Friday, April 24, 2020   
Gov. Reeves highlights businesses, universities at news conference
Gov. Tate Reeves conducted a press briefing Thursday to give an update on the current situation of COVID-19 in Mississippi and highlight businesses from across the state, as well as Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi, that are helping in the fight against COVID-19. He brought in eleven businesses to share what they are doing to make a difference during the pandemic. Among other things, some manufacturers of beer or liquor are making hand sanitizer, for example. University education and research is also doing its part. "We have two young engineering students who have figured out how to take a traditional tool box and turn it into an ultraviolet light sterilization machine that's portable," said MSU vice president, Dr. Julie Jordan. "The hospitals can put their N95 masks in and in a matter of minutes they can sterilize those masks, instead of taking hours. And being portable the hospitals can move it around to different areas as they need."
CampusKnot sees business boom during pandemic
In the past four weeks, the learning management system CampusKnot received 8,000 visitors to its website, with schools at all levels worldwide forced into distance learning by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. CampusKnot offers software that allows interaction between students and teachers. Educational institutions from all across the world -- from Italy to Ghana to the Philippines, to name a few -- reached out to the Starkville-based company seeking to use their social media-like platform's teaching tools. CampusKnot has been "hit up right and left" by professors across the country and works with them individually or with institutions as a whole, co-founder and CEO Rahul Gopal said. Such fast growth and widespread reach was beyond imagination when Gopal and two other Mississippi State University students began forming the company in 2012, he said, or when they secured their first investors in 2015. Gopal, Hiten Patel and Perceus Mody, all from India, launched CampusKnot through MSU's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the College of Business. The company was based in MSU's business incubator building at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park and now operates out of an office downtown and has an office in India.
Mississippi State accommodates campus residents amidst COVID-19 pandemic
Mississippi State University's campus may be barren due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but several hundred students are still residing at MSU, getting food from the Perry cafeteria and doing their homework in their dorms as if it was any other semester. Dante Hill, MSU's associate director for occupancy management and residential life, outlined the reasons behind university housing remaining open to some students. "Although the university has shifted gears to online classes, we do still see a need for students to remain on campus because they might not have viable Internet access at home, or they might not have a good home life," Hill said. Erin Sanders, a senior aerospace engineering major residing at Ruby Hall, described how the lack of sufficient internet access at her home deterred her from returning home. "While I love my family, it is a lot easier to focus on my academics in an environment that the dorms provide," Sanders said.
COVID-19 putting Mississippi State's summer programs in jeopardy
This is the time of year when many kids start deciding which summer camps they will choose. COVID-19 is challenging how camps will possibly open in just a few short months, leaving those summer programs in jeopardy. Mississippi State University hosts a variety of opportunities for current and potential students. The university's Chief Communication Officer, Sid Salter, said this pandemic continues to change how the university operates and the people who will soon fill up classrooms. "It's had an impact on those on campus who provide the staffing for these camps and it's obviously affected the most important person to Mississippi State and that's our students and our future students and their families," said Salter. Salter said summer programs for students are very important to the university and for potential students looking for the right college.
Business brief: Reed Mosher named director of Institute for Systems Engineering Research
Reed Mosher, an engineer with decades of military research experience, is now leading the Institute for Systems Engineering Research (ISER), a collaborative effort between the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and Mississippi State University.
41-year-old Starkville native, former music minister, succumbs to COVID-19
When Kaile King visited Mississippi State University as a high school senior from Carthage in spring 1998, she had all but decided to attend Ole Miss. Then she noticed the drummer for the MSU Black Voices and he made enough of an impression for Kaile to enroll in Starkville that fall instead. Her hunch wasn't wrong. By September, Kaile and Jason Minor were officially a couple. By 2000, they were married. But on Monday, in the intensive care unit of a Charlotte, North Carolina hospital, Kaile Minor, flanked by two of her three daughters, said goodbye to Jason, who had spent much of the previous month on a ventilator fighting for his life against the unpredictable adversary COVID-19. "The doctor told me the virus had just ravaged his heart, and his heart gave out," Kaile said. Jason, 41, was no stranger to health problems. He had been diagnosed with diabetes at age 12, and the condition had completely claimed his eyesight by 2008. He received a kidney transplant in 2011 and suffered a mild heart attack during the year he had waited on the transplant list. Still, he had bounced back from each challenge, even holding down a job and working out at the gym three days a week. "He had overcome so much over the years," Kaile said. "But this one; this was different."
Starkville physicians give takes on state of pandemic, timetable for reopening business
Numerous states have already started the process of easing restrictions on businesses, with the conversation picking up steam across the country in recent days. Oktibbeha County is no exception as health care officials citing local data say a return to something resembling normalcy could be possible sooner rather than later. The SDN's conversations this week with several local physicians coincided with a noticeable drop in testing and new cases, along with no new spikes in hospitalizations in Oktibbeha County. All of the confirmed cases that required inpatient care at OCH Regional Medical Center -- topping out at four at one time early last week -- have been patients over 60 years old, all with underlying medical conditions. The county's four confirmed virus-related deaths, according to OCH ICU Medical Director Dr. Cameron Huxford, were also elderly patients suffering from underlying medical conditions with "do not resuscitate" orders given by their families.
Starkville's Gondolier closes its doors
Seemingly out of nowhere, it appears Gondolier in Starkville has closed its doors. Just short of completing its second year in Starkville, building owner Mark Castleberry confirmed the Italian eatery's closure at 110 Mill St. With the decor still hanging and tables and chairs still stacked, the 3,900 square-foot building has officially been listed for lease by Farmer's Commercial Properties. Though losing a restaurant is always sad for a community, its departure leaves a marketable property near Mississippi State and the Cotton District that will hopefully draw another business to the area. There is some good news in Starkville, with Starkvegas Snowballs reopening. After opening in late February for prime snowball season, the snowball stand closed down shortly after due to COVID-19. With the heat rolling in, Starkvegas Snowballs has put a few rules in place and is opening its Highway 182 location at 113 Martin Luther King Dr. W. Before you head out for your summer snack, be sure to follow some new guidelines: stay six feet from each other, bring a credit or debit card (no cash will be accepted) and once you get your snowball from the shack, hit the road jack. We've all got to do our part social distancing, so be sure not to loiter and socialize while you try and beat the heat. Starkvegas Snowballs is open 2-7 p.m. every day.
PSC's Brandon Presley advocates 'hell-bent approach' to expanding broadband
When it became clear in mid-March that the COVID-19 coronavirus would put normal life on hold, the Mississippi Public Service Commission halted all water, sewer, gas and electricity disconnections for unpaid utility bills. But PSC could not include broadband internet services in the decision because it is not considered a utility service, Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley told nearly 30 Starkville citizens in a Wednesday video conference hosted by the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. "The federal posture is that it's essentially a 'luxury information service,'" Presley said. "I think that's ridiculous in the year 2020, but that's the way our laws and regulations are written right now." Home internet access is more important than ever while the COVID-19 pandemic has forced school and most jobs into the home, but Mississippi often ranks 42nd or lower in studies showing each state's levels of internet access and distribution, Presley said. "It's a shame and a disgrace that we're asking people to social distance, stay off the highway and don't go out, but they have to drive their children to McDonald's or to a library to access internet service to do their homework, just to stay caught up in school," he said. "We should come out of this pandemic with a hell-bent approach to connect every home, every business, every place in the state of Mississippi to a world-class broadband network."
Yokohama reopening Mississippi commercial truck tire plant
Yokohama Corporation of North America (YCNA) announced Thursday that its plant in West Point, Mississippi is reopening. Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi (YTMM), which produces commercial truck tires, is scheduled to go back online April 27. The plant temporarily closed as a precautionary measure in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure the health and welfare of all personnel upon their return, YTMM has implemented several new safety procedures at the plant based on the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as from local authorities.
Mississippi's unemployment claims drop, but still nearly 36,000
The number of unemployment filings in Mississippi last week totaled 35,843, a 22% drop from the previous week's revised total of 45,748. However, in the five weeks since the coronavirus began its stranglehold on the economy, unemployment filings in the Magnolia State have topped 186,000, roughly 15% of the state's workforce. Nationwide, more than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. While that's 810,000 fewer than a week earlier, about 26 million people have now filed for jobless aid, or one in six American workers, during the past five weeks. Unemployment now stands at 11%, an increase of 2.8 percentage points from the previous week. Some economists have forecast that the unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%.
Ag Commissioner Gipson talks coronavirus impact on farmers, outlines relief assistance
Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson joined Y'all Politics for a Facebook Live on Thursday morning where he discussed the impact COVID-19 is having on the state's farmers and agriculture industry. Agriculture remains the largest industry in Mississippi and is considered essential so as to maintain the food supply chain. Gipson says dramatic price reductions and decreased market demand are hurting farmers. He says the state's federal delegation has been receptive to the concerns of those in the industry. The Commissioner outlined the assistance programs being made available to agriculture producers through the CARES Act and the USDA.
From beer to hand sanitizer: Some Mississippi companies innovate instead of shutting down
Gov. Tate Reeves spent the majority of his regular coronavirus news briefing Thursday highlighting the work of Mississippi businesses and institutions which have kept their doors open through the coronavirus economic shutdown by innovating. Cathead Distillery and Lazy Magnolia Brewery are now manufacturing hand sanitizer. Blue Delta Jeans is working with Mississippi Prison Industries Corporation to produce inmate-made face masks and protective gowns. Allmond Printing turned its 19th century technology into face shield manufacturing machines. Those are just a few of the businesses Reeves lauded for their contributions to the community. The governor urged Mississippi residents to buy from local businesses. "If you can order out at a restaurant ... (for pick up) or get it delivered, it would go a long way in helping Mississippi recover," Reeves said.
Mississippi gov says health officer is top adviser on virus
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that he will listen to the state's top public health official more than all other advisers as he considers how to gradually reopen the state's economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Reeves's statewide stay-at-home order has been in place since April 3 and is set to expire Monday morning. The Republican governor said he will announce Friday what changes people should expect to see next week, after he consults with Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who is the current state health officer and a former state epidemiologist. "Dr. Dobbs will not only have a seat at the table. He will have the most important seat at the table," Reeves said. During a news conference Thursday, Reeves thanked Mississippi businesses that have switched to making items needed during the pandemic. He also thanked universities and others that are using 3-D printers to make sturdy plastic face coverings for medical professionals.
Gov. Tate Reeves is expected to ease coronavirus restrictions. What will it look like in Mississippi?
Gov. Tate Reeves likes to compare easing new coronavirus restrictions to a light switch. As in, he won't be flipping on a light switch Friday, when he is expected to announce easing of an April 1 executive order that requires Mississippians to shelter in place and closed most businesses. Instead, he said, reopening will work like a dimmer switch, with a gradual easing of restrictions. What will this look like? "... You're going to see us loosen some restrictions, but we're not going to reduce all restrictions, quite the contrary." Reeves also said restrictions might remain tighter in some counties than they do in others. Mississippi's hot spots, where COVID-19 cases are doubling in seven days or less, are Lafayette, Prentiss, Itawamba, Monroe and Grenada counties in North Mississippi; Attala, Leake, Neshoba and Newton counties in East Central Mississippi; Simpson, Lawrence and Covington counties in Central Mississippi and Warren County in West Central Mississippi.
Testing remains key for Mississippi COVID-19 response
Ahead of likely moves by Gov. Tate Reeves to loosen some restrictions on movement and commerce next week, the capacity and speed of COVID-19 testing remains an area of focus for state government and healthcare providers. A shelter-in-place order imposed by Mississippi's governor will expire on Monday morning of next week, but Reeves has strongly emphasized that economic and social life will only gradually shift back to normal. Testing will be key to how state government manages the speed of that shift. But the speed of the turnaround time for test results remains a key area for improvement. "If we want to get ahead of outbreaks, we need to know what's happening immediately," said Mississippi's State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs at a Thursday press briefing. Also speaking Thursday, Reeves touted Mississippi's testing capacity thus far, by comparison to other states that have not received significant federal resources to boost testing. However, he acknowledged that some improvements still need to be made.
Black Women May Be Hardest Hit As COVID-19 Cases Pass 5,000, 201 Deaths
Mississippi now has more than 200 deaths and well over 5,000 cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, only five days after reaching 4,000. The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 259 new confirmed cases today for a new statewide total of 5,153. Eight additional deaths bring the state to 201 total fatalities from coronavirus. Meantime, Gov. Tate Reeves signaled the likelihood that Mississippi's shelter-in-place order would end for parts of Mississippi soon, including businesses previously considered non-essential. The governor did indicate that the order may continue for Mississippians with underlying conditions that are known to exacerbate the danger of the virus. Demographic and gender disparities, which show a disproportionate impact on black Mississippians, remained steady through the first month of the virus' spread. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs confirmed in an interview that MSDH believes the two numbers are correlated, suggesting the heaviest burden in the state could be on black women in particular.
Shalondra Rollins was taking care of her health and climbing out of poverty. Why did she die of COVID-19?
After her daughter fell suddenly ill, Cassandra Rollins raced towards the northwest Jackson apartment the morning of April 7th and found herself following the ambulance responding to the scene. It was traveling so slowly that Cassandra laid on her horn. Three days earlier, her eldest child, 38-year-old Shalondra Rollins, received positive test results for COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. She had just started complaining that she "felt winded" that morning before collapsing in the shower. "The ambulance was driving like it was a normal day, someone coming home from work," Cassandra said. "It was no sense of urgency." Shalondra's eyes widened when the EMTs told the family no one could accompany her to Baptist Medical Center as they loaded her into the vehicle. Less than an hour later, Cassandra received a call from the hospital chaplain, who told her Shalondra's heart had stopped while she waited for the hospital to find her a room. Shalondra was part of the working class; she had diabetes and lacked health insurance at times in her adulthood, factors that made her more susceptible to COVID-19.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow says USDA could be flexible on COVID-19 payment limits
The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee appeared open, but wary, Thursday to the Agriculture Department possibly raising the caps on the amount individual farmers and ranchers could receive from $16 billion in direct payments to offset sales and markets lost to COVID-19 economic disruptions. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow noted the USDA eased payment limits in 2019, when the department made trade-aid payments to farmers and ranchers. She has criticized the fairness of the distributions, saying that smaller farm operations and producers that grow specialty crops did not benefit. Stabenow said the COVID-19 direct payments must go to a broader cross-section of agricultural producers than the Market Facility Program payments. Any changes to payment limits should not put some sectors of agriculture at a disadvantage, she said. "Given the circumstances, USDA certainly has flexibility to address that," Stabenow said during a conference call with reporters on Senate Democratic priorities for a possible fifth economic relief bill.
'A reckless choice': Black, progressive activists warn Joe Biden against picking Amy Klobuchar as VP
Amy Klobuchar's vice presidential prospects are facing stiff headwinds from progressives and African American activists who are increasingly vocalizing their opposition to the Minnesota senator joining the Democratic ticket. The 59-year-old Klobuchar is widely thought to be near the top of Joe Biden's running mate list due to her moderate political profile, midwestern roots and timely endorsement of the former vice president ahead of his string of Super Tuesday primary victories. But to her most ardent critics, the elevation of Klobuchar would amount to a stinging snub of two of the Democratic Party's most vital constituencies: liberals and women of color. She The People founder Aimee Allison said most female minority leaders she regularly speaks with believe "Klobuchar would be a reckless choice that would risk the votes of the party's base." And on Wednesday, Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has openly stated she wants to be the VP pick, said she would have "concerns" if Biden did not choose a woman of color.
Don't inject disinfectants, Lysol warns as President Trump raises idea
The parent company of Lysol and another disinfectant warned Friday that its products should not be used as an internal treatment for the coronavirus after President Donald Trump wondered about the prospect during a White House briefing. Trump noted Thursday that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people, saying the virus "does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that." That prompted a strong warning from the maker of disinfectants Lysol and Dettol, which said it was issuing a statement to combat "recent speculation." On Thursday, the White House also pitched "emerging" research on the benefits of sunlight and humidity in diminishing the threat of the coronavirus. Past studies have not found good evidence that the warmer temperatures and higher humidity of spring and summer will help tamp down the spread of the virus.
Study: Elderly Trump voters dying of coronavirus could cost him in November
Mass casualties from the coronavirus could upend the political landscape in battleground states and shift contests away from President Donald Trump, according to a new analysis. Academic researchers writing in a little-noticed public administration journal -- Administrative Theory & Praxis -- conclude that when considering nothing other than the tens of thousands of deaths projected from the virus, demographic shifts alone could be enough to swing crucial states to Joe Biden in the fall. "The pandemic is going to take a greater toll on the conservative electorate leading into this election -- and that's simply just a calculation of age," Andrew Johnson, the lead author and a professor of management at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said in an interview. "The virus is killing more older voters, and in many states that's the key to a GOP victory." The study is based on early fatality projections from that are orders of magnitude higher than what's borne out so far in battleground states -- a point some outside experts have seized on to inject a dose of skepticism in the study's findings. In an interview, Johnson acknowledged the high numbers used for the study, but he contended it remains early and that easing of stay-at-home orders could spark more cases and deaths.
Top general: Air Force preparing for coronavirus to be cyclical
The Air Force is preparing for the coronavirus to be cyclical until a vaccine is developed, the service's top general said Wednesday. In a conference call with reporters, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said his service is preparing for a "new reset" June 1 to be able to continue to operate in a "new abnormal" environment until a coronavirus vaccine is ready. "All the predictions are no vaccine for upwards of a year, so that means we've got to refine our ability to survive and operate and do the missions the nation require," Goldfein said. "And we've got to bring back those missions that we slowed down, so we can get back to some kind of a sense of new normalcy in an abnormal world." Top experts, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, have warned of the need to prepare for COVID-19 being a cyclical disease. Goldfein highlighted some steps already taken such as building a "tent city" at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where basic training is held and expanding basic training to a second location, Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
Special Report: As virus advances, doctors rethink rush to ventilate
Machines to help people breathe have become the major weapon for medics fighting COVID-19, which has so far killed more than 183,000 people. Within weeks of the disease's global emergence in February, governments around the world raced to build or buy ventilators as most hospitals said they were in critically short supply. However, as doctors get a better understanding of what COVID-19 does to the body, many say they have become more sparing with the equipment. Reuters interviewed 30 doctors and medical professionals in countries including China, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United States, who have experience of dealing with COVID-19 patients. Nearly all agreed that ventilators are vitally important and have helped save lives. At the same time, many highlighted the risks from using the most invasive types of them -- mechanical ventilators -- too early or too frequently, or from non-specialists using them without proper training in overwhelmed hospitals.
Dean of the U. of Mississippi's journalism school resigns
Will Norton has resigned from his position as Dean of the School of Journalism and New Media after nearly 11 years in the role, and he will return to the faculty at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year on May 11. Provost Noel Wilkin announced Norton's resignation in a campus-wide email on April 23. Prior to Wilkin's announcement, Norton emailed all journalism and integrated marketing communications faculty about his decision to resign, citing the coronavirus pandemic as part of his reasoning. "My strengths are in raising funds, recruiting and finding support for projects in the school," Norton said in the email. "Unfortunately, this is not an environment in which those strengths are effective, and I believe new leadership will bring skills and energy needed to make and implement future decisions." Prior to serving as the dean of the journalism school at the University of Mississippi, Norton was the Dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for nearly two decades, and before that, he was the chair of the University of Mississippi's journalism department.
Community heroes: UMMC doctors play key role in coronavirus fight
It was Christmas 2019 when Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele began educating herself on the "pneumonia of unknown origin" that was cropping up in China's Hubei Province. So little was known about that novel, or new, coronavirus. Navalkele, medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, was watchful, but not too worried. "But in a few weeks, things literally doubled or tripled in the number of cases in China," she remembered. "I thought, this is something that is going to spread like wildfire. It's a new virus, and this whole population has zero immunity against it. If it's going worldwide as a pandemic, it's coming to the United States, and to Mississippi for sure. "We needed to move quickly and start planning what to do." Dr. Jason Parham, director of UMMC's Division of Infectious Diseases, had the same gut feeling. "I feel it still," he said of sensing early on the viciousness of this particular coronavirus that scientists named COVID-19. Parham and Navalkele are closing in on four months of preparations and response for a pandemic that no physician, no hospital and no health care community has fully wrapped their head around. But as COVID-19 approaches its plateau in Mississippi, the infectious diseases team they lead and the state's only academic medical center are as ready as they can be.
U. of Mississippi Medical Center starting trials to treat virus
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is moving into a new stage of COVID-19 response: conducting clinical research and trials on how to treat the disease. UMMC will launch as many as nine clinical studies in the next two weeks, mostly focused on inpatient treatment strategies for COVID-19. UMMC's COVID-19 response has been evolving into new stages as the disease impacts more Mississippians, said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research. "We started preparing several weeks ago by making sure we have the necessary PPE [personal protective equipment], then by developing our in-house COVID-19 testing, and now we are moving into the third phase, which is to offer more treatment options," Summers said. "This is what an academic medical center should do to lead the way in coronavirus response," he said.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith encourages FDA to approve ventilator created at UMMC
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith is encouraging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the use of a cost-effective ventilator developed by a doctor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At less than $100 per unit, Dr. Charles M. Robertson developed the ventilators with materials that can be found at most hardware stores or online. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Hyde-Smith asked the agency to use its 'Emergency Use Authorization' authority to approve Dr. Robertson's application for the 'Robertson Ventilator' (RV1). "The approval of the RV1 would allow UMMC and other healthcare facilities to use the device in emergencies, potentially saving lives," Hyde-Smith wrote in her letter to Hahn. Robertson, a former Tupelo High School valedictorian and the son of a UMMC-trained pediatrician, returned to Mississippi in 2013 after earning his medical degree at the University of Virginia and completing his residency in St. Louis, Mo. He performs pediatric anesthesia and sedation care at Batson Children's Hospital.
Coronavirus is spreading through rural South's high-risk population -- reopening economies will make it worse
In the rural South, the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming a silent disaster. As rural residents commute to jobs in cities and transportation hubs, they're being exposed to the virus and bringing it home to a population already at risk. Chronic diseases that can lead to more severe COVID-19 symptoms are common across the rural South. The population is older and poorer than much of the country, and the health care system has been deteriorating for years as hospitals lose staff and close. Despite the population's vulnerability, Southern states have been a stronghold of resistance to federal and international recommendations around COVID-19 protective measures. Most of the states' delays and refusals to enact "shelter-at-home" policies were tied to economic arguments. Now, governors are using the same economic reasons for loosening those restrictions. ... As University of Mississippi sociologists who work with rural communities on a range of resilience issues, especially health, we are concerned about the economic and health consequences of returning to business before the region is prepared to protect its residents.
Itawamba Community College's Phi Theta Kappa chapters win international, regional awards
Itawamba Community College's Phi Theta Kappa chapters, Beta Tau Sigma (Tupelo) and Upsilon Sigma (Fulton), were recognized recently at the first-ever, virtual PTK Catalyst event as Top 100 Chapters of the more than 1,250 chapters internationally. Other international awards included Distinguished Honors in Action Theme Award and Distinguished Honors in Action Project Award in the Theme 6 -- Visions of Justice division for Upsilon Sigma's project, STAND: Transforming the Stigma of Sex Trafficking. In addition, Kalyn Johnson of Fulton, president of Upsilon Sigma, received the Distinguished Chapter Officer award. Both chapters also received awards during the MS/LA regional conference in early March at the University of Mississippi.
Graduation: Schools grappling with best plans for commencement
Each spring, seniors across the Northside begin counting down the days until they can don caps and gowns, walk across the stage and pick up their high school diplomas. This year, thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, the countdown has stopped, initial ceremonies have been canceled and school officials have been left scrambling to determine exactly how they could honor their graduates. As of last week, commencement ceremonies had still not been decided for most Northside schools. One school, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, had already drawn up alternative plans, while Jackson Academy and Jackson Preparatory School had nearly finalized plans. Administrators at other schools said they were working with students and parents to determine the best way to mark the milestone. Jackson Public Schools had not announced plans for Murrah at press time.
Fab Lab manager opens virtual doors on STEM education
When Jackson County Fab Lab manager Scott Beebe isn't making things, he's breaking ground in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's getting the attention of Gov. Tate Reeves and educators throughout the country. He has created a new pilot program that could -- if necessary -- replace its traditional summer camps. The summer camps that the Fab Lab relies so heavily on for funding are in jeopardy, and that's why it's so important to have these virtual summer camps as well as support from its major sponsors. "These businesses that step up and give us these funds to allow us to do this summer are keeping us afloat," Beebe said. The week-long camps operate about three hours each day and teach virtual robotics, video game coding, 3D design and electronics. Beebe spoke during the governor's media update on Thursday. "The exposure that this is going to give, by having this being statewide, everybody seeing it, I'm just hoping people step up, reach out if they need help," Beebe said.
9 Ways Schools Will Look Different When (And If) They Reopen
Three-quarters of U.S. states have now officially closed their schools for the rest of the academic year. While remote learning continues, summer is a question mark, and attention is already starting to turn to next fall. Recently, governors including California's Gavin Newsom and New York's Andrew Cuomo have started to talk about what school reopening might look like. And a federal government plan for reopening, according to The Washington Post, says that getting kids back in classrooms or other group care is the first priority for getting back to normal. But there are still many more unknowns than guarantees. Among the biggest, says Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, is this: "Is it safe and healthy for my kids to pack them into that classroom?" Here are nine key ideas -- drawn from interviews with public health experts, education officials and educators around the country -- for what reopening might look like.
Auburn holding student competition to redesign entryways
People know they've reached Auburn city limits when they see signs stating: "Welcome to Auburn Home of Auburn University." Several signs around the city are getting old and run-down, however, and City Manager Jim Buston said it's time to renovate them by drawing on ideas from students. "We were looking at needing to do something with our 'Welcome to Auburn' signs," said Scott Cummings, executive director of development services for the city of Auburn. "The signs are somewhat dated, needed to be cleaned, needed to be some repair done, we needed to do some maintenance and replacing some of the vegetation around there." Some classes at Auburn University even considered having students submit designs as part of classwork, Cummings said. "There are a lot of design students at Auburn University taking various classes in architecture or marketing and stuff like that, so we thought we'd open it up in a competition to see if any students wanted to get involved," Buston said.
Alabama is not running out of chicken, analysts say
Poultry production is slowing in Alabama because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there should still be plenty of meat at your grocer for the foreseeable future. "We've had tough markets, and we've worked through those times in the past, but I don't think we've ever experienced anything quite like this," said William Dozier, executive director of Auburn University's Department of Poultry Science. "There's a lot of product in the freezers though. It's not like there's a shortage." More than 86,000 Alabamians are employed on chicken farms, in processing plants and related industries. The top 5 broiler producing states, according to the National Chicken Council, are: Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Mississippi.
U. of Kentucky furloughs 1,700 staff; 1,500 work in healthcare
The University of Kentucky announced Thursday that 1,700 employees, including 1,500 in health care, will be furloughed to help make up for coronavirus-related revenue shortfalls. In an email sent to campus Thursday, President Eli Capilouto said in addition to the 1,500 full and part-time staff at UK HealthCare, the 200 university employees who will be furloughed work in several UK departments. "The rest work in campus units -- UK Transportation Services, UK Dining and UK Dentistry Clinics, where clinical efforts have been suspended in response to COVID-19," Capilouto wrote. "We also are closing the Hilary J. Boone Center, a dining and events facility, which will result in a reduction in force affecting seven people." Capilouto said UK HealthCare has seen dramatic reductions in the number of services offered after elective procedures were canceled statewide last month to allow hospitals to ramp up resources and staff to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic. Capilouto said he hopes the furloughs will only be for a short period.
Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service assists in distributing personal protective gear
Instructors and staff with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service are assisting in the distribution of personal protective gear to medical professionals and first responders across the state. In mid-March, as the coronavirus pandemic drew increasing concern, the Texas Division of Emergency Management called upon TEEX to provide professionals who could work with state military and several of Texas' Regional Advisory Councils to transport personal protective equipment (PPE) where it was most needed, TEEX agency director David Coatney said. TEEX staff members -- particularly instructors -- were eager to do so, he said. "Instruction has pretty much been cut down due to the limitations of social distancing," Coatney said. "We moved a lot of training that we normally do to online delivery, so we don't have as many face-to-face courses anymore." Coatney said TEEX staff members have been more than willing to fulfill the request for assistance. "Right now, everybody wants to do everything they can to get the state back to what it normally is," he said.
U. of Missouri System president 'less optimistic' about fully opening in fall, exploring options
Anything ranging from fully online to fully in-person classes is possible this fall, the University of Missouri System president said Thursday. "I'm becoming less optimistic about the fall to open fully," Mun Choi told the MU Faculty Council. "Maybe we can have some hybrid. It's still important for all of our faculty members to prepare for the worst case, which is fully online." Choi, who is MU interim chancellor, has said more than once this month, including in a campus email Wednesday, that he expects to return to in-person operations this fall. System campuses are largely running remotely this semester and, so far, will continue that way through the summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Choi said there is the possibility of a hybrid model in which classes that rely more on face-to-face instruction, such as labs, may meet in person while others stay online. Delaying the fall start date is being considered, Choi said. "The question is, 'Does it make sense to open the campus, even with the deaths declining, when we don't have a vaccine?'" Choi said. "We're bringing 30,000 students from really all over the world back into Columbia. This is very complicated."
University leaders across the country take salary cuts because of COVID-19
The average salary cut taken by the University of Missouri's top leaders in the face of COVID-19 budget shortfalls is about $8,300, similar in scope to several other peer institutions examined by the Missourian. Across the country, many administrators of higher education institutions are taking pay cuts in response to financial strains triggered by the pandemic. The UM System's decision was to cut top administrators' salaries by 10% for at least three months. Some schools instituted larger cuts or lengthened the periods of time for the cuts, but in general, UM's cut was in the same range as a number of similar institutions. Schools nationwide have already taken a hard financial hit with campus closures, athletic cancellations and student room and board refunds; however, that may only be the start. Many universities, including MU, predict lower rates of enrollment next fall. The leadership pay cuts come as part of larger system-wide budget cuts announced earlier this month. The cuts could lead to layoffs, unpaid leaves, restructuring, strict cost containment and other measures.
Interim Steven Zweig named dean of U. of Missouri School of Medicine
The new dean of the University of Missouri School of Medicine will be the interim dean, Steven Zweig, who has held the post since April 2019. Zweig was selected to be permanent dean by Provost Latha Ramchand on Thursday. He has been a member of the faculty since 1984 and was previously chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. "He is a strong advocate for the School of Medicine on our campus, and most recently, his leadership during our response to the pandemic has been crucial," Ramchand said in a news release. "I am pleased to know that we can continue to lean on him as our university looks toward the future and our continued focus on teaching, research and clinical care." Zweig graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and attended medical school and completed residency training in family medicine at MU.
Public Colleges Lose State Funding, Effective Immediately
Some public colleges and universities are starting to see their budgets cut with surprising speed, as states reckon with the economic fallout of the pandemic. The cuts are deep and swift -- and taking effect immediately, not next fiscal year. They will hit student programs as well as capital projects and staff salaries, university administrators said. Most states never recovered their pre-recession funding levels for higher education, on a per-student basis. Now, they are even further from that mark. Missouri State University gets a little over one-third of its $295 million budget from the state. The school learned earlier this month that the state would be withholding $7.6 million of its annual appropriation, or one-twelfth of its yearly amount---with just three months left in the fiscal year. A spokesman for the governor's office said the state withheld one month's payment for every public university. "We can make payroll through June," said Ryan DeBoef, the president's chief of staff. "But looking into next fiscal year, it's not a sustainable strategy to say, 'Let's just keep spending reserves.' "
Colleges lay groundwork for fall, with or without pandemic
The talk around what college is going to look like in the fall is still, for now, just talk. The difficult calls have not been made, those hard-to-send emails have not been sent. The question of whether campuses will be closed to students is still in many ways an open one. But every day the picture gets clearer. Some universities, if they have not made firm decisions, have indicated where they're leaning. Some in higher ed have suggested that there are many potential scenarios for the fall. Joshua Kim and Edward Maloney, teaching and learning specialists at Dartmouth College and Georgetown University, respectively, explored 15 of them in a blog post for Inside Higher Ed this week. Their list included a hybrid semester, a delayed start (like Macalester College has considered) or a block plan (which Beloit College and Centre College have already announced). A survey from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers suggested that 16 to 21 percent of institutions are considering a delayed start to the semester. Earlier this month, Georgetown told its continuing M.B.A. students that their semester would be pushed back two weeks, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 14.
College students want answers about fall, but schools may not have them for months
In a different year, incoming freshmen would already have in hand a tightly choreographed schedule for late summer and early fall: the move-in date, the orientation and, finally, the first day of classes. But on the coronavirus pandemic calendar, there are no dates yet for the next academic year. Just scenarios. And that unprecedented uncertainty is ­fueling a second wave of crisis for schools already plunged into financial distress. Colleges and universities nationwide are gaming out whether, when and how they can reopen campus after the abrupt shutdowns in March. Support from governors is essential but is hardly the only factor. Every prospective and returning student is hanging on the answers. The possibilities range from a return to normalcy, which few higher education insiders expect at this point, to a fall semester with dorms shuttered and students taking classes from home until at least January. The most immediate question is how long higher education leaders can wait to make a decision. Several estimated they have until mid-June.
Will the Coronavirus Forever Alter the College Experience?
The disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has prompted cobbled-together responses ranging from the absurd to the ingenious at colleges and universities struggling to continue teaching even as their students have receded into diminutive images, in dire need of haircuts, on videoconference checkerboards. But while all of this is widely being referred to as online higher education, that's not really what most of it is, at least so far. As for predictions that it will trigger a permanent exodus from brick-and-mortar campuses to virtual classrooms, all indications are that it probably won't. "What we are talking about when we talk about online education is using digital technologies to transform the learning experience," said Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. "That is not what is happening right now. What is happening now is we had eight days to put everything we do in class onto Zoom." There will be some important lasting impacts, though, experts say. These trends may not transform higher education, but they are likely to accelerate the integration of technology into it.
Congress allocates more than $1 billion in stimulus funds for struggling minority-serving institutions
Presidents of colleges and universities that primarily serve black students heaved a collective sigh of relief when they learned their institutions would be getting a special allocation as part of the stimulus package approved by Congress last month. That's because, in addition to the $12.2 billion coronavirus-related stimulus funding that went to higher education institutions, the legislation allocates approximately $1.05 billion in emergency aid to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). Just over half of the funding will go to HBCUs, and for many of the 101 eligible institutions, the money can't come soon enough. Most of these institutions -- relatively small, underresourced and highly dependent on revenue from student enrollment -- operate on very tight budgets and were already struggling financially before the pandemic. Many, but not all, were pushed precariously close to the edge of economic ruin by the public health crisis.
Why Is Zoom So Exhausting?
These days, Robin DeRosa's workday begins at 8:30 a.m. when she heads to the makeshift desk she's set up on a buffet table in her home and opens Zoom. DeRosa, director of the Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University, used the videoconferencing program long before anyone was talking about social-distancing or Covid-19. But now, she spends her entire workday on it. "Our office has shifted completely to a virtual Zoom office," DeRosa says. "It's on the one hand a total replication of our face-to-face office, and on the other hand, completely different on so many levels." DeRosa is an open-education activist and a very online person. Still, she and her staff -- who are helping students and professors navigate the shift to remote instruction -- have found the amount of time they're spending on Zoom "quite exhausting," she says. They're planning some adjustments to avoid getting burned out by video chat. In this anxious and isolating time, Zoom -- the brand name now used as a shorthand to describe a whole technology (videoconferencing) -- has emerged as a stand-in for just about every interaction that would normally be happening face to face or handled with a quick email.

How Wes Shivers went from Mississippi State to MMA to law enforcement
Wes Shivers saw the water rippling. So did his K9 partner, Jack. The duo had already ran several hundred yards through the woods in Rankin County in pursuit of a man suspected of taking part in drug-related crime. Jack beat Shivers to the pond and scented the suspect, who was ducking below the surface to try to stay out of sight of Shivers, a 6-foot-8 former Mississippi State offensive lineman and current U.S. Marshals fugitive task force officer. Jack jumped into the pond while his owner trailed closely behind. "As he got to the suspect, the suspect was fighting away trying to keep my dog from getting him of course," Shivers, 43, told the Clarion Ledger on Thursday. "He grabbed my dog by the collar, took him under water and tried to drown him." During the scuffle, Jack still managed to bite the suspect on the thigh with enough force to open a wound that needed 22 stitches. Shivers caught up shortly thereafter. He finished off the fight with one arm as he helped Jack stay afloat with the other. Jack sank his teeth into the suspect's right arm. Shivers held onto his left. That's how they emerged from the water after a successful capture.
Willie Gay Jr.: What to know about the former Mississippi State linebacker
Willie Gay just loves football. At the beginning of this week, the former Mississippi State linebacker told the Clarion Ledger he knew before his junior year he would likely forego his senior season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. Many college players choose to sit out their respective bowl games when they know they're NFL bound. Not Gay. He suited up in the Music City Bowl and recorded a game-high 11 tackles in a 38-28 loss to Louisville. The game didn't matter much in the grand scheme of Gay's career, but he still played in it. That's just who he is. Here are five other things to know about the 22-year-old.
Analysis: Ranking the best Mississippi State value picks since 2010 ahead of the NFL draft's second day
While no Mississippi State players heard their names called during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, there remains ample professional talent among the Bulldog contingent. Since 2010, 26 former MSU players have been taken in rounds 2-7. For the purposes of this piece, we're qualifying "value" as anyone not selected in the first round relative to their eventual NFL futures. With that in mind, let's dive right in.
After stops at UCLA and junior college, Shea Moreno grateful for 'second chance' with Mississippi State softball
Shea Moreno knew something was up. Throughout Wednesday, she'd been receiving texts from relatives and family friends. Texts with weird questions: What's your favorite candy? What do you like to drink? But at 6 p.m., when her mother Krystal asked for her help outside their house in Elk Grove, California, Moreno had no idea what was coming. As she stepped out, cars began to roll down the street in front of her -- friends and family members come to celebrate her recent signing with the Mississippi State softball program. Twenty or 30 in all, compressed into 15 vehicles, they bore signs, streamers and the sweets Moreno liked best. "I was just so overwhelmed with emotion, I instantly started crying," Moreno said. "There were big old streams of tears just coming down my face." She wasn't the only one getting emotional. Her relatives and the "softball family" -- friends of Krystal's who supported Moreno throughout her standout career at Sheldon High School in Sacramento -- teared up, too. "They've all seen my journey," Moreno told The Dispatch. Joining the Bulldogs was just the latest step in a path that took the catcher and infielder through the highs and lows of college softball.
Mississippi State forward Abdul Ado enters NBA draft, likely to return to school
Mississippi State's Abdul Ado has entered the NBA Draft process, but the intent is mostly for information-gathering purposes, sources tell The Dispatch. A source close to the situation said Ado, a 6-foot-11 forward, fully intends to return for his senior season, but wanted to receive feedback from pro scouts. MSU regulars Robert Woodard II, Reggie Perry and Nick Weatherspoon have announced their intentions to go pro. Only Woodard II has the option of returning to school. Ado, known for his defensive prowess, averaged 5.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while making 31 starts for the Bulldogs in the 2019-2020 season.
Abdul Ado enters NBA Draft, could return to Mississippi State
Like several of his teammates, Mississippi State junior forward Abdul Ado is putting his name into the NBA Draft. Ado is following the route of Robert Woodard II by not hiring an agent and thus maintains his eligibility to return to the Bulldogs if he withdraws from the draft by May 29. Reggie Perry and Nick Weatherspoon have both decided to turn professional. Ado started all 31 games this past season averaging 5.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per contest. The 6-foot-11, 255-pounder from Nigeria topped the team with 58 blocks and his 182 blocks ranks sixth in school history.
Shortened freshman season offers glimpse at who Mississippi State golfer Ashley Gilliam could be -- and who she already is
As the final minutes of her freshman season unknowingly slipped away, Ashley Gilliam calmly strode toward the 18th green. The Mississippi State golfer was as serene as ever despite the franticness of the moment as the Bulldogs battled Oklahoma in the final round of the Westbrook Spring Invitational on Feb. 24 in Peoria, Arizona. Mississippi State faced a five-stroke deficit headed into the back nine of that decisive third round, but unbeknownst to Gilliam -- one of the last golfers to finish her 18 holes -- her team had closed the gap. The freshman, who would finish in a tie for second place in the individual standings, made her par putt to finish a round of 5-under-par 67. As Gilliam stepped off the green, she had one question for her fellow Bulldogs: "'Where do we stand?'" Gilliam's teammates embraced her, happy to deliver good news: Mississippi State and Oklahoma were tied. Not long after, Mississippi State found out something even better: Thanks to solid play by Gilliam and freshman teammate Abbey Daniel and a late charge by junior Blair Stockett, they'd edged the powerhouse Sooners by a stroke to win as a team for the first time since 2014. "We came out on top, so it was a really cool feeling to finally get the win," Gilliam said. It was a fitting last hurrah for the Bulldogs and their star freshman. Two and a half weeks later, just before heading back to Arizona to compete in the Clover Cup, Mississippi State's season was suspended due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Soon afterward, the rest of the season was canceled.
Haughton and NSU product Jace Prescott, brother of Dak, dies at 31
Jace Prescott, brother of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, passed away this morning. The death was confirmed by Jason Pugh, Northwestern State University's assistant athletic director for media relations. Jace Prescott, the middle of three brothers, was 31. Nicknamed "Moose," the formidable 6-foot-6, 343-pound former Haughton High star played offensive lineman for the Demons from 2008-10. "He was a great kid who dominated games," Prescott's high school football coach, Rodney Guin told The Times on Thursday. "He was a pleasure to coach -- as were all the Prescott boys." Even before Dak Prescott began his professional career, he pointed to his brother as motivation to make it to the top level. "I'm playing for my brothers," Dak said. "Also for my grandmas, aunts, uncles, dad and friends. Coach (Rodney) Guin -- anybody who helped me get in this position."
NCAA moves toward allowing athletes to be paid sponsors
The NCAA is moving closer to allowing Division I athletes to earn money from endorsements and sponsorship deals they can strike on their own as early as next year. Recommended rule changes that would clear the way for athletes to earn money from their names, images and likeness are being reviewed by college sports administrators this week before being sent to the NCAA Board of Governors, which meets Monday and Tuesday. If adopted, the rules would allow athletes to make sponsorship and endorsement deals with all kinds of companies and third parties, from car dealerships to concert promoters to pizza shops, according to a person who has reviewed the recommendations. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the details were still being discussed and debated. The recommendations are expected to form the foundation for legislation the NCAA hopes to pass next January so it can take effect in 2021. Changes could still be made before January.
NCAA committees to propose big changes on how athletes can make money
NCAA committees that have been studying how Division I schools should change rules regarding athletes' ability to make money from their name, image and likeness will be proposing conceptual changes that include allowing athletes to promote commercial products and services, sell memorabilia and autographs and publicize appearances, camps, clinics or lessons for which they could be paid, according to a person with knowledge of the proposal. The person requested anonymity because details of the plan had not been made public by the association. The contents of the proposal are scheduled to be discussed Friday during a meeting of the NCAA Division I Council, the division's primary rules-making group. In addition, athletes would not be allowed to reference the names of their schools in connection with these activities, nor would they be allowed to use the schools' marks and logos. Schools would not be allowed to be directly involved in arranging these proposed activities for athletes. Athletes would be allowed the use of professional services to assist them.
SEC smashes record for most NFL draft picks in 1st round
The first round of the NFL draft opened and closed with players from the Southeastern Conference, a fitting way to mark the league's record-setting night. The football powerhouse had 15 players selected Thursday, smashing the previous mark of 12 set by the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2006 and matched twice by the SEC (2013, 2017). The SEC's most promising crop to date was flush with players from Alabama (four) and LSU (five). It included reigning Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow at the top followed by several more next-level starters -- maybe even stars -- at nearly every position. The league fell just short of having as many players drafted in the first round as the rest of college football combined. Georgia right tackle Isaiah Wilson gave the SEC the new record when Tennessee chose him with the 29th pick. Miami took Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene next to make it 14 from the league. Kansas City capped the first round by drafting LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Financial crisis related to coronavirus hits athletic departments
Ali Wahab learned on a Zoom call that he would no longer be a wrestler for Old Dominion University. None of the 32 students in the program would be, either, his coaches said during the hastily arranged virtual meeting earlier this month when they announced the bad news. The university is eliminating the wrestling program, and the decision was made in part because of the coronavirus pandemic. Old Dominion wrestling and the University of Cincinnati men's soccer program are the early victims of what are likely to be more sports program cuts as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the budgets of universities across the country. The pandemic is a time of reckoning for Division I athletic departments, which have historically poured revenue into creating powerhouse facilities and programs but failed to save funds and prepare for a "blip in their system," said Nick Schlereth, a recreation and sport management professor at Coastal Carolina University who studies collegiate athletics' cash flow. Departments are incentivized to build winning teams, not reserves, and if they overspend, they are typically covered by other university funds, he said.

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