Wednesday, July 1, 2020   
Wearing face masks in public sparking debate as COVID cases continue to rise in Mississippi
Positive cases of COVID-19 have steadily increased in recent weeks. Savannah Brown, Infection Control Quality Director at OCH, said face masks play a pivotal role in preventing this disease from spreading. "COVID-19 is predominantly spread by droplets. Being if I cough, if I sneeze, if I sing, I talk, I yell. Any of those things," said Brown. "It can go out of my mouth, I mean you seen it right? We can have that droplet that goes about six feet. Now is that a perfect number? No. But it does go about that far and if I'm wearing a cloth face covering, it limits the spread of that." Starting Tuesday, employees at Mississippi State University are required to wear a face mask upon entering any building on campus. The university said they're doing this due to the increase of COVID-19 cases in Oktibbeha County and the Golden Triangle. Also, starting July 6th, those who plan to hop on board the Starkville-Mississippi State University Area Rapid Transit (S.M.A.R.T), are required to wear face masks.
Face coverings required for staff on Mississippi State University campus
Face coverings will now be required inside all of Mississippi State University's campus buildings. In a memo to staff, the university said that based on the current rise in COVID-19 cases throughout Oktibbeha County and the Golden Triangle, masks will be mandatory beginning on June 30, 2020. Employees may remove their face coverings in their individual office or at their workspace if they can maintain appropriate physical distance from all other individuals. Employees who need a facemask/face covering should contact their building manager.
Local Fourth of July celebrations scarce this year
Area residents will only have a handful of Fourth of July celebrations to enjoy this year as many events are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. n Starkville, the annual Fourth of July celebration will take place as usual at the Starkville Sportsplex at 405 Lynn Lane. The event will only feature a fireworks show synchronized with music that starts at 9 p.m. Saturday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participants are encouraged to park in the lots and remain in or by their cars during the fireworks show, wear masks and practice social distancing, said Parks and Recreation Department Program Coordinator Lisa Cox. Roughly 500 parking spots are available for event goers, she said. Mayor Lynn Spruill said the fireworks show is to offer people a sense of normality amid the pandemic. "It is intended as an opportunity for us to have some small amount of normal (feelings) without putting us in jeopardy," she said. Starkville Community Market, which takes place between 8 and 11 a.m. every Saturday, will be themed around July 4 this weekend as well, said Manager Paige Watson.
Oktibbeha County Supervisor Bricklee Miller to run for District 15 Senate seat
Oktibbeha County Supervisor Bricklee Miller has announced she plans to run for the state Senate seat vacated Tuesday by longtime Sen. Gary Jackson (R-French Camp). Miller, a Republican, announced her candidacy for the upcoming special election via Facebook on Tuesday and will make a formal announcement at a later date. She is Oktibbeha County's first female supervisor and was elected in 2015 and 2019 to represent District 4. She has also been the director of the Mississippi Horse Park for almost 20 years. She said in her Facebook post that she is running for Senate "to make a difference for every corner of the district and the state as a whole." State Senate District 15 represents western and southern Oktibbeha County, as well as parts of Choctaw, Webster and Montgomery counties. Miller told The Dispatch she has a good working relationship with the supervisors in all four counties and therefore has "a good base knowledge" of what is important to the district.
Projected state revenue loss will be less than 2 percent at SOCSD
The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District might get significantly more funding from the state than administrators previously thought, they said at a special-call meeting and budget work session Monday. The education appropriations bill approved in conference Monday morning in the state House of Representatives would cut last year's Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding amounts by 1.6 percent statewide if it passes the Senate, which SOCSD board vice president Sumner Davis said will most likely happen. Davis said the House bill "dramatically changes" the district's plans for its 2020-21 budget, originally expected to face more serious cuts due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and Superintendent Eddie Peasant called it "great news." The total MAEP funding allocation for SOCSD will be determined partly by average daily attendance, which dropped by 61.37 students last school year, Chief Financial Officer Tammie McGarr said at the board's regular meeting earlier this month. However, she said the district should receive more funds than she projected in the draft budget the board discussed Monday, based on an appropriation 5.9 percent lower than last year's, or a loss of $1,345,000.
Legislature passes bill that aims to fund new rural broadband projects
State lawmakers recently passed a bill that would set aside $75 million for electric cooperatives and other service providers to service broadband internet to underserved areas, many of which are in rural areas of the state. Both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature last week passed Senate Bill 3046, or the COVID-19 Connectivity Act, which establishes the COVID-19 Broadband Provider Grant Program Fund. No lawmaker from either chamber voted against the bill. "We are now going to start a very good process to get Internet to the most rural areas of the state," said state Rep. C. Scott Bounds, a Republican from Philadelphia, who presented the bill in the House. The funds in the bill stem from federal coronavirus relief funds. The bill will set aside $65 million in funds to go toward electric cooperatives, and $10 million would be set aside for other internet providers who want to provide broadband to rural or underserved areas. "We have a chance right now with this grant program and the dollars committed to lead rural America," Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said.
Coast group picked 14 projects for oil spill money. But Jackson just passed a new list.
Members of the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund Advisory Board spent months reviewing possible projects to finance with $85.5 million in RESTORE Act money, and their final recommendation was 14 projects they said would have the biggest economic impact across South Mississippi. But the House and Senate on Tuesday approved a different list that cuts or deletes many of the large projects the advisory committee recommended and is heavy on projects in George and Jackson counties. The advisory board's recommendation that $32.5 million be spent on USM's Ocean Enterprise project at the State Port of Gulfport is on the Legislative list. But the amount was cut to $7 million, and the money was spread around to many more projects, cities and counties. To compare, here is the legislators' new list along with the Coast committee's list. The dollar amounts are not the total costs of the projects, but how much RESTORE Act funds each would receive, including $3.5 million for the Mississippi Cyber Center at Mississippi State University.
With a pen stroke, Mississippi drops Confederate-themed flag
With a stroke of the governor's pen, Mississippi is retiring the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem -- a symbol that's widely condemned as racist. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed the historic bill Tuesday at the Governor's Mansion, immediately removing official status for the 126-year-old banner that has been a source of division for generations. "This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled and to move on," Reeves said on live TV just before the signing. "We are a resilient people defined by our hospitality. We are a people of great faith. Now, more than ever, we must lean on that faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good." Among the small group of dignitaries witnessing the bill signing were Reuben Anderson, who was the first African American justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, serving from 1985 to 1991; Willie Simmons, a current state Transportation Commissioner who is the first African American elected to that job; and Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of civil rights icons Medgar and Myrlie Evers.
Mississippi Governor Signs Law to Remove Flag With Confederate Emblem
Just a few weeks ago, as Mississippi lawmakers mobilized to take down the only state flag in the nation with the Confederate battle emblem embedded into it, Gov. Tate Reeves said the choice was not theirs to make. "It should be the people who make that decision," Mr. Reeves told reporters then, "not some backroom deal by a bunch of politicians in Jackson." But on Tuesday, Mr. Reeves signed into law a measure that removes the flag that has flown over the state for 126 years and been at the heart of a conflict Mississippi has grappled with for generations: how to view a legacy that traces to the Civil War. The legislation mandates the "prompt, dignified and respectful" removal of the flag, which features the blue bars and white stars of the Confederate battle flag, within 15 days. Mr. Reeves, a Republican, acknowledged his own evolution from believing the flag should be changed only through a statewide referendum to allowing lawmakers to make the decision.
Mississippi governor signs bill changing state's flag, abandoning Confederate symbol
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed a bill Tuesday abandoning the state's flag and stripping the Confederate battle flag symbol from it, capping a remarkable turnaround on a banner that had flown over the state for more than a century. With Reeves's move, Mississippi will take down one of the country's most prominent Confederate tributes, withdrawing the only state flag that still bears such an emblem. The new flag's design will be determined later, but lawmakers have barred it from including the most recognizable icon of the Confederacy, which many people associate with racism, slavery and oppression. "This is a new day for Mississippi," state House Speaker Philip Gunn (R), who had backed a change for years, said Monday morning on MSNBC, while standing in front of a man waving the state's now-former flag. "We are not disregarding our heritage, we're not ignoring the past, but we are embracing the future here."
Governor's signature seals flag fate
With a few pen strokes, the last state in the country to emblazon on its flag the battle emblem of the Confederacy has furled its banners. On Tuesday evening, in a private ceremony attended by his family, a handful of legislative leaders and a few dignitaries, Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, signed into law a bill to remove the state flag and initiate its replacement. "A flag is a symbol of our present, of our people, and of our future," Reeves said in an address. "For those reasons, we need a new symbol." Until such time as a new flag is adopted, Mississippi's flagpoles will be empty of a banner that has flown since 1894 and has for decades been a focal point for controversy, anger and pitched debate over the meaning and impact of Mississippi's burdened history. The imprint of that history was evident in the remarks offered by Reeves, who is not yet halfway through the first year of his first term of office. "I can admit that as young boy growing up in Florence, I couldn't have understood the pain that some of our neighbors felt when they looked at our flag – a pain that made many feel unwelcome and unwanted," Reeves said, speaking from a podium at the governor's mansion. "Today, I hear their hurt. It sounds different than the outrage we see on cable TV in other places. It sounds like Mississippians, our friends and our neighbors, asking to be understood."
Mississippi flag: Gov. Tate Reeves signs bill taking down state flag with ceremony at mansion
Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Tuesday evening that mandates the removal of the state flag Mississippi and bans future use of the Confederate emblem. Mississippi was the only state whose flag contained the Confederate battle flag. Lawmakers adopted it nearly three decades after the Civil War. "Whether you are proud of this step or angry with us over the process, I want you to know that I love you," Reeves said in a ceremony at the Governor's Mansion. "I am praying for you." Reeves had long refused to take a position on the flag, which the Legislature adopted in 1894. Nearly two-thirds of voters reaffirmed the flag in a 2001 referendum, and Reeves has repeatedly pointed to this referendum, saying only voters can decide to take the flag down. He softened the stance a week ago, then announced on Saturday morning that the issue had grown too divisive and that he would sign whatever flag bill lawmakers passed. Hours after the announcement, the Legislature began the formal process to take down the current flag. Reeves said during a speech Tuesday that some people might never find common ground on the flag debate and that healing will not take place overnight.
After waffling for years, Gov. Tate Reeves signs bill to change state flag
Gov. Tate Reeves, who for years refused to take a stance on whether Mississippi should change its state flag, signed a bill that does just that on Tuesday in a private ceremony at the Governor's Mansion. "I know there are people of goodwill who are not happy to see this flag change," Reeves said shortly before signing the bill into law on Tuesday. "They fear a chain reaction of events erasing our history -- a history that is no doubt complicated and imperfect. I understand those concerns and am determined to protect Mississippi from that dangerous outcome." Reeves continued: "I also understand the need to commit the 1894 flag to history, and find a banner that is a better emblem for all Mississippi... A flag is a symbol of our present, of our people, and of our future. For those reasons, we need a new symbol." The signing on Tuesday -- a historic moment as the last official step in removing the flag, which was adopted in 1894 and featured the Confederate battle emblem -- comes after Reeves isolated himself from both sides of the flag debate.
Mississippi flag bearing Confederate emblem is removed from Senate building
A Mississippi state flag has been taken down at the U.S. Capitol, following a vote by the state's legislature to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the official flag. "I'm here because this is history," said Sen. Roger Wicker, who attended the small replacement "ceremony" in the Dirksen tunnel. The Mississippi Republican had called on his home state to remove the Confederate iconography five years ago. But it took nationwide protests over racial injustice to create the political pressure necessary to get it done. Staffers from the Architect of the Capitol waited until Gov. Tate Reeves signed the removal bill at 5 p.m. before they hoisted its replacement. "Do we have a flag?" Wicker asked them. "Five more minutes of sewing," an employee replied. The new flag is a placeholder, according to Wicker.
Harry Sanders steps down as Lowndes County Board of Supervisors president, does not resign
Harry Sanders opened Tuesday morning's Lowndes County Board of Supervisors meeting by stepping down as board president. He did not resign from the board entirely. Instead, he turned the meeting over to board vice president John Holliman, who moved to the head of the table while Sanders moved over to the side. As that happened, dozens of protesters gathered outside were chanting, "Harry must go!" "It's appropriate for me to step down as board president," Sanders said. "I submit my resignation as board president immediately." Sanders' concession came weeks after his on-the-record comments to a Dispatch reporter that the Black community failed to "assimilate" into American culture and remained "dependent" since slavery ended. He has represented District 1 on the board for more than 20 years and has been board president for the majority of that time. But District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks told Sanders resigning as president was "not enough" and introduced a resolution asking fellow supervisors to call for Sanders' full resignation.
Mississippi education takes pandemic-fueled budget cuts, no teacher pay raise
Mississippi's K-12 public education is taking a pandemic-fueled budget cut for the coming year under spending approved by lawmakers on Tuesday. And the coronavirus economic slump forced the Legislature to scrap a teacher pay raise many top officials had promised when they ran for office last year. Lawmakers adopted an overall $2.2 billion public education budget for the fiscal year that begins Wednesday, a cut of more than $70 million, or 2.7 percent. The spending shorts the Mississippi Adequate Education Program -- a formula that by law is supposed to set minimum funding for schools -- by about $250 million. MAEP spending is taking a year-over-year cut of 1.6 percent, or about $37 million. House Education Chairman Richard Bennett said that given cuts to other agencies due to projected revenue loss from the coronavirus pandemic-fueled economic slump, K-12 fared well. "MAEP and education took less of a hit than all others," Bennett said.
Mississippi Health Officer: Wear A Mask Because Coronavirus 'Isn't Going Anywhere'
Mississippi is seeing a sharp uptick in new coronavirus cases. The state is reporting double the number of new cases that it was seeing just two weeks ago. The average number of new cases each day this week is just over 600. And on June 25, the state reported more than 1,000 cases in a single day for the first time. The increase is not from more testing. Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the amount of testing has been relatively stable, but that more people are testing positive. "It's people spreading it in the community," he tells NPR's Morning Edition. "It seems like we went from a shutdown mentality to it's an all-open mentality," Dobbs says. "Especially with the social gatherings, what we've seen time and time again are violations. We've seen a lot of transmission events and block parties and sort of social events that are really distressing for us." Dobbs says contact tracing points to specific events, including fraternity parties, as being behind spikes in certain parts of the state.
Jackson's new mask mandate could result in fines, business closures
The mayor of Jackson has mandated the wearing of face masks in the city, making it a requirement in all public places whether indoors or outdoors. Those who don't abide by the new policy will face a possible fine of $300 and businesses could be shut down. Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba at a press briefing Tuesday stood with members of the city's Coronavirus Task Force to explain the new measures. The order goes in effect Thursday. Most who took the podium said the new order was "not punitive," but rather in response to a record week of new coronavirus cases that don't appear to be slowing down. While the new order is in effect for all residents, the mayor said the city is looking primarily at businesses who have allowed face masks to be optional in areas where social distancing is difficult or impossible.
U.S. risks 100,000 new Covid-19 cases a day, Dr. Anthony Fauci warns
The government's top infectious disease expert on Tuesday said the U.S. is "not in total control" of the coronavirus pandemic and suggested 100,000 new infections a day are possible without more safeguards. Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate health committee hearing that the outbreak is moving in the "wrong direction" and expressed alarm about spikes in states he said may have relaxed social distancing and lockdowns too early so they could restart their economies. "Clearly, we are not in control right now," Fauci said. He suggested new cases could soar to 100,000 a day, from the roughly 40,000 new cases now reported daily, if the U.S. can't contain disease spread. CDC Director Robert Redfield and Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir also expressed concern about the surge of new infections and death and said people have to more closely follow safeguards.
'It's historic': Women of color dominate Joe Biden's list for vice president
As Joe Biden weighs potential running mates, he has been asked repeatedly about the women he is considering. The Democrat has responded repeatedly that multiple women of color are on his list. The former vice president's statement has all the makings of a coy dodge, keeping all possibilities open. But it is also a milestone. "There has not been another time in our nation's history where a nominee of either party has announced that several well-qualified women, including women of color, are under serious consideration," said Valerie Jarrett, longtime friend and White House advisor to former President Obama. The breakthrough, she said, reflects the progress that underrepresented women have made in politics. Even as Biden's choices reflect a diversifying talent pool, they also throw into sharp relief the chasm that still exists between the roughly 20% of women of color in the country and their fractional representation in elected office. Many of those under consideration have held the distinction of "first" or "only" at some point in their career, underscoring how being a minority woman in politics can still be lonesome business.
U. of Mississippi unveils 'Campus Ready' Plan for fall semester
Plans are in place for the University of Mississippi to welcome students back to campus in August for the start of the 2020-21 school year. For the first time in five months, students will be allowed back in classrooms for in-person instruction, but those classrooms will look much different and some might take place in completely different settings. The campus was closed following spring break in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "The plan is the product of extensive and exhaustive planning efforts designed to resume daily operations and return to instruction on campus safely," Chancellor Glenn Boyce said in a statement. "If we cannot achieve full compliance with the protocols across our entire community, and the university experiences prolific spread of the virus, we will have no choice but to scale back on-campus operations and take more drastic measures to prevent further spread," Boyce said. "If we all do our part to prevent the virus from spreading using the protocols, our level of activity on campus in the fall can be greater."
What's in store for fall 2020? Disclosing health history, completing COVID training and social distancing
In addition to requiring face coverings in all indoor spaces and implementing social distancing during the fall 2020 semester, students, faculty and staff will be required to participate in a daily COVID-19 symptom tracker, a questionnaire that includes questions about symptoms and pre-existing conditions that could be affected by contracting the novel coronavirus. The symptom tracker is part of the university's "Campus Ready" plan designed to assume daily operations on campus in the fall. Some conditions in the questionnaire include HIV, obesity, high blood pressure and others. The beginning of the questionnaire says that all responses are anonymous. Chancellor Glenn Boyce released health and safety guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year on Tuesday, which also include mandatory, online COVID-19 training and compliance with CDC and national public health recommendations. The university did not lay out any specific consequences for those who do not adhere to the guidelines set in the "Campus Ready" plan but said that those will be made available later this summer.
USM professor gets funding to study Forks of the Road
There are no physical remains to remind the thousands of tourists who annually visit Natchez of a grim truth belying this city's Southern charm and beautiful antebellum architecture -- that it was home to the "Forks of the Road" slave market, one of the biggest in the Deep South. But with the support of National Park Service funding, a University of Southern Mississippi faculty member and a graduate of its history program will help keep the story of the slave market alive through a research project that will ultimately be used to inform those who pass through of the tragic human chattel enterprise that took place here. The NPS will soon be in possession of much of the land that encompassed the slave market, and plans to develop an interpretive plan for the site with the help of Max Grivno, Ph.D., an associate professor of history at USM who has expertise in the antebellum South, slavery and Mississippi history; and Christian Pinnen, Ph.D., a USM alumnus and member of the faculty at Mississippi College, who together will research and write a site history of the Forks of the Road that will serve as the centerpiece of the initiative.
Historians explain meaning of retired Mississippi flag, past and present
As Governor Tate Reeves signs the bill to adopt a new state flag, historians are reflecting on its meaning past and present. You've probably heard the saying, history repeats itself. But Stephanie Rolph, an Associate Professor of History at Millsaps College, says the motion to re-design the Mississippi state flag is a new beginning. "The Confederate battle flag inclusion in the Mississippi state flag was a decision that was made in 1894 as a gesture to reassure aging Confederate veterans that their state government had not forgotten them. At the same time, we have to widen our understanding of why they fought in the first place and that was to preserve slavery," said Rolph. In efforts to symbolize the people of the south, Rolph says the emblem in the upper left-hand corner has often divided the state rather than uniting it. "That Confederate battle flag is not just about that particular moment or even just about the civil war. It's about a symbol for white dominance, terror, and violence," said Rolph.
East Central Community College President Dr. Billy Stewart spends last day on the job
It was a bittersweet day on the campus of East Central Community College Tuesday as Dr. Billy Stewart is retiring after eight years as president of the college in Decatur. While at East Central, Dr. Stewart initiated a planning process to shape and guide the future of the institution. As a result, "2020 Vision" was adopted in February 2013 to meet national, regional and local goals. And while he exits proud of his many accomplishments, Stewart says dealing with COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge he's faced. "I couldn't envision what was going to happen, but we had a plan," said Stewart. "We were able to implement the plan and begin that. And again, that was through the efforts of a lot of people on campus. It has been quite a challenge these last three months. But, I will say this. It simply solidified in me the knowledge that our institution is a very strong institution. We can always be better but we are a strong institution and we can respond when things like that happen."
Tuscaloosa college students who knew they had COVID-19 attended parties
Several college students, who were aware they had tested positive for the coronavirus, attended parties around Tuscaloosa, according to a city official. Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Randy Smith said they discovered the students, who knew they were COVID-19 positive, had been attending parties around the city and county over the past few weeks. This information was given during a pre-council meeting Tuesday afternoon. Chief Smith said it was a rumor at first but they investigated the unnamed students and confirmed it through local doctors offices and the state health department. "We had seen over the last few weeks parties going on in the county, or throughout the city and county in several locations where students or kids would come in with known positives. We thought that was kind of a rumor at first....we did some additional research ... not only did the doctor's offices help confirm it but the state confirmed they also had the same information," Smith said.
Ban on coronavirus lawsuits against Louisiana schools, colleges narrowly approved
Despite last-minute objections from state education leaders, the Louisiana Legislature narrowly approved a bill Tuesday that would ban most civil lawsuits against school districts and colleges over coronavirus claims. After a lengthy discussion the House approved a compromise version of the bill 54-40, one over the minimum required. Moments later, and just moments before the special session ended, the Senate endorsed the plan, sending the measure to Gov. John Bel Edwards. The key feature of the plan -- House Bill 59 -- is a ban on most civil lawsuits against public and private schools and colleges by students, teachers and other school employees who claim they contracted the virus because of lax school procedures. A Senate amendment requires both BESE and college governing boards, including the LSU Board of Supervisors, to spell out minimum safety standards schools and colleges have to follow for the upcoming school year.
Georgia's Top-Down Management of Higher Ed Causes Covid-19 Chaos
In March, as the Covid-19 pandemic exploded globally, the Georgia Institute of Technology ordered an immediate campus shutdown. Classes switched to online instruction. Students moved out of their dorms. But the University System of Georgia objected. The state wanted Georgia Tech to suspend in-person classes for only two weeks, delaying a final decision on the rest of the semester. The university's president, Angel Cabrera, backed down. In a tweet posted on Friday, March 13, the night before spring break began, Cabrera wrote that "further assessment" was needed before deciding whether the campus would indeed stay closed. "My apologies for the confusion caused by my earlier statements," he wrote. The abrupt about-face stunned both students and faculty. "We had kids on planes to China," said Alexandra Edwards, a postdoc fellow at Georgia Tech. "They landed, opened their email and saw that maybe they were not supposed to go home, because maybe school was going to keep going." That day's chaos and confusion is a microcosm of a larger power struggle in Georgia. The state's higher-education system, with a Board of Regents appointed by its Republican governor, is noticeably hands-on in making decisions that affect its 26 institutions.
Alumnus donates land to U. of Arkansas to sell to support architecture studies
A North Carolina man has given real estate valued at $317,000 to support architecture studies at the University of Arkansas. Tom Rowland, a 1967 UA graduate, said he was "intrigued" by UA efforts to use timber in building designs. A gallery will be named for him at the university's planned Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, pending final approval. "As a longtime absentee timberland owner in South Arkansas, making a gift to this project resonated with me. My son-in-law is an architect and my daughter is an accomplished designer, so putting all that together just made sense," Rowland said. Peter MacKeith, dean of UA's Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, said he was "deeply grateful" to Rowland. Rowland grew up in Little Rock and played basketball for the Razorbacks. He was president of First Brands Corporation in Connecticut.
Former Texas A&M president Robert M. Gates shares thoughts on US influence, China and more
Robert M. Gates, who formerly served as Texas A&M University president and U.S. Secretary of Defense, virtually joined the Bush School's Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs on Tuesday evening for a wide-ranging online conversation grounded in themes from his new book Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World. Bush School of Government and Public Service Dean Mark A. Welsh moderated the conversation, and former Transportation Secretary Andrew Card, who also worked as George H.W. Bush's deputy chief of staff from 1989 to 1992, joined the two men about halfway through the one-hour discussion. Gates shared a variety of reflections, including thoughts on the U.S. government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, praise for the leadership skills and humor of the late President Bush and Barbara Bush, and analysis on the U.S. relationship with China. The U.S. has always been fiercely partisan, Gates said, but described the more recent political climate as a state of paralysis.
U. of Missouri student life will look vastly different under fall semester guidelines
The University of Missouri released its public health and safety guidelines for the fall semester Monday and outlined a plan that will drastically alter how campus operates. But the "Show Me Renewal" plan will also significantly impact student life at MU. The university's 22-page plan lists a number of new measures and recommendations for nearly every aspect of the student experience, from housing and dining to clubs, activities and simply navigating campus. "Precautionary changes will impact nearly every aspect of campus life -- how we live, study and work," Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi said in a letter to students, faculty and staff Monday. "Our success will depend on everyone in our community sharing responsibility in our collective health and well-being." Choi's letter summarized public health measures such as isolation housing, face masks and "blended" hybrid classes that MU will institute for the fall semester, which starts Aug. 24.
Republicans may pay for testing, while Democrats push for billions in aid for colleges
Senate Republican leaders have signaled that their proposal for the next coronavirus relief package will include additional funding to test students for the coronavirus. "The most important thing we need for normalcy is to get people back into school," Senator Roy Blunt, the Republican chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that handles funding for education and health, told reporters Tuesday. "And we're not going to do that particularly in a residential setting without millions of tests people can take dozens of times." The Republican proposal, which Blunt said would likely be unveiled in about a month, will include more money for testing nationally and to ensure enough funding to develop a vaccine. But laying out a partisan divide in the Senate over how much additional help the next package will include for higher education, the Senate's Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, and Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the education committee, jointly proposed a broader $430 billion coronavirus aid relief package for childcare and education.
New White House rules restrict use of grant funding to deal with COVID-19 impacts
New rules on how U.S. universities manage federal research grants leave them with less flexibility to cope with the pandemic. The changes, which rescind many temporary measures adopted this spring as COVID-19 shuttered campuses and froze the economy, come despite continued uncertainty over the fall semester and the status of research on U.S. campuses. "I am speechless because I just don't know" what lies ahead, confessed David Mayo, head of sponsored research at the California Institute of Technology, during a meeting yesterday of a top-level advisory panel to the National Science Foundation at which the changes were discussed. Science advocates hope agencies will give researchers more funding to finish their projects. But that would require additional money from Congress, which is divided over the next COVID-19 relief package and also has yet to pass spending bills for the next fiscal year. In the meantime, university administrators say it's no fun being left in the dark.
Ohio State's Michael Drake officially departs presidency
Outgoing Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake said farewell to the campus community Tuesday, his last official day in the leadership role. Starting Wednesday, Drake steps into a post-presidency role at the university, which will run through June 30, 2021. "It's been a true thrill and privilege to lead the university to its 150th year," Drake said in a video to the OSU community late Tuesday afternoon. "There's no other university with the scope and impact of the Ohio State University." "Even with the many challenges that we face as a society today, I couldn't be more excited or more proud about where we are as an institution and where we're going," said Drake, 69. Drake also welcomed incoming president Kristina M. Johnson, calling her an "exceptional leader." Johnson, current chancellor of the State University of New York, will begin as Ohio State's 16th president on Sept. 1.
Emory University experts to call for mandatory masks in Georgia 
Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert, and other Emory University experts are set to hold an online press conference Wednesday morning urging government officials and business leaders to make masks mandatory. With a sense of urgency, the call for immediately requiring masks be mandatory comes as the number of coronavirus cases soars in Georgia, and days before the July 4th holiday when people often crowd together to celebrate. Del Rio, who is also executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System, and Dr. Jonathan Lewin, CEO of Emory Healthcare, will also discuss other recommended preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing and social distancing, to help reduce the spread of the virus. Savannah on Tuesday became the first major city in Georgia to require the use of face masks, setting up a potential showdown with Gov. Brian Kemp over whether local officials can take more sweeping steps than the state to contain the coronavirus.
Colleges campuses are trying to reopen in the fall. The main source of opposition? The faculty.
Just because students might be returning to college campuses this fall doesn't mean professors will be joining them. Controversy over whether instructors need to be in the classroom during the fall term has erupted at campuses including the University of Notre Dame, where professors are pushing back, noting the dangers of face-to-face classes while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage. These faculty members say they alone should determine how they will teach this fall. Notre Dame, however, is asking those with objections to in-person instruction to submit documentation of medical conditions and a formal request for accommodations. Those who taught remotely prior to the pandemic likely will not need to obtain special approval, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for Notre Dame. But Eileen Hunt Botting, a political science professor who is spearheading the faculty opposition, said the application process is invasive, requiring colleagues to share personal medical information, and there's no guarantee that a professor who is uncomfortable teaching on campus will be granted an exemption.
Cornell researchers say in-person semester for university safer than online one
Many universities have released statements about their intent to reopen. And every university leader ideally would like to invite students back to campus, since that's what students say they want (and will pay for). Cornell University joined the chorus of reopening statements on Tuesday in announcing that its Ithaca, N.Y., campus will be open for in-person instruction in the fall. But for Cornell, one additional piece of information was "very important" in making that decision, according to Martha Pollack, the university's president. That was the finding from Cornell researchers that holding the semester online potentially could result in more infections and more hospitalizations among students and staff members than holding the semester in person would. A study by Cornell researchers concluded that with nominal parameters, an in-person semester would result in 3.6 percent of the campus population (1,254 people) becoming infected, and 0.047 percent (16 people) requiring hospitalization. An online semester, they concluded, would result in about 7,200 infections and more than 60 hospitalizations.
The path to flag change proves that racial views evolve with life experiences, history
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Mississippi's tense and emotional public debate of removing the Confederate Battle Flag from the canton corner of the state flag evoked some of the more startling lessons of history regarding the evolution of racial views by individuals and by institutions. Let's stop here and applaud the leadership and vision of House Speaker Philip Gunn for stepping into the flag change arena early and courageously. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann fought hard to get the flag change legislation to the finish line in the Senate. Sen. Briggs Hopson and Rep. Jason White were key players. There were many others who stepped up. Gov. Tate Reeves removed the final obstacle facing the Legislature should they choose to act with courage to change the flag rather than punting the issue to a more politically expedient referendum. That was a critical move. But in the broader sense, change on bedrock social and racial issues is a slow process both in and out of the halls of government. Mississippi isn't the only witness to that reality.

Mississippi State softball 'pushing the envelope' and fueling turnaround with embrace of pitching analytics
Mississippi State softball pitching coach Josh Johnson knows the signs. When his two ace pitchers, Emily Williams and Annie Willis, start to tire, they show it in opposite ways. Williams' spin rate decreases while her velocity stays the same; Willis starts losing speed but keeps up her spin. Knowing those tendencies served Johnson and the Bulldogs well March 8 in the Bulldog Slamboree tournament at Nusz Park in Starkville. With Mississippi State leading Southeast Missouri 2-0, Willis was one out away from a complete-game shutout. Then, with two out in the top of the seventh, she allowed back-to-back singles to put the tying run on base. Johnson and head coach Samantha Ricketts didn't hesitate. They promptly summoned Williams from the bullpen, a last-minute pitching change that drew some questions even after Williams rebounded from a walk to load the bases by striking out the final batter with high heat to end the game. "People were like, 'Wow, what did you do that for?'" Johnson said of the switch. The pitching coach explained that he'd seen the telltale sign: Willis' velocity had begun to fade in the seventh inning. He feared the worst: a three-run home run that could give the Redhawks the lead.
MHSAA exploring all options ahead of 2020 football season
With more COVID-19-related questions than answers at this time, the Mississippi High School Activities Association is keeping all options on the table with the 2020 high school football season quickly approaching. During a Tuesday meeting of the MHSAA executive council, board members discussed their approach to the 2020 season as the pandemic continues to present a moving target. Executive Director Don Hinton, who also announced his retirement Tuesday, explained that the council didn't make any final decisions, but they continue to consider alterations to the upcoming season based on the virus. Hinton divulged two primary options with the preferred option, other than beginning practices on August 3 as planned, being to push back the start date by a few weeks. Several member schools have inquired about the possibility of swapping the fall and spring sports calendars, but Hinton and the council have reservations about this option due to spring sports having their most recent seasons cut short.
SEC Media Days 2020 won't happen July 13-16
The Southeastern Conference's annual media days will not take place as originally scheduled. SEC fans will have to wait to get their fix of press conferences and football analysis as SEC Media Days 2020 won't occur as originally planned on July 13-16, according to multiple sources. The league had previously adjusted its week-long media event in Atlanta to a virtual-only approach due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A league spokesperson confirmed that SEC Media Days won't take place July 13-16 and that dates and times are still to be determined. While no official decision has been made yet, SEC Media Days are expected to be pushed back until at least the last week of July and possibly the first week of August. The SEC Network also no longer lists SEC Media Days on its television schedule for that week. An ESPN spokesperson declined comment on the network's programming.
Limited 'control': Hogs focus on themselves, Sept. 5 opener
Recent rising coronavirus numbers in Arkansas and over much of the SEC footprint do not have first-year University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman down or distracted. "We can only control what we can control in here," Pittman said on a Zoom chat with reporters on Tuesday. "In our SEC head coaches meetings, everything is going on as planned, scheduled for [the season opener] on Sept. 5. That's what we're preparing for." If the current plan holds, Arkansas would host Nevada on Sept. 5 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville for Pittman's debut. The Arkansas coaching staff met with parents of incoming freshmen Friday to give them the best updates and assurances they could provide regarding the UA's efforts to slow or prevent the spread of the virus. "It's a relationship business, and it's hard to build relationships over the phone or over Zoom," Pittman said. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's request Tuesday for updated positive tests for UA football players was not fulfilled.
Memphis football to have 'BLM' helmet sticker during games this season
Memphis football coach Ryan Silverfield sent out a tweet earlier in June that appeared to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Now he's taking it a step further. Silverfield announced Tuesday on Twitter that every Memphis helmet will have a "BLM", short for Black Lives Matter, sticker for every game. The circle will be gray with BLM in blue lettering, with the M being the Tigers logo. It's the same logo Silverfield tweeted out two weeks ago. Silverfield added a hashtag of #ALLINagainstRACIALINJUSTICE in Tuesday's tweet. The news was retweeted by several players. The Tigers football team, currently in the middle of voluntary workouts, helped lead a Unity Walk earlier this month from their practice field at University of Memphis' south campus to main campus to protest against racial injustice. At one point, Silverfield chanted "Black Lives Matter" along with his players.
Coronavirus in college football: Hospitalizations, deaths projected by data analysts if FBS plays in 2020
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic started a few months ago, most of the talk in the college sports space has centered around beginnings. When can we practice? When can we play? When can we hug and hold college football again? A noted University of Illinois computer science professor has some troubling data to consider regarding widespread infection and even death. Dr. Sheldon Jacobson told CBS Sports he expects a 30%-50% infection rate of the approximately 13,000 players competing in FBS this season. Based on his research, he also projects 3-7 deaths among those players due to COVID-19. "A few of them could end up in the hospital, and you'll have a small number who could die," Jacobson told CBS Sports. "I don't want to sugar coat it for you. I just want to give you the facts. ... If everybody comes together under normal circumstances, we'll probably see that kind of outcome." Jacobson made his projections from CDC data that estimates one death per 1,000 people who have symptoms in the college age group (18-22). Taking into account that range and medical care provided for football players, the death rate would be lower than the general population, Jacobson said. He stressed those numbers could change.

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