Friday, July 3, 2020   
Mississippi State publishes 'Safe Return' guide for fall semester
A new Mississippi State University publication outlines a comprehensive health and safety return plan for the fall semester. "Since the inception of the COVID-19 global pandemic, our guiding principle has been structuring the difficult yet critical balance between protecting the health and safety of our MSU family while, likewise, ensuring that we continue to deliver the high quality academic experiences that our students expect and deserve," wrote MSU president Dr. Mark Keenum in an opening message. The university publication includes sections on health and safety; academic and research continuity; finance and business operations; human resources; campus life; as well as acknowledgement of those serving on MSU's COVID-19 Task Force and related work groups. The university's fall semester, with a revised calendar, begins August 17.
UM, MSU announces plans to restart classes this fall
Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi have issued plans for a return to campus this fall. University Chancellor Glenn Boyce says to help prevent the spread of coronavirus while returning to in-person operations, the university is implementing new protocols and expectations for everyone on campus. Mississippi State President Dr. Mark Keenum says the university is committed to protecting the health and safety of our students and staff. He says it is still important to deliver the high quality academic experience students expect. MSU is set to begin classes on August 17. Links to the MSU Safe Return booklet can be found at
Mississippi State revises academic calendar for Fall semester
Mississippi State University announced Wednesday its revised fall academic calendar as students return to campus in August. Considering the potential effect of a late fall peak of the coronavirus, students will begin classes on August 17. The commencement is set for November 25 in Starkville and December 1 at MSU-Meridian. "As we all know, this is an unprecedented time for Mississippi State, and we are taking a proactive approach to designing our path forward. With the directive to resume operations from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, this university has been at the forefront in working to set policies and procedures to best meet the needs of students this fall," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum.
MSU Releases Revised Fall Calendar
Mississippi State University recently issued a revised fall academic calendar in light of a potential late fall peak of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The restructured calendar has students begin classes on Aug. 17 with commencement set for Nov. 25 in Starkville and Dec. 1 at MSU's Meridian campus. The calendar substitutes Fall Break from Oct. 8-9 with class days and usual class days from Nov. 23-24 with final exam days. The university is also putting extra health protocols into place and enhancing campus operations to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and university COVID-19 task forces, a release from MSU says.
Sara Evans to perform at MSU Riley Center in August
The Riley Center at Mississippi State University is hosting its first concert since the pandemic started. The center will welcome singer-songwriter Sara Evans on Saturday, August 22. There will be two concerts, one at 6 pm and one at 8:30 pm. Staff members will disinfect the entire venue before each performance. The Riley Center will limit seating to 50% capacity and require those in attendance to wear a mask. Anyone with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees will not be able to enter the venue. Evans was originally scheduled to perform on April 18.
Joe MacGown retires from entomological museum
Joe MacGown's path to becoming a researcher and illustrator for the Mississippi Entomological Museum at Mississippi State University was inevitable, if not unorthodox. Now, with more than 33 years at the museum, MacGown is retiring to focus more on his career as a visual artist. Born in Maine, MacGown moved to Starkville at the age of 10 with his father completing an entomology PhD at MSU. Interested in art from an early age, MacGown attended art school for a year before returning to Starkville to join the museum as a scientific illustrator. As he spent more time with the museum, MacGown became involved in its research including the discovery of several species of ants and other insects in Mississippi and beyond. "He was in the same department, and I used to go up there as a kid and teenager in junior high and high school," MacGown said. "I'd do drawings for grad students. Sometimes I'd use some of the equipment. I learned how to take photographs and micrographs early on. I'd kind of been hanging around off and on up there for a long time." He said his own path to entomology was somewhat accidental.
Juvenile arrests in Starkville becoming a common theme; police chief pushing for positive change
It has been a repeated cycle for the Starkville Police Department in recent months. Juveniles arrested and facing severe charges, putting their future in jeopardy. "Too often when the individual turns 18, they are lost in the criminal justice system," said Chief Ballard. Juveniles and bad decisions have gone hand-in-hand as of late said Chief Ballard. "Over the past month we've had since our last report we had 11 stolen weapons that are related to auto burglary" he said. "Most of our auto burglaries were driven by juveniles we've had vehicle pursuits and we've had aggravated assaults." Oktibbeha County Youth Court Judge Lydia Quarles, said a majority of juvenile arrests are men, some who may lack a father figure in their life. "I can only tell you what the literature says," said Quarles. "The literature says that it is a tremendous impact that boys love their mamas but they pay attention to their dads." Quarles said a positive role model is one way to help juveniles head in the right direction.
Hospitalization rising for COVID-19 cases in Mississippi
Mississippi is seeing a steady increase of patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of the new coronavirus. "Please be safe this July 4 weekend," the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Thursday on Twitter. "Recommend celebrating with household members ONLY! Please avoid parties, gatherings. Things are getting worse very quickly." The Health Department said Thursday that as of Wednesday night, 602 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases and 261 were hospitalized with suspected cases of the highly contagious virus. That was up from 490 confirmed cases and 186 suspected cases among people hospitalized as of Saturday night. The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.
THURSDAY: State set to shatter weekly record as 850 new COVID-19 cases are reported
Mississippi's total of presumptive cases of COVID-19 now stands at 28,770 after the Mississippi Health Department reported a 850 newly identified cases on Thursday. This comes after last week's daily average of 562 per day was the highest since the pandemic hit Mississippi officially in March. However, Monday through Thursday are the second, third, fourth and fifth highest days of reported cases with all of the top eight highest days having come in the last two weeks. The verifiable single-day high for number of cases is 1,092 which was reported June 25. It is the 86th consecutive day that the single-day total has been more than 100 with 70 days of more than 200 and 43 days of 300 or more and 18 of more than 400. There have been 1,092 total deaths reported (10 new). Cumulatively thus far, Hinds County has the most cases with 2,274, followed by Desoto County with 1,442, Madison County with 1,242, Jones County with 1,091, Neshoba County 970, Lauderdale County 894, Rankin County with 860, Forrest County with 829 and Scott County with 757.
Mississippi reports 870 new COVID-19 cases, 10 new deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Thursday morning reported 870 new COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths, bringing the state's total number of cases to 28,770 and the death toll to 1,092. In Northeast Mississippi, new COVID-19 related deaths reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. yesterday only include Oktibbeha, which reported one death. Northeast Mississippi counties reporting new cases include: Alcorn, Chickasaw, Clay, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Marshall, Monroe, Oktibbeha, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo, and Union. North Mississippi Health Services reports 44 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warns new coronavirus mutation may cause virus to spread more easily
Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force, warned Thursday that a new strain of the coronavirus found to be dominant around the world may contain a mutation that allows it to spread from person-to-person with more ease. In an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci referenced an article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell that pointed to a new, prevalent virus strain thought to have first spread in Italy. He said it is possible this strain carries a higher viral load in the respiratory system, thereby making human transmission more likely. "The data is showing there's a single mutation that makes the virus be able to replicate better and maybe have high viral loads," Fauci said. "[I]t just seems that the virus replicates better and may be more transmissible," he continued. Scientists with the study cautioned, however, that there was no evidence that the prevalent strain was more severe.
Mississippi tightens its belt for new state budget year
Mississippi government is on track to spend less during the new budget year than it did during the one that just ended, as questions remain about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Cuts to most state agencies will be about 3% to 5%. "I'm not aware of any agency that would actually be forced to lay off employees because of cuts," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Briggs Hopson told reporters late Wednesday at the Capitol. The state-funded portion of the budget for the year that began Wednesday is just under $6 billion. To avoid deeper cuts, legislators are taking $55 million from the state's $550 million rainy day fund -- money that has been set aside over several years to provide a cushion for hard times. Legislators left the Capitol late Wednesday for an undetermined amount of time, and they did so without setting a budget for the Department of Marine Resources. The House and Senate are having a dispute over spending of money the state receives from oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mississippi lawmakers earmark $1.25 billion in CARES money for schools, businesses, health care, unemployment
Before ending their 2020 session -- for now -- lawmakers late Wednesday night finalized spending $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds. The Legislature earmarked the spending for small business grants, internet access in rural areas and computers to help schools provide distance learning in the pandemic, and to reimburse hospitals, cities, colleges and other institutions for pandemic-related expenses. Gov. Tate Reeves did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday or indicate whether he would sign off on the Legislature's CARES Act spending. The largest block of CARES Act spending, which lawmakers had already approved in May, is $300 million for small businesses. This spending is well underway, with $240 million going for grants up to $25,000 each for qualified businesses with less than 50 employees. Another $60 million went for quick, emergency grants of $2,000 to about 30,000 small businesses.
Mississippi ACLU names new executive director
The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi is pleased to announce that Jarvis Dortch, former member of the Mississippi State House of Representatives, will join the affiliate as its new executive director beginning July 13, 2020. Dortch has represented the people of District 66 since 2016. While in the legislature he served on the Agriculture, Education, Insurance, Medicaid, and Public Health committees. Prior to his election, he directed the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program's statewide consumer assistance program and led a coalition of advocates, providers, and federal officials to promote and advance health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. An alumnus of Jackson State University and Mississippi College School of Law, Dortch has worked in private legal practice as well as in policy, advocacy, and social justice work across the state of Mississippi.
Tucker Carlson 2024? The GOP is buzzing
Tucker Carlson's audience is booming -- and so is chatter that the popular Fox News host will parlay his TV perch into a run for president in 2024. Republican strategists, conservative commentators, and former Trump campaign and administration officials are buzzing about Carlson as the next-generation leader of Donald Trump's movement -- with many believing he would be an immediate frontrunner in a Republican primary. "He's a talented communicator with a massive platform. I think if he runs he'd be formidable," said Luke Thompson, a Republican strategist who worked for Jeb Bush's super PAC in 2016. While practically every Republican eyeing a 2024 presidential run is professing loyalty to Trump the person, Carlson has become perhaps the highest-profile proponent of "Trumpism" -- a blend of anti-immigrant nationalism, economic populism and America First isolationism that he articulates unapologetically and with some snark. At the same time, he's shown a rare willingness among Republicans to bluntly criticize Trump when he believes the president is straying from that ideology.
The fight over monuments asks, who is an American hero and who is a 'symbol of hate'?
History is on review as the 21st century's latest civil rights movement catches fire, smoldering embers fanned by the death in police hands of George Floyd on Memorial Day. From California to Washington, D.C., grassroots efforts such as McFarland's are urging citizens and lawmakers to reject historical figures whose backstories reveal views or deeds that insult millions of Americans.In past weeks, Mississippi passed a bill to create a new state flag without the Confederate battle emblem. In New Jersey, Princeton University took former President Woodrow Wilson's name off a college, citing his racist views. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, officials took down a statue of Diego de Vargas, a Spanish conquistador who brutalized Native Americans. Countless other petitions and protests are calling for similar statue removals and name changes in an effort to at least spark a dialog about who deserves honoring.
New ECCC President Brent Gregory talks about challenges, opportunities
Brent Gregory has a lot on his mind as the new president of East Central Community College. The veteran educator is succeeding Billy Stewart, who led the college for eight years before announcing his retirement earlier this year. As he settles in as ECCC's new president, Gregory sat down this week with The Meridian Star to offer his thoughts on the future of the school. What follows is part of that conversation, edited for clarity and space limitations.
Billy Stewart reflects on tenure as ECCC president
After spending 30 years as an educator, Billy Stewart said he is waiting for God to guide him to his next step in life. The veteran administrator is retiring after serving eight years as president at East Central Community College. A native of Pearl, Stewart started his career in education after being inspired by teachers who helped him. "I wanted to make that kind of impact in the lives of people," Stewart said. Stewart said his biggest accomplishment at ECCC was the 2020 Vision strategic plan, which he emphasized was a team effort. Highlights of the plan's success include ECCC students graduating from universities with high grades and students becoming doctors through the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.
Staffed by UMMC med students, Jackson Free Clinic open to people without insurance
Every Saturday, off Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Jackson, a local clinic provides free health care to those without insurance. Staffed with medical, dental and physical therapy students from the University of Mississippi, the clinic offers comprehensive care. This past Saturday, the volunteer staff far outnumbered the patients. In the age of coronavirus, when so many people have lost their work-related insurance, staffers want Mississippians to know the clinic is open and ready to help those in need, free of charge. But the Jackson Free Clinic doesn't just serve those in the metro area. Joseph "JoJo" Dodd, also a third-year student and clinic board member, said the clinic is a "social safety net" for Mississippians. "We're kind of a last resort," he said. "When someone is calling a free clinic they are out of other options. We take that very seriously, that responsibility to fill that part of the social safety net in Mississippi. Truly, we are filling it for the whole state."
University FSL Director reminds Greek Life members to follow COVID-19 guidelines
The director of University of Mississippi Fraternity and Sorority Life took to social media on Wednesday, July 1 to address concerns for Fall 2020 COVID-19 planning and preparation. Dr. Arthur E. Doctor took to Facebook on Wednesday to commend students for their perseverance and determination to finish the spring semester, and to remind them of the impact they have on the University's campus. "As you now know, the Chancellor has announced that the University will meet in person this fall for classes," Doctor said. "Our office and the entire campus community has been preparing to welcome you back to UM this fall. We often talk about the 41 percent of undergraduates who are members of fraternities and sororities. So, the impact we have on campus is tremendous." Doctor's video reminded students to remain committed to do their part to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in Oxford and Lafayette County.
Former JSU president files lawsuit, says he is owed 110% of his $300K salary
Former Jackson State University President William Bynum has filed a lawsuit naming Jackson State University and the Institutions of Higher Learning. Bynum was among 17 people arrested in a Clinton prostitution sting in February of this year. He was charged with procuring services of a prostitute, false statement of identity and simple possession of marijuana. Bynum has pleaded not guilty. In the lawsuit, Bynum claims that although he resigned from his position he was still entitled to a job as a tenured professor in the College of Education at a rate of 110% of his $300,000-a-year salary.
U. of Alabama says probe into 'COVID-19 parties' doesn't show its students participating
The University of Alabama had known "for weeks" of rumors that Tuscaloosa County students who knew they had COVID-19 attended parties in the county, but a "thorough investigation" by the university did not identify any UA students who took part in the parties, the school said Thursday. Tuscaloosa City Fire Chief Randy Smith told a pre-meeting of the Tuscaloosa City Council earlier this week that he confirmed rumors of students in the county attending parties while they were aware that they had COVID-19. Smith said he was able to confirm the reports through local doctors' offices and the state Health Department. While Smith did not specify which students were attending so-called "COVID-19 parties," where partygoers were allegedly trying to infect their peers for fun, UA conducted its own investigation into the rumors, the school said. "We have been aware for weeks of the rumors about COVID parties. We conducted a thorough investigation, and although we have been unable to identify any students who may have participated in these types of activities, we will continue to follow up on any information we receive and educate our students about essential precautions," the university said in a statement.
COVID-19 cases reported by UGA double in 10 days
The number of known COVID-19 cases among University of Georgia students and employees rose 30 percent in three days this week, and more than doubled in the past 10 days. UGA has been tracking the number of positive novel coronavirus cases since late March, posting a daily number on its University Health Center web page. On June 20, the university was aware of 79 positive cases, up seven cases from a week earlier -- a little less than a 10 percent increase. On June 22, the number was 89, and as of Wednesday -- a week later -- it had reached 173. The number reached 189 Thursday From Monday, when the number of cases was 145, 28 new cases have been added -- up 30 percent in three days. UGA is unable to say how many cases involved students or employees, respectively, and is not reporting how many positive tests it has found among football players and staff who returned to campus in June.
Remote UF Health workers must return
About 6% of UF Health employees, who worked remotely over the past few months due to COVID-19, are expected to return on site full time by July 4, despite recent spikes in virus cases. UF Health Shands Hospital and UF Health Physicians employ about 11,000 people in Gainesville. Most returned to work on site in May when elective surgeries and procedures resumed at the hospital, UF Health said in a prepared statement. The employees still working from home as of this week were informed in a June 11 email about the return to the workplace. Many of these workers have been working from home since mid-March. Employees who have been working remotely are required to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to the University of Florida campus. One UF Health employee in the Information Technology department told The Sun that he does not agree with UF Health's decision to end remote work at this time as virus ramps up locally. He said he and the 17 others on his team are able to perform all of their job duties remotely, as they have since mid-March. "The only difference is where we're sitting," he said. The employee asked that his name not be used to avoid retaliation at work.
U. of Missouri researcher examines overlooked aspect of COVID-19 virus
A researcher at the University of Missouri is looking at how to attack the COVID-19 virus and future versions of the contagion. While most researchers are looking to what is called the spike protein of the virus, Steven Van Doren, professor of biochemistry in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is researching what is called the fusion peptide. "It's kind of flown under the radar," Van Doren said of the fusion peptide. "It's kind of hidden." He's not developing a possible vaccine, he said. The university has received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a rapid response study of an aspect of the virus that has received little attention. There's a race to be first with a vaccine, with one being approved for phase 3 trials. "Kudos to all those folks" developing a vaccine, he said. "We're just a tiny, little operation with a relatively small grant. I hope it will complement what they're doing."
How Closely Should Students Be Spaced? At One Campus, 3 Feet Quickly Becomes 6
After planning to require students to sit only three feet away from one another in classrooms -- a policy that departed from standard public-health guidelines -- the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said on Tuesday that it will strive to keep students six feet apart. "We have configured our classrooms to accommodate 6 feet of physical distancing for students participating in on-campus learning this fall, so that will be the standard for our classrooms unless a school requests and the University grants an exception," read the emailed statement, in response to questions about the three-feet policy. Until Tuesday, the university's reopening website stated that in "the classroom setting, students, faculty, staff, and visitors must observe a minimum of 3 feet physical distancing 'mask to mask.' Masks must be worn in these spaces." Some faculty members and parents of students were uncomfortable with the idea of keeping students only three feet apart, according to a Monday report by the TV news station WRAL.

Mississippi State's 'Road Dawgs Tour' going virtual in 2020
Starting next week, Mississippi State Athletics will host a five-episode Virtual Road Dawgs Tour presented by Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance. The tour will feature virtual roundtable discussions with "Voice of the Bulldogs" Neil Price, MSU head coaches and Director of Athletics John Cohen. The first episode is scheduled for July 7 with a lineup including head football coach Mike Leach, head softball coach Samantha Ricketts and head track and field coach Chris Woods. Fans will be able to log on to the official Mississippi State Athletics Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages to take part in the virtual tour with streams for each episode beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Coronavirus outbreak hits Bryant-Denny construction as deadline nears
An outbreak of at least 35 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bryant-Denny Stadium renovation project, according to workers on the job site, as work continues forward on a tight deadline to complete the looming project. This is the second wave of positive cases that has developed at the Bryant-Denny Stadium job site after previously reported a virus cluster in May. Some of them inevitably brought the virus home spreading it to family members, learned after a series of interviews with two workers on the job site. Those interviewed requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. In its statement to a series of questions, the University of Alabama noted that it has several job sites in operation and that it "holds all of the general contractors responsible for contract requirements, including personnel safety issues and the completion schedule." Alabama went on to say in its statement that "contractors must ensure that the men and women on the projects, and the campus community, are protected."
Texas A&M football program, Jimbo Fisher hit with NCAA penalties
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and the football program were penalized by the NCAA on Thursday for recruiting and athletic violations that resulted in a one-year probation until July 1, 2021. A&M also has to pay the NCAA a $5,000 fine and the program lost an official paid visit for the 2019-20 year for the violations that occurred between January 2018 and February 2019. The NCAA and Texas A&M agreed that Fisher and an unnamed assistant had impermissible off-campus recruiting contact with a recruit at his high school, which is a Level II violation. The football program also unintentionally had players take part in countable athletically related activities (CARA) beyond NCAA mandated weekly limits. A&M in a release identified the coach as former running backs coach Jay Graham, who was hired by Tennessee in late January, and stated that the impermissible activity time totaled seven hours in the seven-week period, which is a Level III violation. The NCAA also said that Fisher, because of his involvement in the Level II recruiting violation, had violated the principle of head coach control, which requires him to create a culture of compliance by properly monitoring himself and his staff. That was a Level II violation.
Vanderbilt football player expelled for sexual assault was allowed back on campus, around his accuser
A Vanderbilt football player expelled from the university during the 2018 season after being found responsible for sexual assault by a school Title IX investigation continued to have access to football facilities and activities that placed him in proximity of his accuser for months. His accuser, a female student equipment manager, said she was moved to a different building while working so the player could work out for NFL scouts during 2019 Pro Day activities months after his expulsion. University documents and emails from Vanderbilt administrators obtained by The Tennessean show that linebacker Charles Wright, now 24, was expelled Oct. 25, 2018, but remained on campus and on the roster during an appeals process that extended beyond the season and his scheduled graduation. Wright was found responsible for violating Vanderbilt's sexual misconduct policy. But he was not criminally charged with sexual assault because of insufficient evidence, according to a summary of findings by Nashville District Attorney Michel Bottoms obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request by The Tennessean.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott says recent coronavirus outbreaks bring added challenges for fall college sports
Pac-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday that college athletics officials will need to begin deciding whether they are prepared to go forward with sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic without all schools being able to field teams, even within the same conference. Speaking during an interview on an NCAA Twitter channel, Scott also said that while the Pac-12 has been working toward playing a full football schedule in the fall -- with all schools and their non-conference opponents having reached agreement on common standards for testing for infection -- "there's been a lot of work done" on other scheduling setups, including a spring season. In the end, he predicted that decisions about having fall sports will be driven less by sport-based concerns, such as transmission through games' physical contact, and more by campus- and community-level situations such as the recent outbreaks that have occurred in the South and West. Within the Pac-12, the University of Southern California announced Wednesday that it will be changing academic plans for the fall and offering about 80% of classes online, similar to what had been outlined earlier this summer by UCLA. Last week, University of Arizona president Robert Robbins said that if he had to say now whether the school would be able to open, he would say no.

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