Thursday, May 14, 2020   
Mississippi State plans for in-person classroom instruction in Fall 2020 semester
Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said the university is fully committed to welcoming students back to campus this fall and that plans to resume in-person classroom and laboratory instruction in the Fall 2020 semester are "on schedule and taking solid form" as the university continues development of specific new operating guidelines. Keenum on April 28 announced MSU's "institutional intention" for MSU to resume more traditional operations in the fall. Under Keenum's direction, the university has convened a COVID-19 task force that is focused on fostering a safe environment for the return of MSU students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus within the confines of official federal and state government guidance and that of the leadership of recognized public health agencies. The MSU task force will produce guidelines to assist MSU across all campuses in transitioning back to more traditional campus activities.
Mississippi State plans for return to in-person classes this fall
Mississippi State University announced that plans to resume in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester are "on schedule and taking solid form." MSU President Mark E. Keenum said in a statement Tuesday the university is "fully committed" to welcoming students back to campus this fall, and specific new operating guidelines are being developed. Keenum announced MSU's "institutional intention" to resume more traditional operations in the fall on April 28. The university created a COVID-19 task force that is focused on fostering a safe environment for the return of MSU students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus within the confines of federal and state government guidance and the leadership of public health agencies. The University of Mississippi has also indicated that it intends to hold in-person classes this fall. Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce said in a letter to students on April 29 that, "the university's status for the Fall 2020 semester has not changed for all classes on the Oxford and regional campuses, and we remain committed to pursuing all possible ways to resume in-person instruction."
State prepares for in-person classroom instruction for fall semester
Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said the university is fully committed to welcoming students back to campus this fall. In a release from the university, Keenum said plans to resume in-person classroom and laboratory instruction for the fall semester are "on schedule and taking solid form" as the university continues development of specific new operating guidelines. Keenum announced the university has organized a COVID-19 task force that is focused on "fostering a safe environment for the return of MSU students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus within the confines of official federal and state government guidance and that of the leadership of recognized public health agencies."
Mississippi State to welcome students back to campus this fall
Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said the university is fully committed to welcoming students back to campus this fall and that plans to resume in-person classroom and laboratory instruction in the Fall 2020 semester are "on schedule and taking solid form" as the university continues development of specific new operating guidelines. Keenum on April 28 announced MSU's "institutional intention" for MSU to resume more traditional operations in the fall. Under Keenum's direction, the university has convened a COVID-19 task force that is focused on fostering a safe environment for the return of MSU students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus within the confines of official federal and state government guidance and that of the leadership of recognized public health agencies. Keenum said MSU's COVID-19 task force would develop a strategy to reopen that included guidance and input from the IHL task force, direct input from MSU stakeholders, and the shared governance model that already exists on the MSU campus with faculty, staff and students.
Mississippi State planning to resume in-person classes for fall semester
Mississippi State University has continued its plan to resume in-person classes this fall. The university's COVID-19 task force released guidelines to help transition back to campus. Those guidelines included changing the academic calendar to minimize disruptions. Cleaning and disinfecting will also be increased in buildings. Face coverings will also be used. COVID-19 testing and contact tracing will also be used if needed. The university also has planned to try mixtures of hybrid, online and face-to-face instruction. The task force has also considered alternative best practices for campus life, athletics, and public outreach.
MSU plans for in-person classroom instruction in Fall 2020 semester
Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said the university is fully committed to welcoming students back to campus this fall and that plans to resume in-person classroom and laboratory instruction in the Fall 2020 semester are "on schedule and taking solid form" as the university continues development of specific new operating guidelines. Keenum on April 28 announced MSU's "institutional intention" for MSU to resume more traditional operations in the fall. With MSU Provost David Shaw's leadership position on the state task force in developing strategies for the reopening of all of the state's public universities, Keenum said MSU will benefit from the expertise of other veteran higher education administrators on the IHL task force and share that information with MSU's COVID-19 task force. Joining Shaw on the IHL task force is MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt.
Colleges and universities planning for the fall semester
Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said the university is fully committed to welcoming students back to campus this fall. He says the plan is to resume in-person classroom and laboratory instruction in the fall 2020 semester as the university continues development of specific new operating guidelines. Keenum announced Apr. 28 MSU's "institutional intention" to resume more traditional operations in the fall. The university convened a COVID-19 task force that is focused on fostering a safe environment for the return of MSU students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus within the confines of official federal and state government guidance and that of the leadership of recognized public health agencies. The MSU task force will produce guidelines to assist MSU across all campuses in transitioning back to more traditional campus activities.
Mississippi State plans for in-person classroom instruction this fall
Mississippi State University plans for in-person classroom instruction this fall. The university released a statement Wednesday. The full statement is below.
'CBS Sunday Morning' to interview MSU's Michael Nadorff on nightmares related to COVID-19
Mississippi State faculty member specializing in behavioral sleep issues is using a national platform this Sunday [May 17] to discuss nightmares induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. "CBS Sunday Morning," considered one of the best shows on television and airing from 8-10:30 a.m., will interview Michael R. Nadorff, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Psychology, on his thoughts and expertise related to the global pandemic and its effect on sleep patterns, specifically dreams. Nadorff directs the university's Sleep, Suicide and Aging Laboratory and also leads the department's clinical Ph.D. program. Nadorff said he views odd or disturbing COVID-related dreams "as being related to anxiety, stress and rumination," and points to a hypothesis called activation-synthesis for his reasoning. Nadorff said during the quarantine period people have encountered new worries and anxieties, which are impacting dreams.
Saving money during the coronavirus outbreak
More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the start of the pandemic. Even with stimulus checks dispersed to citizens, many are still struggling to stay afloat because they don't have an emergency fund. Dr. Becky Smith, director of the Mississippi State University Extension Economic Education and Financial Literacy Department explains saving is not priority in some people's minds. "Even a couple of decades ago we didn't really have to save. So it's a new skill really that most of us are still learning." According to Smith, less than 50 percent of Mississippians have an emergency fund. Smith is holding a "Managing Finances in Stressful Times" webinar Friday, May 22 at 10 a.m.
Low supply pushes beef, pork prices higher
As the COVID-19 pandemic causes meat processing plants to shut down, supply lines for beef and pork products especially have been impacted, causing some stores in the area to limit the number of packaged products they can sell to customers and driving up prices. At Vowell's Marketplace in Starkville, store manager Max Stillman said the store implemented a two packages per customer limit for ground beef, though not for any other meat products. He said a family like Reed's shopping for ground beef is going to see a price increase. "It's going to be about $4 higher," he said. "Maybe $3 to $4 higher right now. And that's just started this week. Of course it could get even worse because the longer this drags on with the packing plants closing, it does make a strain on us, even though we're buying from six or seven different suppliers. It still causes the cost to go up. As that supply dwindles down, the cost just keeps going up." When the plants start back up, the supply will be higher than usual, and beef will "flood the market," Stillman said. "As soon as it ends, I feel like the price will drop considerably because there's a lot of meat out there," he said.
Mississippi Legislature votes for business grants amid virus
Mississippi legislators voted late Wednesday to create grant programs for small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, using some of the $1.25 billion in relief money that the federal government is sending the state. The total pricetag for the grants would be $300 million. If Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signs the proposal into law, a $60 million program would provide $2,000 grants for businesses that were forced to closed by government orders and for child care centers. The other $240 million would be for grants ranging from $1,500 to $25,000. For the first 21 days, the only applications considered would be from businesses that did not receive aid from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Josh Harkins said businesses will have to follow guidelines from the U.S. Treasury Department on using the money. "The state's on the hook for any monies that are misspent," said Harkins, a Republican from Brandon.
Mississippi Legislature approves $300 million in small business relief funds
The Mississippi Legislature late Wednesday night passed a bill that would allocate $300 million for small businesses across the state that have been adversely impacted by the novel coronavirus. Of those total funds, $60 million is set aside for businesses that were forced to temporarily close down under orders from state and local government. These businesses would directly receive immediate payments of $2,000 and would not have to apply for the money. The remaining $240 million will go to businesses that have incurred unexpected expenses from the virus. Additionally, $40 million of these funds will go toward minority-owned or disadvantaged businesses. These businesses will have to apply for the funds that would be available, which would range from $1,500 to $25,000. All of the funds would be available through grants and businesses would not have to repay the money. "Our thought is first to award funds to eligible businesses that were forced to close or voluntarily closed and have not received any federal assistance from any (Small Business Association) programs for COVID-19. Second, is award funds to other eligible businesses," Senate Finance Chairman Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, previously said in a hearing about the legislation.
Lawmakers approve $300 million for Mississippi small businesses impacted by coronavirus
The Mississippi Legislature committed $300 million of the $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds the state has received to small businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic. The Legislature, working late Wednesday night, passed and sent to Gov. Tate Reeves a proposal to provide checks of $2,000 to all businesses forced to close because of the pandemic. The proposal will also provide grants of between $1,500 and $25,000 to businesses that are approved though an application process overseen by the Mississippi Development Authority. The program, which defines a small business as having 50 or fewer employees, also sets aside $40 million to ensure minority-owned businesses have access to the grants offered under the program. "We felt that if you were forced to shut down by the government, you were entitled to a check," House Ways and Means Chair Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, told members of the House before they approved the bill with one no vote in the 122-member chamber.
Educators: Pandemic Exposes State's Dire Need for Broadband Access
Mississippi's Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says some school districts are providing quality distance learning while others are not. She tells the Senate Education Committee lack of internet access and devices are serious concerns. Wright has a plan she says will provide teachers and students with training and devices -- but access to broadband statewide is the linchpin. Wright says it'll cost $250 million the first year and $100 million for each of the next two years to implement the plan. Mississippi's eight colleges and universities switched to online classes in mid March because of the pandemic. College Board Commissioner Alfred Rankins sees students in business parking lots trying to connect to wifi. "I can tell you I witnessed this twice at Walmart where I pulled up beside a car that had students sitting in the car. They had their textbooks on the dashboard and trying to complete their course work online," said Rankins. Rankins is asking for $86 million to upgrade technology and train faculty and students. Republican Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall noted access to broadband has to be the first step in helping schools and colleges.
Education officials call on Mississippi lawmakers to provide funds for broadband
Mississippi lawmakers on Wednesday discussed how much coronavirus relief funding could be spent to improve distance learning for the state's educational institutions. Several Senate committees hosted a joint distance learning hearing, where multiple educational leaders all reiterated one thing that is needed for online learning to be successful -- a quality connection to the internet. Carey Wright, the state superintendent of education, told legislators that she is certain students will likely not spend 100% of their time in front of a physical teacher if another wave of COVID-19 emerges in the fall. Al Rankins, the commissioner of higher education for Mississippi, told legislators that several universities in the state reported that their students were forced to complete coursework by using their cellphones or were even forced to travel to parking lots near fast food restaurants to use their WiFi. Mary Graham, the president of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College told the lawmakers that community colleges have also had to take on costs of expanding online learning, and her college had to loan out 300 laptops.
Mississippi might give every student a computer, but first they need to fix their internet
Lawmakers met Wednesday with education officials, business representatives and lobbyists to discuss how to spend hundreds of millions of federal dollars to improve internet access and distance learning in Mississippi ahead of the 2020-21 school year. The coronavirus pandemic upended the current school year. Graduation ceremonies were postponed. Testing was canceled. Now, as coronavirus cases continue to grow, it's unclear what exactly the upcoming school year will look like, but the state is preparing for empty desks and dark classrooms. "Everything that we're hearing and reading says that we are going to be in this situation fall to late fall," Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright told a Senate committee. "I don't think there's anybody medically that's not saying this, so we need to be prepared to do this." Lawmakers and education officials said they want every public school student to have a computer or tablet they can use from home for schoolwork. But implementing a successful distance learning curriculum statewide is far more complex than putting a computer in the hands of every student.
Eviction suspension 'will come to an end,' Mississippi governor says on COVID-19 update
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday during his daily media conference that he is lifting a suspension on evictions on June 1. The suspension had been in place since Reeves' shelter-in-place order went into effect on April 3 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state. "I wanted to give everyone the time to put together the money they need to make a rent payment if they have fallen behind," Reeves said. "I will sign an executive order that will go into effect June 1. I wanted those who are renting to know that this suspension will come to an end. We need to recognize that housing doesn't just grow on trees." Lifting of the suspension will allow law enforcement to restart enforcement of eviction orders. Reeves left open the possibility of reinstating the suspension of evictions if another wave of COVID-19 infections hits the state later in the year.
Mississippians give Tate Reeves high marks for COVID-19 response in new poll
According to a new poll from Impact Management Group conducted for Y'all Politics, Mississippians approve of Governor Tate Reeves' response to the COVID-19 pandemic by almost 83%. Entering his 5th month on the job, voters seem to be coalescing around Reeves during the crisis. The statewide poll of likely voters using live operators was conducted from May 4-7, 2020 gauging public opinion on a variety of topics, including how citizens view the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic and the job performance of Governor Tate Reeves and President Donald Trump. Over 55% say things in Mississippi are heading in the right direction. 25% believe we are on the wrong track. That compares to 49% right track and 31% wrong track eleven months ago in a similar poll. Mississippians were almost evenly spread when weighing the health versus economic threats caused by the pandemic, with 47% saying the greater risk was for physical health while 40% pointed to the economic hardship. Just under 43% said government leaders should consider health first while nearly 39% were focused on the economy first.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs speaks on coronavirus in the Pine Belt
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs was missing in action during Gov. Tate Reeves' news conference on Wednesday, but that's because he was in the Pine Belt. Dobbs discussed COVID-19 testing and said the virus is very active in the area. "Over the past several weeks, Jones County has really increased in the number of cases," Dobbs said. "And if you look at the counties that have the highest number per capita in the past seven to 14 days, Jones County falls out in that list, so we are trying to invest a lot of effort and resources in this area." As for Jasper County, he said a lot of the association seems to be with the poultry industry. "Those folks have been working the whole time, there hasn't been any people who've been on administrative leave or anything of that nature -- but then it has penetrated into the communities where those people live and we're seeing a lot of amplification and transmission over there," Dobbs said. With more tests being performed, he expects Mississippi will continue to report hundreds of cases each day. He also predicts a possible second surge of coronavirus infections in the fall.
Layoffs, furloughs: Mississippi cities warn of drastic budget cuts because of virus
Local government officials are warning of severe budget cuts, including furloughs and layoffs of city employees, due to revenue losses amid the coronavirus pandemic. Facing a roughly $3.5 million budget shortfall, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs said Tuesday his city may file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which allows local governments protection from creditors while they pay back debt through a payment plan. During a joint Senate County Affairs/Municipalities committees meeting Tuesday at the Capitol, Mississippi Municipal League Executive Director Shari Veazey told senators that an initial survey results show 78% of cities in the state won't have revenue to meet budget requirements for the upcoming budget year, which starts Oct. 1. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, president of the Mississippi Municipal League, said in a phone interview cities should have the authorization to get some of the $1.25 billion in CARES Act money the state has received.
Mississippi hospitals, with gutted revenue streams due to coronavirus, receive a state cash infusion. Is it enough?
Mississippi hospitals, stretched thin by revenue loss from weeks of delayed treatment to protect the health care system from the coronavirus, are receiving an infusion of cash from the state. The state's Medicaid department will dole out a total of $160 million to Mississippi hospitals over the first two weeks of May. This money is separate from the CARES Act's $100 billion that was slated for hospitals across the country in the form of emergency funds. "The impact on hospitals is immediate," said Drew Snyder, director of Mississippi Division of Medicaid. "Coupled with the federal funds hospitals have gotten directly from Washington, these advances should help sustain them in slow months until utilization recovers." COVID-19 has hit Mississippi hospitals hard, and not just because of their expensive, intensive treatments against the disease and the preparations needed to mitigate the spread. Mississippi hospitals were struggling before the pandemic, with five closing since 2013, and nearly half of the state's rural hospitals at high financial risk.
'Stay Safe Jackson' Order Reopens Capital City Due to Effect of State Order on Businesses
The capital city is headed into the first phase of reopening for two weeks starting Saturday, May 16, when Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba's "Stay at Home" executive order lapses. Lumumba, speaking yesterday at a press conference at the City Hall Garden, said Gov. Tate Reeves' state order relaxing COVID-19-related restrictions forced his hand. Jackson cannot be an island where local businesses are at a disadvantage because customers patronize businesses in adjourning cities, he said. The new "Stay Safe Jackson" order clears the way for many Jackson businesses and nonprofits to open starting Saturday, including restaurants, barbershops and gyms. During this two-week "slow open" phase, gatherings in Jackson will continue to be limited to no more than 10 people, and people should practice proper handwashing for 20 seconds. Non-contact sports may resume, subject to strict guidelines, but no contact sports. Theater houses and places of amusements must remain closed. The City will reopen parks, but exercise equipment cannot yet be used.
Parkway still envisioned over the Ross Barnett Reservoir
Federal funding will be sought for a proposed new roadway to get traffic off of the Ross Barnett Reservoir dam. The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District plans to again seek federal funding for design. The PRVWSD Board last year partnered with the Mississippi Department of Transportation for a Federal BUILD Grant for $3.6 million for the preliminary engineering and right-of-way phases to relocate the Bob Anthony Parkway. PRVWSD has set aside $900,000 to match the grant, if it receives it. The proposal from the PRWSD is to build two new bridges further south of the dam that would span the 4.4 miles from the Rankin County side of the Reservoir to Ridgeland. The total cost of the project is estimated in the proposal is around $132.3 million. The original design of the dam, which was completed in 1963, provided for a single road across the crest of the dam structure which was never designed to handle a large amount of traffic and no heavy trucks of any kind. The area on the Rankin County side of the dam began to see significant growth starting in the 1970s and it continues today.
State budget hits due to coronavirus are trickling in and it's not pretty
States are starting to report their tax collections for March and April, and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was right when he said, "Blue states aren't the only ones who are screwed." Georgia is showing a decline of more than $100 million in sales tax, fuel tax and other tax revenue compared with the same period a year ago. Tennessee's tax revenue is down more than $120 million. Pennsylvania's is off by more $760 million, and Texas, which also has been hammered by the downturn in oil prices, has seen tax collections plummet by nearly $1 billion. The total declines compared with last year would be even larger if personal and corporate income tax collections were included. But much of the drop in those categories was the result of postponement of income tax filing dates until July 15. Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Texas are among the first states whose coronavirus-impacted tax revenue numbers have been reported. But no state is expected to show year-over-year increases in tax collections in the face of a pandemic that shut down businesses coast to coast and led to unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression.
3 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, pushing eight-week total to 36.5 million
Roughly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic continued to unleash widespread economic havoc on an already depleted U.S. workforce. The new applications for aid contribute to the total 36.5 million workers that have sought to receive weekly unemployment checks in the past eight weeks, according to the new federal data, erasing years of economic gains and threatening lasting devastation to the country that rivals even the Great Depression. The flood of new claims could further inflame tensions between President Trump and public-health officials over how quickly to try and restart parts of the economy, with Trump on Thursday alleging that some Democrats are trying to slow the process down in order to hurt him politically. Once again, the federal unemployment data illustrate the wide-ranging economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which has spared no state or industry.
Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-4) Advocating for Mississippi Timber Producers in Coronavirus Relief Package
Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-4) joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter to House and Senate leadership requesting the inclusion of the Forest Recovery Act, H.R. 1444/S. 1687, in future COVID-19 response legislation to provide economic relief and stimulate recovery. In Mississippi's Fourth Congressional District, the timber industry supports over 8,560 jobs, totaling $325.7 million in payroll and $1.54 billion in sales and manufacturing. The FRA amends the tax code to allow for, in the case of a natural disaster, the loss of uncut timber to be valued at fair market value as opposed to the current law that uses the adjusted cost basis of the timber. "Forest landowners provide vital economic benefits to rural communities. Nationally, the ripple effect of timber generates 2.5 million jobs, $109 billion in payroll, and $288 billion in sales and manufacturing. The inclusion of the FRA in our response would allow forest landowners to continue meeting growing demand, encourage reforestation, and help rural communities maintain their economic base during these uncertain times," the members wrote.
Multimillion-dollar food bank delivery contracts go to firms with little experience
The Agriculture Department has awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to companies that appear to have little experience working with food banks or farmers, spurning several big produce companies with extensive expertise in food distribution. An event planning company in San Antonio, Texas, known for throwing lavish weddings and high-end conferences, was awarded more than $39 million -- one of the largest contracts handed out by USDA under a new program aimed at matching up food banks with surplus produce, meat and dairy. The new initiative has been hailed as a creative approach to redirecting food as millions of pounds of produce and milk have been dumped in recent months as the closing of restaurants, cruise ships and schools has upended supply chains. But there are concerns about whether some of the companies awarded contracts can pull it off. When the Agriculture Department late Friday released the names of the companies selected for the program, numerous industry leaders were not on the list.
Trump administration spins up a presidential transition
The Trump administration has begun the formal process of planning for a potential transition of power if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins. The administration sent over a report outlining its transition activities to two congressional committees on Wednesday night, announcing it has created a transition planning group -- the White House Transition Coordinating Council, which will advise executive departments and agencies on preparation for a potential transition -- and detailing other aspects of a handoff between administrations. A second panel, the Agency Transition Directors Council, primarily coordinates the transition within agencies. The Office of Management and Budget recently ordered all agency heads to pick career officials to participate in the latter group, which is due to meet on May 27. The law requires both groups to be established six months ahead of a presidential election, according to the Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015.
'We Have Not Met Our Peak': Dr. LouAnn Woodward on UMMC's Battle Against COVID-19
Twice now, LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has made headlines for her strong public stance on Mississippi's response to COVID-19. Gov. Tate Reeves' delayed statewide shelter-at-home order came on the heels of her impassioned letter to state leadership: "In my opinion, (a shelter-in-place order) is the only additional thing we can do right now to decrease the force of the impact," she wrote on April 1. Then on May 4, Woodward cautioned on Twitter that the state had yet to see the peak of the virus, only days before Reeves expanded the state's reopening well in advance of the national guidelines. Her urgings reflect the challenges facing UMMC at large, responsible for both treating COVID-19 patients and, as the state's only research hospital, developing partnerships with state agencies to test, trace and eventually treat the disease. Woodward spoke to the Jackson Free Press about the breakthroughs in testing and treatment at the medical center, as well as the state's larger coronavirus strategy.
Jackson State University welcomes new director of bands
Jackson State University is welcoming a new director of bands as Dowell Taylor retires after 34 years of service to the university. Dr. Roderick Little has been appointed as the new leader of the Sonic Boom of the South. "Other than my family, this is amongst the highest honor that I have been bestowed. I am humbled and ready to propel our great program forward," said Little. At the age of 34, Little is one of the youngest band directors and arrangers in the school's history. He joined the JSU music department in 2012 as an assistant band director and instructor of music. He was appointed associate director of bands in 2013 and made marching band director in 2015. Taylor shared that he is proud to pass the baton to Little, before describing him as a young man who has proven to be well prepared for high-intensity leadership and one who has surpassed his performance expectations.
Millsaps College students to return to campus for fall semester
Although Millsaps College students spent the last month of the 2020 spring academic term utilizing remote instruction in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, the college is gearing up for an on-campus residential experience in August, as well as planning to support remote instruction options in all classes for any students who are unable to return to campus. "We expect at least some of our students will not be able to return to campus for a variety of personal reasons, including potentially their health or the health of a family member," says Millsaps College President Dr. Rob Pearigen. "Our faculty are working tirelessly to offer a high-quality educational experience to adequately serve all of our students for the upcoming semester." Millsaps College Provost Dr. Keith Dunn agrees. "Multi-model instruction is the right solution to enable Millsaps to be responsive to the needs of all our students," says Dunn. "While we hope the majority of them will be with us in the classroom, we cannot leave behind those students who are unable to do so. Our faculty are fully engaged and committed to the success of our students, regardless of how COVID-19 has impacted their living situations. Each class will also include a continuity of instruction plan should a faculty member become incapacitated."
Twin sisters snag top spots of their class at Bay High
It's not every day two sisters make the top of their class together, especially twin sisters. However, that's exactly what happened with Emma and Madelyn Gonzales, who have been named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of their class. It was during middle school when the twins decided to buckle down and focus on their academics to see where it would lead them. Both have scored a 30+ on their ACT tests. Both agree memory, prioritizing, and hard work got them where they are today. "We played tennis all four years and soccer for our first three years and we've been involved in many clubs, but we still managed to keep our academics like our top priority," Emma said. The twins plan to follow in the footsteps of their parents by attending Mississippi State University where Emma will study accounting, and Madelyn will study interior design.
Auburn University to 'reopen' in fall, says President Jay Gogue
Auburn University President Jay Gogue said that campus operations will resume in the fall, in a May 6 admissions greeting video to incoming freshmen. "We at Auburn realize that right now, you probably are thinking about your future," Gogue said, addressing student concerns. "You're thinking about what other plans will be disrupted." Gogue went on to state that classes will open for face-to-face instruction as planned, and student involvement and Greek life events will occur. "We're going to have all of the activities that we have every fall," he said. "The only thing that will be different is that you will be with us this fall, and we're looking forward to having you." Freshman convocation, student organization activities and Pizza and Popsicles with the President will be held, Gogue said. He also shared that Auburn "will have football this fall," but did not note any changes. Gogue said he hopes the Auburn way has prepared spring 2020 graduates to "deal with and address life's uncertainties," in light of graduation being canceled.
Auburn University to offer free reading help for grade schoolers
The Auburn University Reading Center will offer free remote reading tutoring June 5-July 15 for children who have completed grades K-2, but are not yet reading fluently. There is no tuition. The Early Childhood Education program will provide a small group of tutors for the project. Priority will be given to children struggling with decoding, fluency or comprehension – the program is not designed for fluent readers or for speakers of other languages working to learn English. All participants are expected to improve their decoding ability, reading fluency, comprehension and enjoyment of reading through participation in Summer Reading Tutoring. Parents will need a laptop computer with a webcam, an internet connection and either a document camera or a flexible holder for a smartphone so the phone camera can display student work.
Alabama community colleges plan on opening campuses in fall; system working to improve distance learning
Alabama Community College System leadership on Wednesday said campuses are planning to reopen in the fall, subject to guidance from Gov. Kay Ivey regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement came during an ACCS Board meeting with members participating via video conference. The system has also been discussing with the Ivey administration ideas for how students who are close to finishing their degrees and are able to enter the workforce soon can do so under new health and safety precautions. Vice Chancellor for System Development Susan Price explained that staff has submitted suggestions to Ivey on how students who still need to complete lab or clinical work or work force training programs can finish their courses in the coming months. "Many of those students, this is the last course that they need to complete a program to enter the workforce," Price said. Community colleges are currently not allowed to provide in-person instruction until May 22.
LSU announces details for virtual graduation; in-person ceremony still expected at later date
Louisiana State University is postponing its traditional in-person spring graduation for its 4,000 graduates until a date still to be determined, but will go ahead Friday morning with a virtual ceremony broadcast on the university's Facebook page. LSU announced the shift to a virtual commencement Wednesday morning. The virtual commencement, which the university is called a "graduation watch party," is set to start at 10 a.m. Friday. Lauren Daigle, a Grammy winner and Louisiana native, will sing the national anthem while Lisette Oropesa, an opera star and LSU alumna, will sing the LSU Alma Mater. No traditional commencement speaker is planned. Instead, the Class of 2020 on Friday will hear messages from Interim President Tom Galligan, Executive Vice President & Provost Stacia Haynie, LSU Board of Supervisors Chair Mary Werner, as well as the deans of the senior colleges
UT-Knoxville moves ahead with no tuition increases, but budget remains in flux
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has recommended no tuition increase for next school year, because of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. The chancellor's advisory board approved the proposal for no tuition increase, which is part of the operating budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, on Wednesday. It will now go before the Board of Trustees at their June meeting. Because of the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus, UT is looking at no tuition increase at all campuses. "Our students and their families are struggling right now, many financially," said system President Randy Boyd when announcing the plan last month. "Our chancellors and I strongly believe that we need to do everything we can to provide them the support they need to continue their education at UT, and to make our university as affordable as possible for our incoming students." In addition, there will be no increase to mandatory student fees, and for the first time, no increase in housing fees and dining fees.
Some U. of South Carolina students will get part of $10 million-plus in coronavirus relief money
University of South Carolina students impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will get relief money, USC officials said Wednesday. More than $10 million of federal financial assistance will be distributed to eligible students affected by the university closing campus among other safety measures taken to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, officials said in a news release. More than 20,000 USC students are set to receive funds from the UofSC CARES plan, according to the release. Those in line to receive relief funds include students receiving Pell Grants, and those eligible for Title IV Federal Student Financial Aid, USC officials said. The students must be enrolled for the spring 2020 semester and "attest that they incurred expenses directly related to the closure of the campus, according to the release. USC also established the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund in March to help students facing financial hardship as a result of unexpected travel home, job loss or other technology-related expenses, it said in the release. More than 300 students have received help through the fund to date, USC officials said.
U. of Missouri to start phased return to campus
A gradual return of faculty to the University of Missouri campus will start May 20 in what is being called the "Show Me Renewal" initiative. In-person classes were suspended March 11 and the campus was closed a few days later. MU officials have announced the plan to reopen the campus for the fall semester in August. The first to return will be faculty engaged in "mission-critical research" and administrators and staff who must perform their duties on-site. "We are now asking university leaders to identify faculty or staff who should be considered in this first group that would begin to return next week," University of Missouri System President and interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi and Provost Latha Ramchand wrote in a statement to faculty and staff. "We're excited to begin moving back to campus," Choi stated in a news release. "Working together, we're confident that we can welcome faculty, staff and students to campus in a thoughtful and safe manner. Additionally, we'll continue to monitor the situation and talking with public health officials in case we need to make any changes."
House Democrats include research dollars in latest pandemic relief package
By week's end the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives hopes to approve another massive coronavirus relief package. For U.S. scientists, the good news is that the $3 trillion spending bill (H.R. 6800) unveiled last night contains billions of dollars in new research funding. The bad news is that the bill is only a marker for negotiations with Senate Republicans and the White House on what more the federal government should do to help the country deal with the devastating economic and health effects of the pandemic. Most of the money in the House bill would be used to support research on COVID-19 or to offset its impact on federally funded research activities. But some would be available to strengthen the overall research enterprise. NIH would receive $4.721 billion. NSF would receive $125 million for grants to "prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus."
Graduate degree holders starting new jobs at higher rates than all other Americans, survey shows
It's been well accepted for years that a college degree makes it easier to get a job. A new survey shows that amid the coronavirus pandemic, that may not be true across the board. More than 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began, and the nationwide unemployment rate has climbed to 14.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A Strada Education Network survey released Wednesday shows that more than half of Americans have lost jobs, hours or income as a result of the pandemic. Of those people, graduate and professional degree holders are more likely to have started a new job in the past month than people with a bachelor's degree, associate or vocational degree, some college education, or a high school diploma or less. "You would expect, typically, that any kind of higher education would really be giving people a boost in terms of jobs. And here what we see is at the very highest levels -- people who have graduate and professional degrees -- that is true," said Nichole Torpey-Saboe, director at the Strada Center for Consumer Insights. "But we're not seeing the same kind of bump for people with bachelor's degrees or associate's degrees."
How campuses might make the best of an undesirable virtual fall
Most college and university administrators and faculty members are desperate for their campuses to be open in the fall, believing that the in-person experience is essential to what they do. But the reality is that campuses may well remain closed to students in the fall, and colleges and universities should focus their attention on making a fully virtual experience the best it can possibly be. That's the message of a report published today by the research firm Eduventures, days after the head of the California State University system said its 23 institutions would almost certainly start the fall semester virtually -- the most visible such announcement yet, with many more colleges announcing they are planning to open. The Eduventures report, written by the organization's lead researcher, Richard Garrett, hardly roots for colleges to remain shuttered to students this fall. It cites the difficulties the campus shutdowns have imposed on many students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, and acknowledges as legitimate the doubts of many college professors and administrators that "any form of remote learning can truly emulate the college experience."

How Mississippi State inched closer to playing sports amid coronavirus pandemic
There might be hope for college sports in Starkville this fall. Mississippi State issued a release Wednesday stating the university is fully committed to reopening its campus to students this fall. MSU's classes have been online only since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Per the release, university president Mark Keenum said plans to resume in-person classroom and laboratory instruction during the fall 2020 semester are "on schedule and taking solid form." Keenum's comment comes less than a week after a stark revelation from NCAA President Mark Emmert during a live conversation on the NCAA's Twitter account. "If a school doesn't reopen, then they're not going to be playing sports," Emmert said. "It's really that simple." Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen's late father was a college professor for nearly 40 years. Cohen told the Clarion Ledger he could hear his father saying the same thing as Emmert. That in mind, MSU's plan to reopen later this year is significant. "I'm very optimistic about our kids coming back to campus and conditioning for our fall sports after June 1," Cohen said. "We have a plan in place to do that as an athletic department."
Ron Polk returns home to Mississippi State
The winningest coach in Southeastern Conference history is coming home. After 12 years as a volunteer assistant baseball coach at UAB, Ron Polk is returning to Mississippi State as a special assistant to the athletic director. Polk served two stints as the Bulldogs' baseball coach totaling 29 years. He led eight teams to the College World Series during his coaching career including six times at MSU. "Mississippi State is a special place, and this is home for me," Polk said. "After 54 years of coaching college baseball, including the last 12 as a volunteer assistant at UAB, this is a perfect time for me to give back to Mississippi State. I'm very appreciative to this great university and director of athletics John Cohen for allowing me to do this." "This is a great day for the Hail State Family to welcome Ron Polk back home," Cohen said. The 76-year old has maintained his residence in Starkville since his retirement but had volunteered at UAB under former MSU assistant coach Brian Shoop. Shoop announced his retirement on Monday.
Ron Polk returns to Mississippi State in administrative role
A legend has returned. Mississippi State announced Wednesday afternoon that longtime baseball coach Ron Polk will return to campus as the Special Assistant to the Athletic Director. "Mississippi State is a special place, and this is home for me," Polk said in a news release. "After 54 years of coaching college baseball, including the last 12 as a volunteer assistant at UAB, this is a perfect time for me to give back to Mississippi State. I'm very appreciative to this great university and Director of Athletics John Cohen for allowing me to do this." Following the retirement of Brian Shoop at UAB, Polk now moves back to the school he spent 29 seasons at as the head coach. In a career that has spanned nearly six decades, he ranks ninth in NCAA Division I history with 1,373 wins. Polk also produced 35 All-Americans and over 75 All-SEC performers. The former head coach is also one of just three people in college baseball history to take three different programs to the College World Series.
Would local doctors attend a Mississippi State football game?
Would a doctor take his kids and family to a football game at Davis Wade Stadium this fall? This was the question that kept rattling around in my mind and sparked me to find an answer. As the debate rages on about whether or not we'll see a return to sports soon, the city of Starkville waits in anticipation. The playing of football, or not, will no doubt impact lives in the community and all around in multiple ways. Some say bring on the games. Others are understandably hesitant. So I took it upon myself to ask those in the know, those actually treating patients in Starkville, what their opinions were on college football returning to the Mississippi State campus this September, given the current coronavirus (COVID-19) fight and the conditions they have seen in Starkville. What follows is a transcript (slightly edited for clarity) of my recent conversation with three Starkville doctors.
A look ahead at Mississippi State softball's crowded 2021 roster
After the best start in school history, the Mississippi State softball team experienced an abrupt and disappointing end to its 2020 season. The Bulldogs went 25-3, earned a win at the NFCA Leadoff Classic and were poised to start Southeastern Conference play with a home series against Kentucky. But one day before the Wildcats came to Nusz Park, Mississippi State's season was halted, and the Women's College World Series was canceled. Five days later, the Bulldogs' promising year under first-time head coach Samantha Ricketts was officially over. "She was doing amazing, our team was doing amazing, and I think we just had all the pieces together," senior second baseman Lindsey Williams said of her coach and her team. Williams, who chose not to take an extra year of eligibility, will be the only piece not returning next season as the Bulldogs essentially get to reset in 2021. Ricketts told The Dispatch that while the Bulldogs remain disappointed about what could have been, the chance to return all that talent is a rare "redo," and the team is ready to reap the benefits. The coach summed up her team's mentality: "'Hey, what an awesome opportunity that we can take advantage of.'"
Auburn president Jay Gogue claims 'we're going to have football this fall'
Auburn's president is confident that there will be football on the Plains this fall. Dr. Jay Gogue, in a recent video greeting to incoming freshmen, claimed that the university is "going to have football this fall," as well as resume on-campus instruction and activities -- including more than 500 clubs, freshman convocation and fraternity and sorority activities -- for the semester. "We at Auburn realize that right now you're probably thinking about your future," Gogue said. "You're thinking about what other plans will be disrupted, what things that I planned to do this summer and fall that I won't be able to do. I can tell you no one knows for sure all the details of what will happen in the future, but I do know a few things that are going to happen at Auburn University." Gogue's message comes amid an uncertain time during the coronavirus pandemic, as schools -- and their athletics departments -- across the country try to navigate the crisis and work toward a return to some sense of normalcy.
LSU plans June 1 return for athletes, Scott Woodward says
LSU intends for student-athletes to return to campus June 1 when the Southeastern Conference may lift its suspension of activities, but athletic director Scott Woodward said the athletic department can adjust if plans change. "I see sometime in June our student-athletes getting back to campus," Woodward said. About two months ago, the SEC suspended all athletics activities, including practices, meetings and other large gatherings, through May 31 in response to the spread of coronavirus. Student-athletes went home the rest of the spring semester, but as states enter the initial phases of reopening, LSU has developed protocols and guidelines for when its players can return to campus. Woodward spoke Wednesday evening during an online Tiger Athletic Foundation Coaches Caravan, a virtual substitute for an annual event. LSU's assistant football coaches returned to the facilities last Monday, marking the first part of a three-pronged approach to regaining some form of normalcy within the athletic department.
Will Kirby Smart and other UGA coaches be furloughed?
UGA along with other state universities and colleges are mapping out implementing cost cutting furloughs for staff that would likely include high-paid coaches due to expected reductions needed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. "We'll have those discussions in the coming weeks with the university, but we must remember we're all state employees," UGA athletic director Greg McGarity said Wednesday. The Georgia Board of Regents last week gave approval for furloughs and staff reductions. They are dependent on an approved budget in June to meet the state's request to cut spending for the new fiscal year. The UGA administration last week referred questions on the impact of possible furloughs on athletics to the University System of Georgia, which oversees the state's 26 public schools and colleges. "At this time, institutions are developing plans for a potential 14% budget reduction," University system spokesman Aaron Diamant said in an email to the Athens Banner-Herald. "Part of their plans will include furloughs and these plans are still being developed. We anticipate that athletics programs will voluntarily participate to support the institutions' state employees who will be furloughed."
Notre Dame AD: Home football games 'won't be at capacity' in 2020
If football is played, Notre Dame plans to limit the number of fans who can attend its home games this year, including the home opener against Arkansas on Sept. 12. Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick said Tuesday that officials will "work real hard to create some space between our fans" this fall. Swarbrick cautioned that larger university issues must be addressed before the Fighting Irish's teams can return to play, but said games would not be played in an empty stadium. "We haven't gotten to the question of how big that audience is," Swarbrick said during an interview for an alumni fundraising drive that was shown on the ND Loyal YouTube channel. "We won't be at capacity; we'll be at something less than that. We'll be very careful about maintaining social distance, how the facility works, how you enter it, how you exit it -- all things to be determined, but we're working hard on them." Swarbrick said Notre Dame is "committed to having fans in the stands" this season, beginning with students. "My view throughout has been if we think it's safe for students to be on the field playing football, it should be safe for the students to be in the stands watching football," Swarbrick said. "So we'll build off that base of the other students. Faculty and staff will be a priority for us, to give them an opportunity, and then our fans."
Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield says no plans to resume football rivalry with Tennessee
Don't expect Memphis to face Tennessee in football anytime soon. That was the sentiment when Tigers coach Ryan Silverfield was asked about it Tuesday during a Zoom meeting with the Rotary Club of Memphis. It's been 10 years since the schools last met, a game Tennessee won 50-14 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. "There's a lot more into it than just hey, we would like to play them," Silverfield said. "I can say this with complete confidence, (Athletic director) Laird Veatch,(deputy athletic director) Jeff Crane and I meet often to discuss our scheduling. Hopefully in the near future, we're going to have some exciting scheduling news that we look forward when the time is right and the contracts are signed that we'll be able to share with everybody." Tennessee hasn't shown much interest in resuming the series. Athletic director Phillip Fulmer said last June that while he's interested in playing games in Memphis, facing the Tigers aren't part of the discussion. "We'd have to talk through actually playing the University of Memphis, I guess, with my coaches," Fulmer said at the time. "We really haven't talked about it." The teams have met 23 times with Tennessee winning 22 games. Memphis' lone win came in 1996 at the Liberty Bowl against a No. 6-ranked Vols team with Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Former student chronicles 2019 Aggie baseball season in new book
Texas A&M former student Heath Clary has always had a love for Aggie baseball, so the 2019 graduate followed the Aggie squad for a season to write All It Takes Is Everything You've Got, a book detailing the program during the 2019 season. "I had been covering A&M baseball for three years going into my senior year in college," Clary said. "I was on track to graduate, and so I just wanted a new challenge. I thought A&M baseball was the perfect thing to do. Nobody had really ever gone inside a major program in college baseball and A&M is one of the best. I had a good relationship with the coaches. I asked them if I could do it, and luckily they said yes." The sell wasn't hard to A&M head coach Rob Childress as long as Clary agreed to give the project the time it deserved. The senior embedded himself with the team during the season, attending all practices, meetings and home games. He traveled to many of A&M's road games as well, including the NCAA regional at West Virginia. While the book chronicles the 2019 season, it also casts a spotlight on the people involved in the program.

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