses.
Sweden resisted a lockdown, and its capital Stockholm is expected to reach 'herd immunity' in weeks
Its neighbors closed borders, schools, bars and businesses as the coronavirus pandemic swept through Europe, but Sweden went against the grain by keeping public life as unrestricted as possible. The strategy -- aimed at allowing some exposure to the virus in order to build immunity among the general population while protecting high-risk groups like the elderly -- has been controversial. Some health experts liken it to playing Russian roulette with public health. But now, the country's chief epidemiologist said the strategy appears to be working and that "herd immunity" could be reached in the capital Stockholm in a matter of weeks. "In major parts of Sweden, around Stockholm, we have reached a plateau (in new cases) and we're already seeing the effect of herd immunity and in a few weeks' time we'll see even more of the effects of that. And in the rest of the country, the situation is stable," Dr. Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden's Public Health Agency, told CNBC on Tuesday. While the number of new cases appears to be declining, achieving herd immunity has proved controversial. Tacitly allowing the virus to spread (albeit having put measures in place to slow its spread) puts the elderly and people with existing health conditions at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill and, potentially, dying.
Jackson attorney, local restaurants unite to feed U. of Mississippi Medical Center workers
Jackson attorney Richard Schwartz is teaming up with local restaurants in Jackson to feed University of Mississippi Medical Center workers this weekend. Schwartz is partnering with Broad Street Bakery, Pig and Pint, and Pizza Shack of Jackson, the attorney announced Tuesday in a news release. The donations will include box lunches from each restaurant. The UMMC Office of Development said food donations on the weekends are harder to obtain compared to weekdays. Since health care workers are not able to leave the hospital to get lunch, Schwartz decided to ensure workers would have lunch for the entire weekend. "Although the donation is to show support for front line health care workers, it will also support local restaurants and help out during a time of struggle for them," Schwartz said in a news release.
Suspension of teacher license test amid COVID-19 crisis likely to 'open up some doors' for potential educators
After serving in the military and graduating from Delta State University, Rolander Harbin, 46, has been teaching health and physical education for more than two decades in Mississippi Delta schools. While teaching, Harbin lacked proper certification. He spent over 10 years taking and retaking sections of the Praxis licensure exams, easily missing the mark by two to three points on a given area, he said. Frustrated and overworked as a long-term substitute, he lost his job last year to a certified teacher, he said. Harbin's story isn't uncommon. This test, which served as a hurdle for many, will no longer be a barrier for candidates for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus. In late March, the Mississippi State Board of Education suspended multiple requirements for teacher candidates surrounding licensure. For the time being, the Praxis is no longer necessary to obtain a license. "As with any assessment, there are some people who just don't test well and so I think this will provide an opportunity for some potential teacher candidates who have not been able to obtain a license in the past," said Kelly Riley, executive director of Mississippi Professional Educators. But some education experts think Mississippi is taking the licensure waivers too far.
Alternative graduations: Mississippi high schools get creative on honoring seniors
High schools across Mississippi are looking for alternative ways to celebrate seniors' graduations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many high schools in the Jackson metro as well as across the state have announced plans to have graduation ceremonies that follow guidelines of the Mississippi Department of Health. Others are still figuring out plans. Some are getting creative. Clinton High School will have a three-night graduation ceremony to honor its graduating seniors. "We are saddened that the class of 2020 has lost so much of the normal recognition given to graduating seniors," said Clinton Public School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Martin. "We have worked very hard to try and recognize them in conducting the graduation ceremony in this manner." While graduation is usually held at the A.E. Wood Coliseum on the Mississippi College campus, this year's graduation will be held in front of CHS. Each ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. and will be live streamed on the district's website as well as the district's YouTube channel.
'A father figure': Auburn's School of Building Science body remembers Roger Rice
Students and faculty of the McWhorter School of Building Science say they lost more than a professor this week -- they lost a friend and mentor who went the extra mile to see the program provide both career and personal development. Roger Rice, who was a senior lecturer in the School of Building Science, recently died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to Auburn University. Members of the Auburn Family in the school shared how he left an impact on its program and their lives. "We're a very tight group of faculty," said Richard Burt, McWhorter Endowed Chair and head of the school. "We tend to get on really, really well, so Roger was part of the family. He was seen as a father figure." Rice, an Auburn native, began teaching at the University in 2017 as an adjunct professor before becoming a senior lecturer. To many, Rice transcended the title of professor. Though his time teaching at the School of Building Science was brief, some say he became the face of the program and will be a lifelong inspiration to them.
How are Louisiana universities handling financial struggles? Plans underway to cut budgets
As Louisiana colleges and universities began Wednesday to officially access federal dollars aimed at recovering from campus closures to slow the community spread of coronavirus, the head of the LSU system asked department heads to prepare for a 5% to 10% cut in funding. "I have one loop left in my belt and I anticipate tightening that to the last loop and then when I get to that if I have to. I'm going to punch more holes," LSU System President Tom Galligan told the Faculty Senate. "I would be naive and I would be misleading you if I did not say that I anticipate that the next fiscal year will be a challenge." LSU Provost Stacia Haynie said it's possible that highly paid administrators, some of whom make more than $500,000 a year, could see temporary pay cuts. Such reductions in compensation would need the approval of the Board of Supervisors, but "everything will be on the table."
Students, parents question U. of Missouri officials in virtual town hall
Returning to campus, retrieving belongings from residence halls and meeting internship requirements during a stay-at-home order were a few of the questions addressed by University of Missouri leadership on Wednesday. The virtual town hall was targeted to students and families. It's the third virtual town hall, with the first two aimed at faculty and staff and the community. A question submitted by a parent asked University System President and interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi how he would mitigate risk to students when they return to campus in the fall. The questioner was concerned that the coronavirus will still be active and students will be returning from throughout the world. "Those are topics we are discussing with top leaders on a daily basis," Choi said. "We are moving ahead with plans to return to campus in the fall," Provost Latha Ramchand said on the topic.
U. of Missouri suspends MBA program to new students
The University of Missouri has suspended its Crosby Master of Business Administration program to new students in the fall semester. MU spokesman Christian Basi said the action was taken because of declining enrollment in the program. The program will be retooled and brought back. "There's something in the program that's not meeting students' needs," Basi said. Students currently in the program will continue. Students who had enrolled for the fall semester will be offered other master's degree programs in the Trulaske College of Business. The university also offers an online executive MBA program that is continuing, he said. The suspension isn't related to the university's budget situation or the COVID-19 pandemic, but had been discussed for months before the crisis, Basi said.
Block COVID-19 from infecting humans? U. of Louisville touts a 'breakthrough'
The University of Louisville announced a coronavirus "breakthrough" Wednesday that even University of Kentucky fans can get behind. The school said researchers have developed technology that it believes will block coronavirus from infecting human cells. It is seeking fast-track development for the new technology and has applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for testing approval. "The technology is based on a piece of synthetic DNA -- an 'aptamer' -- which targets and binds with a human protein called nucleolin," the university said Wednesday. "Early tests show that this aptamer may stop viruses, including novel coronavirus, from 'hijacking' nucleolin to replicate inside the body." The piece of DNA was formerly applied as a potential drug against forms of cancer, the school said. Paula Bates, a researcher at the university involved with the technology, said UofL is one of the few universities in the country able to do experiments using the coronavirus. The university's biocontainment is the only one of its kind in Kentucky.
Colleges offering more for students perks, money to enroll after coronavirus
Free classes! Free parking! Prime dorm rooms! More cash! The more they worry about whether students in this year of the coronavirus will show up in the fall, the more admissions officers responsible for filling seats at colleges and universities have started sounding like the salesmen on late-night TV infomercials. "The gloves have come off," said Angel Perez, vice president for enrollment and student success at Trinity College in Connecticut. He laments this trend. "You're talking about a scenario where colleges need to enroll students at any cost." But wait! There's more! Put down a deposit and, at some schools, your tuition will never go up. Like to sleep in? Other colleges will give you early registration privileges so you don't get stuck with morning classes. Still others are throwing in free food, free football tickets, even free books autographed by celebrity faculty members in residence. All of this is driven, of course, by the existential danger that too few students will sign on for college this fall because of the pandemic, which is wrecking family finances and raising fears that campuses will not reopen anyway, forcing a continuation of online teaching.
Community colleges, regional publics lost in formula for CARES Act funds
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education released figures on how much each college will receive from the $12 billion set aside for higher education in the coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress last month. It's hard to say definitively who the winners and losers are, as the funds were parsed out by a specific formula. But that formula proved to disadvantage some of the institutions that may need the most help right now. "I think it was pretty clear from Congress that the intent was to really focus on the need of students at institutions from the fact that they so heavily weighed the formula toward full-time Pell Grant recipients," said Megan McClean Coval, vice president at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. One of the key phrases in that sentence? "Full-time Pell Grant recipients." Sixty-five percent of community college students are enrolled part-time, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Part-time students are also more likely to be nonwhite, low-income and first-generation students than their full-time counterparts.
People of color, disproportionately affected by pandemic, expect to need more education if laid off, survey shows
Most Americans -- 62 percent -- are worried they will lose their jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak and the economic downturn it has caused, according to an ongoing survey from Strada Education Network. More than 50 percent have so far lost jobs, hours or wages. People of color are more worried. Almost three-quarters, 72 percent, of Latino and Asian Americans fear losing work, as do 68 percent of black Americans, compared with 57 percent of white Americans. Strada's survey on the pandemic's impact on education and work has entered its fifth week. During a webcast Wednesday, researchers pointed out a key theme emerging from the weeks of results: people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the outbreak. "With the widespread disruption of work and loss of hours and jobs and income, it's playing out differently across different communities," said Dave Clayton, senior vice president for consumer insights at Strada. "The Latino American population are more likely to lose hours or shifts or wages, but the black American population is more likely to actually be laid off and lose a job."
Harvard Bows to Pressure From Trump to Forgo Coronavirus Relief Money
Harvard University officials announced Wednesday that they won't seek or accept federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, following a public dispute with President Trump over whether the university needs the money. The decision, which follows similar announcements from Stanford and Princeton Universities, came after the Trump administration stepped up pressure on elite universities to forgo the aid that Congress had set aside for all higher-education institutions that receive federal money. The money is intended to go to colleges regardless of the size of their endowments. But critics, including Trump, have blasted relatively wealthy universities for not turning it down. Harvard's endowment was valued at $40.9 billion before the recent economic downturn, making it the largest academic endowment in the world. Endowment experts point out, however, that donors typically specify how their gifts should be used, and that it isn't always feasible, or wise, to divert endowment funds, as Harvard's critics are calling on it to do.
Under pressure from Trump administration, wealthy colleges forgo stimulus funds
As the world's richest university, with an endowment of roughly $40 billion, Harvard University is frequently an easy target for those who want to make a point about the uneven distribution of wealth. So it's not surprising that Harvard was at the center of a dispute Wednesday in which Trump administration officials sought to embarrass universities with big endowments for considering taking federal stimulus funds meant to help needy students. Wednesday afternoon, 24 hours after President Trump predicted at a news conference that "Harvard's going to pay back the money" and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urged institutions "with large endowments" to forgo funds from the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, the university announced that it would, indeed, do just that. An official of a major research university said it was "totally predictable" that the Trump administration would use the current situation for an "attack" on prestigious universities. Every wealthy university would essentially be a "pass-through" for the funds to its financially neediest students, the official said, citing numerous students whose "summer earnings are not going to happen, or whose families' financial circumstances have changed for the worse."
Coronavirus in Texas: UT-Austin to make a decision on fall semester in June
In-person classes in the spring have already been canceled across the state by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Now attention is turning to what will happen at schools this fall. University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves and Interim President Designate Jay Hartzell said in an email to the campus community Wednesday that a decision for the fall semester will be made by the end of June. They said that will allow the university time to gather more information about the spread of the new coronavirus, the availability of testing and what social distancing measures will be needed. "This timing will enable faculty to prepare their classes and curriculums so that they can deliver the extraordinary educational experiences UT is known for," they said in their email. "It will also provide time for our dedicated staff members to reopen the facilities, integrate new learning technologies and prepare to implement new health-conscious practices and policies."
U. of Idaho plans in-person graduation Aug. 1, to resume in-person classes Aug. 24
The University of Idaho plans on conducting an in-person graduation ceremony Aug. 1 and plans on resuming in-person classes Aug. 24, President Scott Green said in an email to the campus community Wednesday. Green's email said a "simple but meaningful" commencement ceremony for spring 2020 graduates is being planned for Aug. 1 at the Kibbie Dome. There will not be ceremonies at UI branch campuses, but the graduates from those centers are invited to take part in the Moscow ceremony, Green said. Spring 2020 graduates are also invited to participate in the winter 2020 or spring 2021 ceremonies, Green said. The UI president added that the fall semester will start "with our traditional Vandal Welcome." "All indications at this point are that we will return to live delivery of classes and full campus and statewide operations Monday, Aug. 24, 2020," Green said in his email.
High school seniors are considering a gap year or a different college due to coronavirus
Most high school seniors have resigned themselves to the fact that their senior spring -- once full of milestone events like grad night, prom, and graduation -- will be spent indoors. For those planning to head off to college in the fall, the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic and what lies beyond summer is a cause for concern. Hundreds, if not thousands, of college campuses have closed, truncating not just the academic year but also the opportunity for prospective students to tour campus, attend admitted student events, and get an in-person feel for the school. Already, various universities have considered the possibility that campuses won't reopen in the fall. In this scenario, many first-year students could enroll in classes without even setting foot on campus until 2021 --- something that's led students of all ages to reassess their finances and plans for the coming year. On social media, some students are actively considering a gap year --- a privilege that's usually associated with people from more affluent backgrounds, since many colleges don't offer financial aid for the period out of school. While studies have found that a gap year or time off from school decreases the likelihood of college completion, some students might not have a choice in delaying college, especially if their finances have been upended by Covid-19.

2020 NFL Draft: What to expect from Mississippi State football players
t's been more than 10 years since at least one former Mississippi State player wasn't selected in the NFL Draft. That streak isn't expected to end this week. Mississippi State has more than a handful of hopefuls wanting to hear their names called when the draft starts Thursday night at 7 p.m. CT. There won't be three MSU players picked in the first round like last year. That was the only time it's ever happened in program history. There might not even be one first round selection out of Starkville. But as the picks play out when the draft resumes with the second and third rounds Friday at 6 p.m. and concludes with rounds four through seven Saturday at 11 a.m., many Mississippi State players could come off the board. Here's a list of which Bulldogs might get picked and when.
Derailed by injuries at Mississippi State, Tommy Stevens hoping to be NFL Draft's most versatile quarterback
Tommy Stevens' first start at Davis Wade Stadium was scripted perfectly. In just over one quarter of play, Stevens led Mississippi State on scoring drives of 61 and 81 yards, respectively, to vault the Bulldogs ahead 14-0 in their home opener against Southern Mississippi. He had completed all nine of his passes. The MSU faithful gleefully willed his performance with the clanging of cowbells. It was quickly greeted with deafening silence. Racing out of the pocket, Stevens was drilled into the ground. He hobbled off the field and headed to the locker room for further diagnosis. His shoulder was separated. In weeks to follow Stevens showed flashes of brilliance, sure. But those momentary glimpses were brutally marred by further physical ailments. A high-ankle sprain against Tennessee limited his production on Rocky Top. A broken rib and punctured lung against Abilene Christian forced him to miss both the Egg Bowl and MSU's appearance in the Music City Bowl against Louisville. But now a few months removed from his time in Starkville, Stevens has quickly become one of the more intriguing late round quarterback prospects available in the 2020 NFL Draft.
5 things to know about former Mississippi State cornerback Cam Dantzler
Cameron Dantzler knew what he wanted. Dantzler declared for the NFL Draft weeks before his Mississippi State Bulldogs played in the Music City Bowl last December. Months later, the week has come for the cornerback to become a pro. Here are five things to know.
An NFL Draft Guide for a Mississippi State fan
While the bright lights of the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas won't greet prospects at this year's as was originally scheduled, the 2020 NFL Draft should mark the beginning of a number of former Mississippi State players' professional football careers. And though MSU likely won't match the three first-round picks it boasted a season ago, there's ample NFL talent in the Starkville contingent eligible for this year's event. That said, here's a look at where MSU's most draftable prospects could fall this weekend.
Power Five meet pressure on name, image, likeness with jump in lobbying spending
With college athletes' ability to make money from their name, image and likeness becoming an issue for state lawmakers across the country, the Power Five conferences have responded by dramatically ramping up their Congressional lobbying efforts, new federal disclosure forms show. The quarterly records also show that the NCAA, the NFL, Major League Baseball and the Rose Bowl Operating Co., made lobbying efforts on issues including those related to the $2 trillion coronavirus-related stimulus bill that became law in late March. One of the NFL's disclosures specified that its interest was in the measure's "business/tax related provisions." MLB's disclosures were not specific. The NCAA's disclosure stated its interest was in "provisions related to financial support for higher education." "The NCAA has signed a number of letters supporting the higher education community and our members more broadly," association spokesperson Stacey Osburn said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. "The letters were initiated by the American Council on Education and had the support of several other higher education associations. In many cases, they sought funds for students and schools through the various federal programs."
Bill Hancock addresses CFP speculation due to COVID-19: 'There's been no talk of expanding'
Bill Hancock gets it. The executive director of the College Football Playoff knows college football fans are passionate about their sport. They want answers. So does he. With the sports world still on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, speculation is rampant about how the college football season will play out this fall. "College leaders are meeting and talking -- separately from CFP -- about September and beyond," Hancock told on Wednesday. "Whatever happens regarding September will directly affect CFP, but it's just too early to know. We're planning CFP as we would normally." He understands - and appreciates - the desire of fans to want answers. He just doesn't have them. "We did talk about coronavirus, and I reviewed how our staff is approaching it," Hancock said. "Of course, we talked a little bit about the season, but only in a general sense. We agreed it is just too early for us to know what will be happening come September."
AP analysis: Expect college football to take a slow road back
While professional sports leagues can ponder plans to isolate their athletes from the new coronavirus and have them play in unusual, even secluded places, college sports have no such option. Pro sports leagues can get creative with solutions to save their multibillion-dollar businesses. College sports will take a slower road back. "The most at-risk sport of starting up again, in my opinion, is collegiate athletics," said A.J. Maestas, the CEO of Navigate Research, which consults with professional sports leagues and college conferences. "There is less of an incentive and less alignment with the ultimate mission of the entity they work at, live at. That fund them." The commissioners of the 10 Bowl Subdivision conferences made it clear to Vice President Mike Pence last week: There cannot be college sports played if campuses are not open. If university leaders do not deem it safe for students to return to classrooms and dorms, locker rooms and practice fields will also remain closed. As big as the business of college sports is it is dwarfed by the business of higher education. For example: The University of Alabama's budget in fiscal 2018 was $1.03 billion. Its athletic budget in 2018-19 was $164 million.
NCAA coaches' groups oppose changes to Division I rules amid COVID-19
Representatives of 17 coaches' associations have written to NCAA President Mark Emmert opposing a recent proposal from a group of college conference commissioners that the association consider providing schools temporary relief amid the coronavirus pandemic from several Division I membership requirements, including one that sets the minimum number of varsity teams Bowl Subdivision schools must field. At present, FBS schools must field at least 16 teams, with a minimum of six men's teams and a minimum of eight women's teams. Division I schools must field at least 14 teams. In a letter to Emmert dated April 10, the commissioners of the Group of Five conferences -- the American Athletic, Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt -- said: "In order to provide NCAA Division I institutions flexibility in addressing the challenges for the foreseeable future, we request temporary relief from several regulatory requirements for a period of up to four years. A blanket waiver for relief will provide institutions the ability to make prudent and necessary decisions for the financial well-being of the institution."
Massive cash infusion looms for Power Five schools: They just have to get there
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is a speck of a hint of a reason to be optimistic about the financial future of college sports, according to AJ Maestas, the CEO of Navigate Research. The highly-influential research analytics firm, which has clients throughout professional and college sports, crunched the numbers and likes the dollar figures visible on the major college horizon. It's just that the path to the pots of gold will be treacherous. "Collegiate athletics will be just fine in a few years,'' Maestas said during our latest podcast. Maestas is deeply skeptical about the likelihood of a football season -- especially a season with fans. He's not convinced the university presidents and chancellors will have the stomach for it. The impact of a canceled season would be devastating to athletic departments, and Maestas expects sports teams will be eliminated. But on the other side of the pandemic -- once we reach the middle of the decade -- two expanded revenue streams suggest a bright outlook for budgets.
Lane Kiffin: Son Knox should be Knoxford, Ole Miss coach says
Lane Kiffin joked Wednesday that a name change might be in order for his 11-year-old son, Knox. Knox was the perfect name during Kiffin's one-year stint as Tennessee's coach. But now that he's the coach at Mississippi? "Now his name is Knoxford, because he can't be Knoxville anymore," Kiffin deadpanned in an interview with Laura Rutledge on the SEC Network. "It's got to be something to do with Oxford. Knoxford." Although Knox was a fitting name for Kiffin's son while he was the coach here, he later told ESPN that Knox's mom, Layla, actually picked the name before Kiffin became the Vols' coach, while the family was still in California. The coronavirus pandemic halted spring practice across the country, and SEC coaches are limited to remote video instruction with players. "Obviously it's not ideal for first-year staffs to come in and have this situation, but we're just making the best of it," Kiffin said in his SEC Network interview.
Texas A&M updates football season ticket holders on options concerning the season
Texas A&M plans to have a football season this fall, but it will give season ticket holders refund options if the season were altered or canceled. The options were included in an email A&M athletic director Ross Bjork and 12th Man Foundation president and CEO Travis Dabney sent to ticket holders Wednesday. If the season were canceled, season ticket holders would be offered refund options for the cost of tickets and seat contributions. Options would include applying the refund as a credit toward 2021 football season tickets, refunding the full amount to the method of payment originally used or donating all or a portion of the refund to the 12th Man Foundation. If the 2020 season is played but "materially altered" the email said there are many scenarios that could result in season ticket holders being impacted. "Regardless of the scenario, Texas A&M and the 12th Man Foundation will act in the best interest of our season ticket holders and honor their financial commitment," the email said.
How well insured is South Carolina if football season is canceled?
The college football world can only wait, months away from the 2020 season, but some early signposts and deadlines for the coming season are closing in amid the coronavirus pandemic. The University of South Carolina projects to settle on if there even will be a fall semester on campus at some point between May 15 and June 15, according to school president Robert Caslen. Students aren't allowed to return to until the start of August, which means an exception would need to be made for student-athletes to return earlier in order for the football season to start on time. And if the season gets canceled, the financial implications will be significant. Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner explained the insurance situation in a radio interview Tuesday with 107.5 The Game. "We do (have) some cancellation insurance and it's handled at the conference office," Tanner said. "But COVID-19 is not a part of that. We have had protection on some tornadoes and hurricanes and, in the past as you probably know, we've had some protection there, but not for this scenario. We do have some insurance that I won't get into detail about, but it's not nearly to the degree that we would be in really good shape."
Will Wildcats play football as planned? 'My sense is, right now, I just don't see that happening,' President Robbins says
University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins said in a radio interview Wednesday that he's "really concerned" about whether college football will be played this fall, and that the UA is still awaiting guidance from the NCAA in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Robbins told "The Buckmaster Show" on 1030-AM that while the UA is planning to hold in-person classes starting in August, he's "really concerned about whether we're going to be playing football in the fall." "My sense is, right now, I just don't see that happening," he said. Robbins is both a medical doctor and arguably the Wildcats' most high-profile sports supporter. Robbins especially has an affinity for football, the sport he played in high school. (Robbins was a quarterback of note who had planned to walk on at Ole Miss before suffering a knee injury). When it comes to the Wildcats playing football, "as much as I want it, it just seems as though if we do play any football in the fall, it's going to be delayed," Robbins said.

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