Monday, April 27, 2020   
Mississippi State University using 3D technology to make face shields
Mississippi State University faculty and staff are using 3D printing technology to help medical professionals on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. Led by faculty from MSU'S Bagley College of Engineering and researchers at the university's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, the team is producing face shields by combining 3D printed headbands with transparent plastic sheets and elastic bands, generally found at office supply stores. "What a blessing. The Mississippi State faculty and students stepped up to do 3D printing, so we can be provided face masks when the shortage occurred," said Dr. Bruce Brown of Anderson Hospital. "The biggest risk for your health, if you get secretions in your eyes, mouth, or on your hands. We wear gloves, masks and face wear. This shield covers the eyes and the mouth. With the mask it's the ultimate protection. It gives our healthcare workers the confidence that they're safe when they are taking care of these sick people," said Rush Health Systems chief medical officer, Dr. Fred Duggan.
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.
Stinging buck moth caterpillars active in some states
It's stinging caterpillar season in Mississippi and Louisiana -- spiny buck moth caterpillars are out and about. The Mississippi State University Extension Service put out a statement Tuesday about buck moth caterpillars, which the LSU AgCenter says can be found from east Texas to Florida and up the East Coast to Maine. The 2-inch-long critters are fearsome-looking, armed with rows of branched spines. Those connect to glands producing venom so potent that even a glancing touch from a falling buck-moth caterpillar can bring on instant pain and swelling. "I have met several people who had roughly caterpillar-shaped scars from encounters with these caterpillars," Mississippi State entomologist Blake Layton said in a news release. "Such stings usually occur when someone inadvertently sits on a caterpillar while wearing shorts, rests a forearm on one or has one crawl down their collar."
Choose healthy coping strategies for stress
When confronted with the need to change or adapt to life's circumstances, people cope with the resulting stress in many ways. David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the domino effect of multiple changes caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic may result in trauma. "Usually trauma is a major life event that leads to intense stress reactions," Buys said. "But we are seeing so many changes in such a short time it's a struggle to manage our feelings and thoughts without falling into anxiety and depression." As the human body is exposed to flight or fight hormones for an extended period of time, it takes a toll even in otherwise healthy individuals. Buys said self-awareness is the first step to dealing with stress and trauma in a helpful way.
Second round of PPP starts this week: While federal loans offer help, local small businesses still face uncertain future
Since the coronavirus pandemic forced him to temporarily close Restaurant Tyler in Starkville, owner Ty Thames has been dealing with a lot of unknowns and uncertainty. If Mississippi State doesn't hold in-person classes this fall -- meaning Starkville would likely miss out on seven home football games -- Thames knows the future of his restaurant becomes even more unsure. "We don't know if there's going to be school," Thames told The Dispatch. "We don't know if there's going to be football. If we don't have school and we don't have football, the future for the restaurant is looking pretty dim." His financial uncertainty is part of the reason Thames applied for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, a program administered by the federal Small Business Administration to mitigate the financial stress of the pandemic. Thames said the loan will account 2.5 percent of his payroll for eight weeks, and it can be forgiven as long as 75 percent or more of the money goes toward paying employees. But Thames hasn't gotten anything yet.
Area farmers' markets modify format for spring openings
In spite of the novel coronavirus, Mother Nature's timetable is yielding harvests of produce and fruits popular at spring farmers' markets. Golden Triangle markets are opening with modified formats that balance community health measures with supporting growers and providing the public with fresh foods. Starkville Main Street Association and the Starkville Community Market Advisory Board opened that city's farmers' market Saturday with social distancing modifications in place. The market at Fire Station Park, at Lampkin and Russell Streets, will be open Saturdays 8 a.m.-11 a.m. "We're calling it a modified market, offering produce and cottage food vendors (items) only," said Market Manager Paige Watson, special events and projects coordinator with The Greater Starkville Partnership. "Hopefully, if all goes well, the modifications can become more lenient as we progress throughout the summer." Watson encouraged shoppers to follow the market on Facebook, Instagram and the website to see each week's vendors.
Farmers struggle to sell crops during coronavirus pandemic
Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, says there is much less demand for food products right now, and grocery stores can not close the gap left by restaurants. "It's not an easy thing to hit the pause button and to redirect all those products in another direction. So the disruption in the supply chain has been challenging for our farmers, and it's cost a lot of money in the commodity market." McCormick says that impact has been broad. Beef prices are down 33 percent, dairy is down 40 percent, and products like corn and soybean have dropped 10 to 20 percent. He says uncertainty about the future has inflated prices at grocery stores, but reduced the income for farmers. Mississippi's Agriculture Commissioner, Andy Gipson, says farmers were on track to outsell last year's numbers, but now that restaurants and businesses are closed, they have nowhere to sell their product. "We have an oversupply, for lack of a better term. Which is a good thing for us, as we're weathering this storm. We've got plenty of food. But it's really hurting our farmers in Mississippi and across the country."
Amid coronavirus pandemic, Mississippi Legislature will reconvene on May 18
The Mississippi Legislature plans to reconvene on May 18, two months after lawmakers paused their session in response to the spread of the coronavirus. According to a joint press release, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn may decide to resume the 125-day session and call lawmakers back to Jackson even earlier -- if needed. "Legislative leadership is also working on establishing protocol for working within and visiting the Capitol as shelter-in-place restrictions begin to be lifted," the release said. "Their goal is to allow as much access as possible while prioritizing the health and safety of those in the building." The release said all state agencies "currently have the funds required to meet their immediate financial needs." The announcement comes as Mississippi loosens its coronavirus restrictions. The governor's stay-at-home order expired Monday morning and was replaced with his new "safer at home" order, which still requires medically vulnerable people to remain home but allows more movement by others.
Mississippi Legislature to reconvene May 18
The Mississippi Legislature will reconvene its current session on Monday, May 18, according to a press release from Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann's office. In March, the Legislature voted to temporarily suspend the 2020 session and reconvene either on April 1 or when both Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn agreed to reconvene. The press release stated that legislative leaders are formulating a plan for those working within and visiting the Capitol as shelter-in-place restrictions continue to be lifted. Before the Legislature recessed in March, Hosemann, the leader of the Senate, advised senators to continue to review bills assigned to their respective committees and expect to "hit the ground running" when the law-making body reconvenes. "I ask you to look and ask your fellow citizens how this body can help them moving forward," Hosemann said. "They will look to you for leadership. They will look to us for leadership."
Mississippi prepares to ease some coronavirus restrictions
Some Mississippi shopkeepers will start reopening their retail businesses on Monday as Gov. Tate Reeves begins easing restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The governor's stay-at-home order that has been in place since the evening of April 3 is expiring Monday morning. It is replaced with his new "safer at home" order, which still requires medically vulnerable people to remain home but allows more movement by others. Reeves said people are still banned from gathering in groups of 10 or more, and they are still required to maintain distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from one another. Stores in Mississippi are supposed to allow no more than 50% of their capacity of customers at a time, under the new order. And not all business are being allowed to reopen.
Gov. Tate Reeves opens most businesses, but not establishments like salons and spas under safer-at-home order
Gov. Tate Reeves, touting that the state is making progress in battling COVID-19, announced Friday afternoon he is allowing most retail businesses to reopen, but not such establishments as hair and nail salons, barbershops, spas, gyms, casinos and entertainment venues. He said the close personal contact those businesses demand makes it unsafe to reopen them at this point. Reeves called his new executive order "a safer-at-home order," replacing a shelter-in-place order that has been in effect for the past three weeks. "A safer-at-home order is not a return to normal," he said. "I wish it was." State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs, who was in attendance at the Friday afternoon news conference in the Woolfolk State Office Building where Reeves announced the order, endorsed the governor's action. "This is a measured, appropriate step at this time after careful consideration," Dobbs said.
Mississippi and Tennessee to loosen coronavirus restrictions Monday
Mississippi and Tennessee are both set to loosen social distancing restrictions on Monday as individual states move toward reopening their economies. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) announced his stay-at-home order is expiring and a "safer at home" order will go into effect on Monday. The new order, which will last for two weeks, still encourages people to stay at home "as much as you possibly can," and mandates that the most vulnerable remain inside. It also bans nonessential gatherings of 10 or more people, but allows businesses that can practice social distancing to reopen. Health care officials will also be permitted to conduct some elective procedures if they follow health department guidelines. Businesses that cannot avoid social contacts such as salons, gyms, spas and tattoo parlors will remain shuttered. "We cannot let our guard down and pretend this is over. It's not. The fight must go on. Why? Because we are facing a crisis. This threat is real. It is deadly. This virus is historically contagious. We must not take it lightly," Reeves said at a press conference. Reeves's decision comes as his state sees a spike in unemployment claims.
Inside Gov. Tate Reeves' struggle to weigh health data versus politics in crucial coronavirus decision
Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, listened during a phone call Friday morning as Mississippi Health Officer Thomas Dobbs walked her through the details he and Gov. Tate Reeves planned to announce later that day that would relax parts of Mississippi's previous statewide shelter-in-place order. Birx, who has been in close contact with Mississippi officials, expressed support for the plan and optimism about the state's pandemic outlook, according to a source with direct knowledge of the call. A few hours later, as hundreds of thousands of Mississippians watched and listened live, Reeves announced he would allow most retail businesses in the state to reopen, but not close-contact establishments such as hair and nail salons, barbershops, spas, gyms, casinos and entertainment venues. "This weighs very, very heavily on me," Reeves told Mississippi Today in a phone interview on Thursday, the day before he announced his new order. "We're doing this methodically and cautiously. Obviously the health and safety of Mississippians is my top priority, but part of that conversation has to be about whether to reopen the economy. It's a difficult balance to strike."
Protesters drive through Mississippi to urge reopening state
Dozens of Mississippi motorists drove around downtown Jackson on Saturday, honking horns and encircling the Governor's Mansion in an effort to get Gov. Tate Reeves to fully reopen the state. The drive-thru rally, which lasted about an hour, was established by a group called Reopen Mississippi. A spokeswoman for the group told The Clarion Ledger that many in the state are hurting. "So many of our beloved small businesses are closing," Napp said. The group said Reeves' shelter-in-place orders violate Mississippi citizens' rights and freedoms protected by both the U.S. Constitution and Mississippi Constitution. Saturday's protest had a limited police presence and it appeared orderly. There were no signs of speeding and motorists appeared to follow all traffic regulations. A handful of people watched as cars, some flying the American and state flags, passed by honking their horns.
Mississippi passes 6,000 COVID-19 cases
Mississippi has crossed the threshold of 6,000 known COVID-19 with 183 cases reported Monday morning and two new deaths for a total death toll of 229. Monroe County experienced another jump of 10 cases, climbing from 134 to 144 and continues to lead the Northeast Mississippi region by a wide margin. Within the region, Lafayette follows with 88 cases and Lee has 70 cases. Lafayette added no new cases Monday, and Lee had its case count adjusted downward. North Mississippi Medical Services reports 20 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 170 outpatients.
Analysis: More review for some pretrial cases during virus
The leader of the Mississippi Supreme Court says he will require some judges to more frequently review who is being held in county jails during the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Justice Mike Randolph issued an administrative order Thursday saying all court districts or counties that have not reviewed conditions of release for all pretrial detainees in the past 30 days must do it soon. It's a step short of setting a statewide mandate, after trial judges in some parts of the state said the reviews are happening on a regular basis. Randolph's order sets an April 30 deadline for the person in charge of a jail -- usually the sheriff -- to provide a list of all people being held while awaiting indictment or trial, the charges upon which they are being held and the date they were most recently taken into custody.
Lt. Gov. Hosemann reflects on historic events of first 100 days in office
Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann and other top elected officials have reached and surpassed the 100-day milestone on the job. "None of this was in the brochure. I'm just telling you, when we ran for this, we had so many things we were interested in doing," said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. He said he's still interested in doing things like improving education, healthcare and safety of Mississippians, but the task at hand right now is COVID-19. And the lieutenant governor said he expects lawmakers, in the next legislative session, to discuss and come up with a way to have enough PPE in stock, so that we won't have to scramble to get it. "We need to plan as if it's coming back and pray that it doesn't," said Hosemann.
Mississippi AG on China lawsuit: Beijing 'cannot continue to deceive and take advantage of America'
China must be held accountable for concealing the origin and initial spread of coronavirus, putting millions of Americans at risk and causing economic chaos, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said Saturday. Fitch, who has sued the Chinese government in hopes of holding it liable for the pandemic, said on "Fox & Friends Weekend" that her role is to protect the health, security and prosperity of Mississippians. The suit, she said, "allows Mississippians to seek justice and hold China accountable. Because if you look at what they've done, this has been a very malicious ... a very dangerous cover-up." On Thursday, Beijing's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Liu Xiaoming, accused the United States of "blaming" and "bullying" China, and asserted that the Chinese government has been "transparent, open" and "very quick" in its response to the outbreak. China has vehemently denied any responsibility in spreading the virus. Fitch, a Republican, called her lawsuit "the right thing to do," adding, "We must hold them accountable."
Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson Partners with U.S. Representative Trent Kelly in FARM Corps
Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson announced that the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce is partnering with U.S. Representative Trent Kelly in the FARM Corps program to assist Mississippi farmers facing labor shortages due to COVID-19. Representative Kelly launched the Farm and Ranch Mission (FARM) Corps program in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Mississippi National Guard and Reserves, the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Mississippi Department of Veterans Affairs and other agricultural and veteran organizations. FARM Corps connects furloughed or unemployed members of the Guard, Reserve and Veterans from all service branches with local farmers and ranchers who are suffering labor shortages caused by COVID-19 and the lack of H-2A labor supply.
USDA let millions of pounds of food rot while food-bank demand soared
Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand, a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families. While other federal agencies quickly adapted their programs to the coronavirus crisis, the Agriculture Department took more than a month to make its first significant move to buy up surplus fruits and vegetables -- despite repeated entreaties. Tom Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary during the Obama administration, put it this way: "It's not a lack of food, it's that the food is in one place and the demand is somewhere else and they haven't been able to connect the dots. You've got to galvanize people."
Congressional Budget Office details coronavirus economic shock
The COVID-19 pandemic is sending the unemployment rate soaring, economic output plunging and the federal deficit hitting near-record heights. The Congressional Budget Office issued new projections Friday showing real gross domestic product contracting at an annual rate of nearly 40 percent in the second quarter of this year. That would be far and away the largest drop in a single quarter in data going back to 1947 compiled by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Growth would pick up in the third quarter, the CBO said, but U.S. real GDP would still finish the year 5.6 percent smaller. That would be the worst annual economic performance on record, according to BEA data. The only relative good news from the forecast is that interest rates are expected to remain low, thereby keeping debt more manageable. While greater federal borrowing would typically send interest rates upward, the CBO said, that pressure was "more than offset" by actions taken by the Federal Reserve and a demand for "low-risk assets" in the financial markets.
The Secret Group of Scientists and Billionaires Pushing Trump on a Covid-19 Plan
A dozen of America's top scientists and a collection of billionaires and industry titans say they have the answer to the coronavirus pandemic, and they found a backdoor to deliver their plan to the White House. The eclectic group is led by a 33-year-old physician-turned-venture capitalist, Tom Cahill, who lives far from the public eye in a one-bedroom rental near Boston's Fenway Park. He owns just one suit, but he has enough lofty connections to influence government decisions in the war against Covid-19. These scientists and their backers describe their work as a lockdown-era Manhattan Project, a nod to the World War II group of scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb. This time around, the scientists are marshaling brains and money to distill unorthodox ideas gleaned from around the globe. This group, whose work hasn't been previously reported, has acted as the go-between for pharmaceutical companies looking for a reputable link to Trump administration decision makers. The group has compiled a confidential 17-page report that calls for a number of unorthodox methods against the virus.
Stacey Abrams: 'I would be willing to serve' if asked to be Biden's VP
Stacey Abrams said Sunday she would be willing to accept an offer to be former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate. Abrams, a former party leader in the Georgia Legislature and 2018 candidate for governor, was not shy about making her case for a spot on the ticket in a pair of interviews -- and also said Biden choosing a woman of color would "help promote not only diversity, but trust." "As a young black girl growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if I didn't speak up for myself, no one else would, so ... my mission is to say out loud if I'm asked the question, 'Yes, I would be willing to serve,'" Abrams said on NBC's "Meet the Press" when asked by host Chuck Todd if she'd be the best running mate for Biden. Candidates for vice president often are reluctant to express an interest in the job, but that is something Abrams had no qualms about.
It Calls Itself the Energy Capital. Now It Faces 2 'Horrifying' Crises.
On the same day that the price for U.S. crude oil fell to about $30 below zero -- a mind-bending concept that marked the first time oil prices had ever turned negative -- Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, the self-proclaimed energy capital of the world, stood before reporters. His words were grim and muffled by the black mask covering his face. The mayor announced that city employees would soon be furloughed, but he declined to say how many. Cities across the country are struggling under the economic shadow of the coronavirus. But few have to deal with a collapse in their fundamental industry at the same time. Energy conferences that drew oil executives from around the world to Houston have been called off. Thousands of energy workers, some of whom only lately moved to the region to take advantage of the recent prosperity, have been laid off. Warning letters from energy companies have been flooding the Texas Workforce Commission about layoffs and furloughs. The Houston area by some estimates may lose 200,000 to 300,000 jobs -- a blow worse than the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.
CDC Adds 6 Symptoms To Its COVID-19 List
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added several new symptoms to its existing list of symptoms for COVID-19. The CDC has long said said that fever, cough and shortness of breath are indications that someone might have the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It has now added six more conditions that may come with the disease: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell. The expanded symptoms list could prove important because with a limited number of test kits available, typically those seeking a test must first show symptoms. It stresses the "emergency warning signs" for COVID-19 are trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion or inability to arouse. and bluish lips or face. People with any of these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately, the CDC says.
Student, professor discuss benefits of music during stressful times
Stress and anxiety are on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the intentional use of music can change your mood. Lexi Fowler is a senior music therapy major at Mississippi University for Women from Water Valley. Before classes transitioned online, Fowler and fellow classmates gathered in a drum circle to relieve frustration and sadness from learning they were departing campus. "Music can bring people together during this time of isolation. It makes us feel like we are a part of something. It distracts us from what's happening in this world. And it just lifts our spirits and makes us feel better," said Fowler. Fowler has seen what she describes as an explosion of music since the COVID-19 pandemic. From professional musicians, amateurs going live on Facebook and even hospital workers singing, music is being used to lift people up during this time.
Will Norton steps down as Dean of UM School of Journalism and New Media
The University of Mississippi's School of Journalism and New Media is in need of a new leader. Dr. Will Norton, Jr. resigned from his post as Dean of the Journalism School on Thursday. He will return to the school's faculty, effective at the end of the current school year on May 11. Norton is stepping down after nearly 11 years as the school's dean. The decision was announced by Ole Miss provost and executive vice chancellor Noel Wilkin in a campus-wide email on April 23. Prior to Wilkin's email, Norton sent an email to all journalism and integrated marketing communications (IMC) faculty regarding his decision to step down, citing the current COVID-19 pandemic as one reason for doing so. Ole Miss's School of Journalism and New Media was established in 2009, when Norton was appointed Dean. The school was founded by a $5.3 million endowment from Ed and Becky Meek, which has since been redirected to CREATE following Meek's controversial Facebook post in 2018.
UMMC urges people to seek emergency care during COVID outbreak
Officials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are urging residents who need emergency care to seek it. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, officials at the hospital say they've noticed a marked decline in the number of people seeking help in its emergency room. That fact worries healthcare officials, and attribute it to fears that people will get infected with the coronavirus if they visit the facility. Others still might worry that they're unable to seek help because of the state's shelter-in-place order. "We know that people are still getting sick. We know patients are still having heart attacks and strokes. We are still seeing some of those, but the volume is down a good bit," said UMMC Vice Chancellor LouAnn Woodward. "We worry about people, particularly those with chronic disease, who may be slowly worsening their condition, from the standpoint of the disease, by not seeking treatment."
Nick Jonas crashes Zoom meeting of USM's Chi Omega sorority
University of Southern Mississippi student and Chi Omega sorority member Morgan Macaw entered an Instagram contest the Jonas Brothers were offering last Friday night as a promotion for their new concert movie on Amazon Prime. "I was like asking everyone I know to text the number," she said. "I asked my entire family, everyone in our group chat. I was like, 'Come on, y'all! Just try!' And no one really expected it, but it happened." She and her sorority sisters got a surprise of a lifetime when Nick Jonas crashed their Zoom meeting. Sorority sister Brooke Mitchell never dreamed they'd get picked. "His profile came up but the profile pic was a pic of his movie, and we were like, 'Is this real? Is this fake? Is this a fake account? Is someone messing with us?' " she said. "His video and mic were turned off. So, we were all talking at the same time. Then, all of a sudden, he joins and was like 'Hey, guys!' And we were like, 'Oh, my gosh. Is that really him?' So, he started talking more and more and we were like, 'Oh, my gosh! It really is him.' " While the USM students were all smiles at the moment, Macaw, a freshman, said being away from her friends since their campus closed last month has been emotionally tough.
Meridian area nursing students ready to take on the challenge of fighting COVID-19
Even at a young age, Parker Rigby knew that working in the medical field was for him. Now, as a young adult, the spread of the coronavirus isn't deterring Rigby from entering the nursing field. "I think that any student that signs up to be a nurse, we kind of know what we're getting into, regardless of what disease the patient might have," said Rigby, 21. "This is what we signed up to do -- we signed up to help people. That's the risk I'm willing to take." Rigby, who will soon graduate from Meridian Community College, is one of many students across the country stepping into the field at a challenging time for healthcare workers. Julia Young, a freshman in the nursing program at East Mississippi Community College, has no plans to change her major. "It's concerning," she said of the pandemic. "But it has not deterred me."
Belhaven University launches campaign to support first responders
Belhaven University announced its new First Responder Scholarship to help reduce tuition for first responders. The university partnered with Express Feedback for Good to launch a 30-day campaign to create up to $100,000 for the scholarship fund. Leaders said it will help offer first responders who want to enroll in Belhaven's adult degree completion, graduate, or online programs a 20% scholarship for tuition. "Express Feedback for Good's unique brand-evaluation program will allow friends and alumni to support this important first responder effort without having to make a personal financial gift. The more feedback you share, the more support you create for these real-life heroes! We hope our first responder scholarship program will serve as an encouragement and will offer financial assistance as our brave first responders seek to continue or complete their educational journey," said Dr. Keven Russell, Vice President for University Enrollment and Marketing.
Prospective Meridian Community College students adjust with online orientation
New Meridian Community College students are logging in to become familiar, involved, register and prepare before the August start of fall term 2020. Eighty-six students, and their parents, participated in an Eagle Elite Orientation session, MCC Director of Recruiting Brandon Dewease said. It was the first orientation in which the process was all online because of the coronavirus stay-in shelter-mandate. "It was fantastic in that we were able to maintain the sense of normalcy in the orientation experience," Dewease said. "Except for stepping foot on our campus and tasting our fried chicken, they had the same experience." With the self-paced sessions and Zoom-based video conferences with key college personnel, including financial aid, advising, Business Office staffs, participants got the opportunity to get acclimated and understand more about college.
Auburn to offer tuition payment plan for next academic year
Auburn University announced a tuition payment plan that will allow its students to spread out the cost of their education into monthly payments. The plan is administered by Tuition Management Systems and will provide an alternative for students who are paying larger term payments and help limit student borrowing. "We are seeing the impact that this pandemic is having on families, and we want to help our students by making them aware of this program and its benefits," said Mike Reynolds, executive director of Auburn's Student Financial Services. "In such a time of uncertainty, this is a great way for students and their families to more easily pay for college through scheduled payments as opposed to a lump sum." The payment plan has an enrollment fee of $45 per semester.
Tennessee colleges weigh options for fall semester
As unconventional spring semesters are coming to an end at universities across Tennessee, leadership is beginning to look at options for the fall semester. Universities are weighing whether it will be safe to allow students to return to campus and evaluating their different options. All of the universities contacted by the USA TODAY Network-Tennessee said they are waiting to make a final decision on the fall semester until more information about the coronavirus is known. The University of Tennessee has canceled in-person classes through the summer semester but hasn't made a final decision about the fall semester. Donde Plowman, chancellor of UT Knoxville, said they are looking at options for how in-person classes might be different in order to maintain social distancing if necessary. "We're hopeful and optimistic that we'll have students back on our campuses in the fall, but we're planning for every contingency," Boyd said. "We're looking at everything from a worst-case scenario, with all classes online and no sports, to everything back to normal, and then everything in between." In a Twitter thread, interim Chancellor Susan Wente said Vanderbilt's "goal and sincere hope is to hold in-person classes on campus this fall," but she acknowledged that there might not be a "one-size-fits-all solution" to every undergraduate, graduate and professional program.
Faculty, students can compete for grants for COVID-19 research through Texas A&M University School of Innovation program
Teams of faculty and students can compete for up to $20,000 in grants for research about the COVID-19 pandemic through the Texas A&M University School of Innovation's Innovation[X] Program. The fall semester will be the beginning of the program's second year, according to Texas A&M Today. It provides grants to interdisciplinary research teams that address real-world problems. Teams must be made up of interdisciplinary faculty members with a multidisciplinary team of up to 20 graduate or undergraduate students. Bob Shandley, associate dean of the School of Innovation, told Texas A&M Today that the makeup of the teams allows for better solutions. The school is still considering how many proposals will be funded, with up to $20,000 for the upcoming academic year. "Innovation[X]'s main goal is to get faculty and students, who may not normally work together, to come together to solve big problems," Shandley said to Texas A&M Today.
U. of Missouri College of Business MBA program suspended for low enrollment
The University of Missouri's Trulaske College of Business announced a year-long suspension of its Crosby Masters of Business Administration program due to decreased enrollment in a letter to students Monday. The school will not take on an incoming cohort for the fall 2020 semester; however, the suspension will not impede the progress towards graduation of current students. Trulaske Dean Ajay Vinze repeatedly said in the letter that this was only a pause on the program and that over the next several months the college would "reimagine this signature program." "Members of the Trulaske community, including our current students, will have opportunities to help us envision what a new Crosby MBA program might look like," Vinze said. The goal is to relaunch the program in the fall of 2021, he said. The suspension of the MBA program follows the recent identification of two other MU programs as needing "special attention" due to low enrollment. Those programs are the bachelor of health science in athletic training and the master of laws in American law.
Clemson cancels all on-campus academic and athletic camps because of coronavirus
Clemson University has canceled all in-person academic and athletic summer camps because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Monday. That includes not only camps and programs that use facilities on Clemson's main campus, but also activities that use Clemson's transportation to pick up or drop off people from the main campus, according to the release. "Any reopening decisions will occur in phases and involve daily monitoring of indicators to determine if the University can move forward, hold steady, or revert to a previous phase," according to the release. The university has not yet canceled all off-campus programs, sports conditioning and practice, but the school remains closed until May 8, according to the release. Clemson will decide what to do about events outside the main campus after the number of coronavirus cases begins to decrease and officials are confident that number won't quickly rebound, according to the release. Clemson’s goal is to begin in-person classes in fall semester, but that depends on whether opening campus can be done safely, the release said.
Some parents won't pay or are unsure about children enrolling online for the fall
Many parents of high school seniors and current college students are skeptical of the quality of remote instruction offered by colleges since the coronavirus came to the United States. And some of these parents would not send their children to college in the fall if instruction is online. These are the results of a Tyton Partners survey conducted this month. The survey was conducted on Facebook and answered by 464 parents. Gates Bryant, a partner at Tyton, acknowledged that Facebook surveys are not the most reliable tools. But he said Tyton valued the timeliness of the survey. In addition, the flaws in a Facebook survey -- probably a sample that is wealthier and whiter than the general population -- make the survey sample more indicative of those populations. Of the sample, only 57 percent said they would continue their child's education at the same institution if it offers only online education in the fall. Seven percent said they definitely would not return to the same college. And 35 percent said they were unsure.
Presidents' biggest COVID-19 worries? Low-income students and colleges' financial strain
In mid-March, as the novel coronavirus was taking hold on many campuses, Inside Higher Ed surveyed college presidents and found them to be focused on the job at hand: ensuring the physical and psychological safety of students and employees and enabling the smoothest possible transition to remote learning, for faculty members and students alike. Yes, they acknowledged the threat of major financial and enrollment damage to their institutions and were beginning to think about how their institutions might adapt to a landscape that could be permanently altered by a crisis that some say may be the biggest since World War II. But the focus was on emergency response, on the "now." Exactly a month later, in mid-April, Inside Higher Ed went back to them again with a similar but slightly expanded set of questions. The new survey of 187 two- and four-year college presidents, published today and available for free download here, offers a look at how campus leaders' views and actions are evolving as the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it has spurred become the new status quo. The presidents, like all of us, continue to be bedeviled by a dearth of clear information about the arc of the health crisis and how and when some semblance of normalcy will return.
Will students show up for college in fall 2020? Community colleges offer a hint. It isn't pretty.
Ask a community college president about what school will look like in the fall and be prepared for an eye roll, lots of shrugging and even a baffled look or two. They've got no clue, really. That's not their fault. In the coronavirus era of rapidly changing information and restrictions, the presidents have no idea what they'll be allowed to do, much less how they are going to instruct students. "That will be the million-dollar question. I'm not sure we know yet," said Martha Parham, the senior vice president for public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges. "A lot depends on how the economy bounces back." "The unknown is if we're still in the online [learning] environment in the fall," added Tracy D. Hall, president of Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis. It's not just administrators who are in limbo. Students find themselves wondering how school will work, if they will be safe going back and if they will have enough money to afford school this fall.
Colleges rev up cuts as pandemic-related costs keep mounting
In February, shortly after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the United States, Barbara Mistick didn't think the pandemic would have such a staggering impact on colleges. "I was still traveling," said Mistick, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. "The conversation started in February with study abroad. I don't think any of us saw the study abroad conversation leading to this total shutdown and impact on every single revenue source." Unforeseen expenses cropped up almost immediately. In early March, many colleges paid to bring students back from study abroad programs and lost money on prepaid tickets and hotel stays. Since, the costs have only continued piling up. Canceled events, student move-outs, room and board refunds, scaled-up cleaning procedures, and online teaching have all brought unanticipated expenses. Experts have for weeks been calling the pandemic an unprecedented financial challenge for colleges. To mitigate the financial burden, a growing number of colleges has announced employee pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs. They continued at a rapid pace last week.
Covid-19 Sent LGBTQ Students Back to Unsupportive Homes. That Raises the Risk They Won't Return.
College campuses can be crucial safe havens for students who spend their childhoods in the closet, secretive about their sexual orientation or gender identity because they live and learn in unsupportive places. Most LGBTQ students report that they feel safer and more included in college than they did in high school. They often come out in college once they find a safe environment to explore their identity, but they might continue to hide it from their families. Given the crisis at hand, LGBTQ students are among the most vulnerable, and at high risk of dropping out, faculty members and administrators told The Chronicle. Nationwide, campus LGBTQ centers and groups are trying to stay open for business virtually. Research has shown that such groups serve as crucial sources of support for students and signal that their colleges care about their well-being. Students who are engaged in campus activities and feel a sense of community are also more likely to earn degrees.
Coronavirus: Will Colleges Be Open in the Fall?
Every two years, New Jersey's higher-education secretary expects the state's school administrators to present contingency plans for disaster scenarios. Dorm fires, mass shootings, extreme weather events -- all types of threats are considered by these college representatives. University presidents, deans, and others in essential management roles have color-coordinated charts and go bags stashed in their offices. They conduct tabletop exercises: When do we cancel classes? Should we send students home? But these leaders weren't adequately prepared for the onset of a pandemic, nor for the large-scale, indefinite shutdown that has taken place. John Thelin, a University of Kentucky professor and the author of the definitive History of American Higher Education, told me that he's never seen anything like the dual crisis colleges are facing right now. If this were just a public-health crisis or a financial crisis, institutions likely would have been fine. The two combined, however, have produced an unprecedented disruption. "Colleges are prepared for dramatic, catastrophic events. What they're not prepared for are drawn-out things that are less spectacular, but that really cannibalize their operations and their budgets," he said. And unlike hurricanes or tornadoes, which may affect one city or state, this crisis is affecting the whole higher-education sector, so institutions have limited ability to help one another out.
A global mask shortage may leave farmers and farm workers exposed to toxic pesticides
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, vital N95 masks and other personal protective equipment have been hard to come by, even for those who need them most. The World Health Organization estimates that the crisis has driven demand for this equipment, known as PPE, 100 times higher than normal. Even with dramatic increases in production, manufacturers have said they'll likely be unable to meet demand for the foreseeable future. And the WHO has warned that the severe shortage is putting the lives of health care workers at risk. But it's not just health care workers and other care providers who need PPE – especially those N95 masks, technically known as respirators. These devices are also vital to the safety of workers in a host of other industries, from building trades to agriculture. As an entomologist who studies and teaches about pesticide risk reduction, I am particularly concerned about what the shortage may mean for farmworkers, whom the Department of Homeland Security classifies as essential workers -- people who remain on the job even where others have been told to stay home.
COVID-19 relief bill: Espy says Hyde-Smith blasting Democrats for advocating for what she supports
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: While the coronavirus has brought a halt to in-person campaigning for the November general election, incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and her Democratic opponent, former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, are still jockeying for electoral advantages. That jockeying played out over the last few weeks as Congress took up and passed a fourth relief package to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. As the bill was considered, Hyde-Smith spent a considerable amount of time criticizing congressional Democrats, Espy in absentia, for holding up the latest relief package to get what she said was "unrelated" items added to the legislation. But the Espy campaign pointed out that after the legislation passed, Hyde-Smith sent out a news release touting those "unrelated" items as needed to help fight the pandemic. Politics can be confusing.

Nikki McCray-Penson finalizes her first Mississippi State women's basketball coaching staff
Nikki McCray-Penson will have familiar faces by her side during her first season as Mississippi State's women's basketball coach. McCray-Penson was hired two weeks to replace Vic Schaefer, who left MSU after eight seasons to start a tenure at Texas. Schaefer brought the bulk of his assistants with him to Austin, and now McCray-Penson is making a similar move. The former Old Dominion coach has hired the assistants she worked with at ODU. Keith Freeman, Scepter Brownlee, Brittany Young and Ashley Morris will make the transition with McCray-Penson from Norfolk, Virginia, to Starkville. "You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with," McCray-Penson said in a statement. "I can't think of a better group to work alongside as we start this next chapter. Not only are they talented but they are even better people. Each member of our staff has a relentless work ethic. They have a love and passion for coaching young people and for finding a way to win."
Nikki McCray-Penson finalizes her Mississippi State staff
New Mississippi State women's basketball head coach Nikki McCray-Penson has completed her staff, announcing four assistants on Friday.New Mississippi State women's basketball head coach Nikki McCray-Penson has completed her staff, announcing four assistants on Friday. Keith Freeman, Scepter Brownlee, Brittany Young and Ashley Morris -- all members of McCray-Penson's staff at Old Dominion -- will join her for the 2020-21 season. McCray-Penson also announced that Maryann Baker and Abby Hunt will both remain on staff. "I am so thrilled to have Maryann and Abby stay on staff," said McCray-Penson. "After talking with both of them, their passion for what they do was so clear. They are truly dedicated to Mississippi State athletics, to the community, and to our players." Baker will serve as the assistant athletics director of women's basketball. After previously holding the role of director of operations for eight years, Baker will assist the new staff with the transition while also working closely with senior administration as it relates to the program.
MSU graphic designers animate Bulldogs' NFL dreams coming true
It starts with a ring. The animated cell phone in the middle of the screen buzzes twice. It's the NFL. Starkville native and former Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay Jr. has just been drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. The clip lasts just six seconds. At the least, the brief video released by the MSU football Twitter account Friday night offered a momentary distraction from the isolation and trying times society has endured since the COVID-19 pandemic began. But on a deeper level, it was a look at the months of planning the athletic department's graphic design team endured for three nights' worth of engaging content during this past weekend's NFL Draft. "It's nice to come in and wear 100 hats, but at the same time when you collaborate with so many creative minds it's amazing and just benefits everything," Senior Director of Creative Strategy Dan Brown told The Dispatch. "We're kind of like the Avengers -- I mean that's why you put together a superhero team."
Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr. picked by Kansas City Chiefs in 2020 NFL Draft
Willie Gay Jr. has a new home. Gay has lived in the Magnolia State his entire life, playing preps football at Starkville High School while spending his collegiate career right down the road at Mississippi State. Now, the 22-year-old is headed to Kansas City. The Kansas City Chiefs picked Gay in the second round of the NFL Draft. He was the No. 63 overall player to come off the board. Gay is the first Mississippi State linebacker to be drafted since Benardrick McKinney and Matthew Wells were selected in 2015. "Honestly, I was telling my family that my phone interviews with the Chiefs went so well the past few weeks that I said, ;They can't pass on me twice'," Gay said. "They could have. They took a chance on me and right when they called me, I was in shock. I was like, 'It's time. I'm ready to work'. So, I'm ready."
Chiefs select Starkville's Willie Gay in second round
The Kansas City Chiefs have received plenty of value after drafting defensive tackle Chris Jones in the second round in 2016. The Chiefs called on another defensive Bulldog in the second round this year, drafting linebacker Willie Gay Jr. at No. 63 overall on Friday night. Gay started six of 31 career games during his three seasons at MSU. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder from Starkville totaled 99 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions -- one of which he returned for a touchdown. In five games as a junior this past season, Gay made 28 tackles, 3.5 for loss, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Gay joins former Bulldogs Jones, Braxton Hoyett and Martinas Rankin on the defending Super Bowl champions roster.
Saints select Stevens in seventh round
Tommy Stevens started his Mississippi State career inside the Mercedes Benz Superdome. It's now his new home as the New Orleans Saints traded into the seventh round on Saturday to select the Bulldogs' quarterback with the 240th overall pick. Stevens is the fourth MSU player to be picked in the 2020 NFL Draft and the first Bulldog drafted by the Saints since Herman Carroll in 1994. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder from Indianapolis, Indiana started all nine game in which he played this past fall after transferring in from Penn State. Stevens completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,155 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions for the Bulldogs and also rushed 83 times for 381 yards and four more scores. New Orleans traded a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft to the Houston Texans in order to select Stevens, who drew comparisons to Saints quarterback Taysom Hill during draft evaluations.
Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler picked by Minnesota Vikings in 2020 NFL Draft
Mississippi State's string of success with defensive backs in the NFL Draft continued. Cornerback Cameron Dantzler was selected in the third round round by the Minnesota Vikings. He was the 89th overall pick in the draft. The Hammond, Louisiana, product is the sixth Mississippi State defensive back to be drafted since 2012. Dantzler declared for the draft in December, skipping last year's Music City Bowl and his senior season to turn professional. The decision to leave Starkville early paid off for Dantzler, who became Mississippi State's first corner to get drafted since Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks were both selected in the 2013 draft. Dantzler was the second Mississippi State defensive player picked in the 2020 NFL Draft. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 63 overall pick in the second round.
Vikings draft Dantzler in third round
Cameron Dantzler became the second Mississippi State player selected in the NFL Draft on Friday evening. The Minnesota Vikings selected the 6-foot-2, 185-pound cornerback in the third round with the 89th overall pick. Dantzler started 22 of 35 career games with the Bulldogs. He totaled 108 tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, five interceptions, 25 pass deflections, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery. The Hammond, Louisiana native started nine games as a junior this past fall. He notched 40 stops, two tackles for loss, a half-sack, two interceptions, 10 pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Baltimore picks Tyre Phillips in third round
The Baltimore Ravens closed out the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night by selecting Mississippi State offensive lineman Tyre Phillips with the 106th overall pick. Phillips was the third Bulldog to hear his name called on the night, joining former teammates Willie Gay Jr. and Cameron Dantzler. The 6-foot-5, 345-pounder from Grenada played two seasons for MSU after beginning his career at East Mississippi Community College. Phillips appeared in 26 games for the Bulldogs, including 13 starts at left tackle in 2019. In 2019, Phillips played a team-high 821 snaps and surrendered only two sacks.
Minnesota collects Mississippi State's Brian Cole in seventh round
Scouts for the Minnesota Vikings must have loved what they saw from Mississippi State's secondary this past season. After selecting cornerback Cameron Dantzler in the third round, the Vikings dipped back into Starkville to select safety Brian Cole II in the seventh round on Saturday. Cole was the fifth and final Bulldog to be selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Saginaw, Michigan started 16 of 17 career games at MSU making 78 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Cole also returned 16 kickoffs for a 20.6 yard average.
Where Mississippi State players signed free agent deals after NFL Draft
Mississippi State had another successful NFL Draft. Five players were selected during the seven-round draft, marking the second straight year the program has reached that total. It's the third time in the last six years MSU has had five draft picks. State had only previously reached that number in the modern era once, when a school record six players were drafted in 1995. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. got it started Friday when he was taken by the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, with the 63rd overall pick. Cornerback Cameron Dantzler was the 89th overall pick. He went to the Minnesota Vikings. The last three picks came in somewhat surprising fashion. Offensive lineman Tyre Phillips was the last pick Friday. He went in the third round, 106th overall to the Baltimore Ravens. It took well over 100 more picks for another Mississippi State player to get drafted. That was quarterback Tommy Stevens, taken by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh round with the 240th overall pick. Safety Brian Cole was nearly "Mr. Irrelevant," a moniker used to describe the player picked with the final selection of the draft. He beat it out by six picks, going 249th overall to the Vikings.Perhaps even more surprising than Stevens getting drafted was offensive lineman Darryl Williams not coming off the board. He was, however, one of nine Mississippi State players to sign undrafted free agent deals.
Nine Bulldogs inked as undrafted free agents
MSU had five players selected when the dust settled on the 2020 NFL Draft. It was the 11th most from a single school and ranked sixth among Southeastern Conference programs. But Tommy Stevens, Brian Cole, Cameron Dantzler, Willie Gay Jr. and Tyre Phillips are not the only Bulldogs that will be getting a shot at the next level. Defensive tackle Lee Autry (Chicago Bears), offensive linemen Tommy Champion (Seattle Seahawks) and Darryl Williams (Kansas City Chiefs), safety Jaquarius Landrews (New York Giants), wide receivers Isaiah Zuber (New England Patriots) and Stephen Guidry (Dallas Cowboys), defensive end Chauncey Rivers (Baltimore Ravens), linebacker Leo Lewis (Pittsburgh Steelers) and tight end Farrod Green (Indianapolis Colts) all signed free agent deals at the conclusion of the draft.
Alcorn State University mourns loss of beloved former coach
One of the most iconic figures in the history of Alcorn State University athletics, Marino Casem died in his home Saturday afternoon at the age of 85. Known as "The Godfather", Casem was the head football coach at Alcorn for 22 seasons and served as director of athletics for 20 years. He's the winningest football coach in the history of Alcorn athletics, amassing a record of 132-65-8 from 1964-1985. During his coaching tenure, Alcorn won seven SWAC football championships and Casem was named SWAC Coach of the Year seven times. He also coached the Braves to four Black National Titles in 1967, 1968, 1973 and 1984. As an athletic director, Casem led the effort in building the Davey L. Whitney Complex, the home to the Alcorn basketball and volleyball programs. It opened in 1975. Alcorn plays its home football games in a stadium named in his honor, Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium. Casem first arrived at Alcorn as an assistant coach in 1959, along with Spinks, and the two were close friends.
Marino Casem, Hall of Fame Alcorn coach and 'Godfather of the SWAC,' dies at 85
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: This was 17 years ago, the summer of 2003. My assignment was to cover the inductions of Alcorn State's Marino Casem, the legendary coach, and Jackson State's Willie Richardson, the splendid pass receiver, into the College Football Hall of Fame, then located at in downtown South Bend, Ind. Of the countless trips made over the years to cover various athletic events, this one stands out. Number one, Casem and Richardson were by then long retired and had become dear friends of mine. Number two, here were two authentic Mississippi sports heroes who had spent most of their college football years in relative anonymity, finally getting their just due on the national stage. That weekend they shared the stage with the likes of Dan Marino, Reggie White, Kellen Winslow and Ronnie Lott. Believe this: They belonged. Obviously, Richardson, an NFL star for the Baltimore Colts, would have caught touchdown passes at Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Alabama or Ole Miss had he been given the chance. Casem, hailed as The Godfather of the SWAC, would have won as a coach at any of those places and charmed the national media, just as people such as John McKay, Bear Bryant and Johnny Vaught did.

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