Wednesday, July 15, 2020   
Business coaches at MSU call for local investment into young entrepreneurship
Eric Hill's interest in building a business from scratch started young. The now 31-year-old entrepreneur remembers his first unofficial tryout as a businessman in second grade, selling paper airplanes at school. As that enterprising passion persisted, it propelled him to form his first web solutions firm, HillTech, at the age of 16, which he sold for a fortune after five years of operation. "I've always been interested in business since I was a kid," Hill said. "My parents encouraged it when I was very young." It is in his own experience that Hill sees the potential for young entrepreneurship and technology startups in the state of Mississippi. Appealing to members of the Columbus Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon, Hill -- now director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach at Mississippi State University -- called for local investment and support in helping nurture young talents in the business community and bring capital for the Golden Triangle. Jeffrey Rupp, former Columbus mayor and now the director of Outreach and Corporate Engagement for the College of Business at MSU, also spoke at Tuesday's club meeting. Like Hill, Rupp emphasized the importance of cultivating the young generation into business leaders.
T.K. Martin Center director speaks to Rotary Club
The Starkville Rotary Club heard a presentation the mission and scope of one of Mississippi State University's most well-respected programs at its meeting Monday. T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability Director Kasee Stratton-Gadke gave the club an overview of the center's many services to those with mental and physical disabilities, as well as an update on the center's COVID-19 response and plans for the future. The T.K. Martin Center will be the club's philanthropy this year, receiving a donation in honor of each of its weekly speakers under President Grant Arinder. Stratton-Gadke first spoke to the center's project Insuring Mississippi Parents and Children Tomorrows Preschool (IMPACT) for children with special needs, one of the center's best-known programs. "Right now the center's Project IMPACT Preschool serves about 45 preschoolers, who are otherwise needing special education services," Stratton-Gadke said. "We have three classrooms and we have three teacher assistants who help support our primary teachers,and then we're also able to provide speech, occupational and physical therapy in-house for those who come for our services."
MSU architecture freshmen showcase design skills in 'Emmett Till River Site Memorial' exhibition
Thirty-six freshman Mississippi State architecture students are showcasing their final first-year studio projects Aug. 28-Oct. 1 in an "Emmett Till River Site Memorial" poster exhibition at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Tallahatchie County. Through a spring 2020 semester partnership with the Emmett Till Memorial Commission (ETMC), the students produced design proposals for a Till memorial at the Graball Landing site. Silvina Lopez Barrera, MSU School of Architecture assistant professor and studio coordinator, said the site sits at the convergence of the Tallahatchie River and the Black Bayou, where it is believed Till's body was found. Since April 2008, the ETMC has attempted to commemorate the site, she explained. "As part of my own research, we started this collaboration with the ETMC, and we partnered with the first-year studio to design the memorial," she said. "Now, the commission wants to move forward with the development of the river site and is planning to use students' designs to start community conversations."
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District gives students options for return to school
The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will allow parents and students to choose their preferred method of education for the upcoming school year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Superintendent Eddie Peasant announced Tuesday on the district's website. Depending on grade level, students will have the options of a traditional in-person learning environment, an entirely online environment or a "hybrid" of the two. The hybrid plan is only available for grades 10-12. Parents have until 5 p.m. today to complete the district's online form but can change their request between Thursday and 8 a.m. July 23. Students for whom surveys are not returned by the deadline will be assigned a traditional environment. School will start Aug. 10 instead of Aug. 6 as initially planned "to allow teachers additional time in their schools and classrooms to become familiar with new procedures and protocols," and the starting and ending times for a full school day are yet to be determined, according to the website. The district might implement an entirely virtual learning environment after Thanksgiving break if the pandemic worsens by then, Peasant said in Tuesday's announcement.
Mississippi revenue only off $42.5 million for FY 2020 even through COVID-19
It appears the fiscal sky did not fall despite the economic shut down as Mississippi worked to flatten the impact of the coronavirus during April and May. Total state revenue collections for the month of June FY 2020 are $8,612,029 or 1.14% above the sine die revenue estimate. Fiscal YTD revenue collections through June are $42,453,800 or 0.72% below the sine die estimate and YTD total revenue collections through June 2020 are $151,032,338 or 2.53% below the prior year's collections. The FY 2020 Sine Die Revenue Estimate is $5,858,400,000. As of 6/30/2020, total revenue collections for FY 2020 were $5,815,946,200. When compared to the total General Fund appropriations for FY 2020 of $5,760,078,578, the General Fund will end the fiscal year with an estimated excess of $55.9 million. During the FY 2020 close-out period of July and August 2020, additional revenues may be recorded, and subsequent adjustments could be necessary.
Mississippi physicians call for statewide mask mandate
Mississippi's doctors are calling for a statewide mask mandate after an increase in coronavirus cases that they say is hampering the ability of hospitals to provide emergency care for patients. "We strongly believe that without a statewide mask mandate, our state's healthcare system cannot sustain the trajectory of this outbreak, which could ultimately result in the loss of the lives of many Mississippians," members of the Mississippi State Medical Association, representing more than 5,000 physicians, residents and medical students, wrote in a statement Tuesday. "Science and evidence have made it absolutely clear that COVID-19 is not behind us, and we must resist the urge to relax the measures that have proven effective in keeping people safe," they wrote. "With the staggering toll of this pandemic on our state, we need to act quickly and decisively." Evidence has shown that masks and face coverings significantly reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, medical leaders said.
Mississippi's GOP governor: 'Herd immunity is not anything like a realistic solution'
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) threw cold water on the notion of defeating the coronavirus pandemic with "herd immunity," saying Monday that states' health systems would be overwhelmed long before reaching that point. Reeves said in a Twitter thread that in Mississippi alone, the hospital system has "started to become stressed to the point of pain" at 36,680 confirmed cases and conservatively estimated that herd immunity would require 40 percent of the population to become infected, which he said would require more than 3,000 new cases daily for the next year. Reeves's tweets come shortly after the publication of research suggesting antibody immunity after recovering from the coronavirus may not be permanent. "People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it's waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around," Katie Doores, lead author on the study at King's College London, told The Guardian in an interview published Sunday.
Some local legislators test negative for COVID-19; others await results
Following a COVID-19 outbreak among state legislators after weeks of in-person sessions at the state Capitol, many state lawmakers of the Golden Triangle delegation have now tested negative for COVID-19, while others still await results. The outbreak, some local lawmakers said, may be a result from working with each other in close quarters, the nature of in-person legislative debates as well as lax to no precautionary measures some legislators took when working at the Capitol. District 43 Rep. Rob Roberson (R-Starkville), who told The Dispatch Tuesday he tested for COVID-19 on July 3 and went into self-quarantine, said he is still waiting on his results but believes he contracted the virus during the legislative session. His wife and son, he said, have both tested positive. Apart from Roberson, almost all other lawmakers from the Golden Triangle delegation told The Dispatch they have tested negative, including District 16 Sen. Angela Turner-Ford (D-West Point), District 17 Sen. Chuck Younger (R-Columbus) and District 39 Rep. Dana McLean (R-Columbus). District 38 Rep. Chiekh Taylor (D-Starkville) said he is still waiting on his results but displays no symptoms. District 41 Rep. Kabir Karriem (D-Columbus) could not be reached for comment.
Mississippi Capitol outbreak: At least 41 with coronavirus
At least 30 Mississippi legislators and 11 other people who work in the state Capitol are now known to have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the state's top public health official said Tuesday. That is an increase from last week, when officials initially said 26 legislators and 10 others had the highly contagious virus. Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, had said the numbers could go up as more people received test results. Dobbs said Tuesday that two people from the Capitol were hospitalized, but he did not say who they are. Mississippi has the largest outbreak of COVID-19 among state legislators in the U.S., according to numbers tracked by The Associated Press. Legislators left the Mississippi Capitol on July 1, after being there through most of June. Some people in the building wore masks and kept distance from others as precautions against spreading the virus, but many did not.
'It sucks': Coronavirus outbreak at Capitol leaves state government in limbo
When COVID-19 kicked into full force, state Rep. Trey Lamar said the aches "felt like somebody took a nine-iron to my back." Lamar is among dozens of Mississippi legislators and staff infected in a coronavirus outbreak at the state Capitol as lawmakers ended, for now, their 2020 legislative session. Many lawmakers by the end of the session on July 1 were eschewing face masks and social distancing, and the Capitol at times was packed with people as lawmakers voted to retire the state flag with its divisive Confederate emblem. With unfinished business, including dealing with the governor's veto of the state public education budget, the legislative outbreak has state government in limbo. The Capitol is shut down, and health officials warn lawmakers shouldn't gather again for at least a couple of weeks. Lamar, the 39-year-old House Ways and Means chairman from Senatobia, was succinct in how he felt starting the evening of July 4, when he first fell ill. "It sucks," Lamar said on Tuesday. "It's definitely nothing to take lightly.
Public's disconnect from COVID-19 reality worries experts
The United States is being ravaged by a deadly pandemic that is growing exponentially, overwhelming health care systems and costing thousands of lives, to say nothing of an economic recession that threatens to plague the nation for years to come. But the American public seems to be over the pandemic, eager to get kids back in schools, ready to hit the bar scene and hungry for Major League Baseball to play its abbreviated season. The startling divergence between the brutal reality of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the fantasy land of a forthcoming return to normalcy has public health experts depressed and anxious about what is to come. The worst is not behind us, they say, by any stretch of the imagination. "We are nearing the point where pretty much most of the gains we had achieved have been lost," said Christine Petersen, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa. "All of us are hoping we magically get our acts together and we can look like Europe in two months. But all the data shows we are not doing that right now."
Experts: Public trust in science, data key to COVID-19 vaccine credibility
The Food and Drug Administration should hold hearings and publish data before it approves a COVID-19 vaccine to boost public confidence, experts in infectious diseases and vaccination advise. "It is incumbent on us as scientists to convey to the American public what we're finding and seeing very, very clearly and loudly," said Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford School of Medicine health economist and professor of medicine, at a House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy hearing Tuesday. The fallout from disinformation falsely linking the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism, seeding the anti-vaccine movement, is a cautionary tale, he said. Trust in an eventual COVID-19 vaccine will be fragile, public experts worry, because of these anti-vaccine conspiracy theories; the project's unprecedented speed; FDA's reversal on authorization for antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to be used against COVID-19; historical harms to Black Americans; and deep disapproval of President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic.
Walmart and Sam's Club to require masks nationwide starting July 20 as COVID-19 cases rise
Walmart and Sam's Club will start requiring masks at stores and clubs nationwide starting Monday, July 20, the company announced Wednesday. "We know some people have differing opinions on this topic. We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC," the retailers' chief operating officers said in a blog post Wednesday. The move comes two days after Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said a mask mandate in stores nationwide was "obviously something that's on our minds." Best Buy and Starbucks started requiring consumers nationwide wear masks Wednesday. The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other major chains, is asking governors to mandate masks across the nation and says different local mandates have created confusion leading to conflicts between customers and store employees.
Governor Tate Reeves and MEMA Launch COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program
Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) launched the MEMA COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program to help relieve the financial burdens on counties and municipalities caused by this unprecedented pandemic. In House Bill 1799 and Senate Bill 3047, MEMA was allocated $70,000,000 of CARES Act money to assist counties and municipalities with their COVID-19 expenses. "Hopefully it can help keep more people on the job, and prevent more layoffs," said Governor Tate Reeves. "It's not enough to overcome the terrible cost of COVID-19, but it's something. It's necessary. And we're going to do everything we can to get it out quickly and efficiently." Governor Reeves made the announcement with Director Greg Michel.
Mississippi to receive $16M to expand broadband access
Mississippi is receiving more than $16 million in federal coronavirus relief money to provide broadband access to rural parts of the state, officials announced Tuesday. The program will provide high-speed broadband internet access to more than 2,000 people, 331 farms, 32 businesses, a post office and six fire stations in Yalobusha, Tallahatchie, Panola, Grenada and Quitman counties, United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday during a virtual press conference. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said broadband access has long been an issue in Mississippi. Mississippi ranked 49th in broadband coverage in 2018, according to data from BroadbandNow. A 2017 report by the Census Bureau showed that only 61% of Mississippians had access to broadband in 2015. Republican Sen. Roger Wicker said reliable internet access is "an essential part of being part of the 21-century economy."
Governor Tate Reeves Announces 3rd Circuit Court District Appointment
Today, Governor Tate Reeves announced his appointment of Grady Franklin "Gray" Tollison as circuit court judge for the 3rd Circuit Court District, Place 1. From the courtroom to the Capitol, Gray has a proven history of fighting for our state and our people -- having served in offices from President Pro Tempore of the Mississippi State Senate to partner of his own law firm. The 3rd Circuit Court District covers Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah, and Union Counties. This appointment fills a vacancy after Judge Andrew K. Howorth announced his retirement on June 30, 2020. Tollison began his career as Staff Assistant to Senator John C. Stennis from 1986-1988. Tollison later became a Law Clerk for Justice Armis E. Hawkins in the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1991. Joining his family's law firm in 1992, he has extensive trial experience in civil and criminal matters in Mississippi state and federal courts. Elected to the Mississippi State Senate for six terms, Tollison served the people of Senate District 9 from 1996 to 2019. He held a variety of roles in the Senate, from Chairman of the Constitution Committee, to Chairman of the Judiciary Division B Committee, to President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
Aging, often ill inmate population in Mississippi: No release, even if it would save money
Former Army National Guard officer Edward Stafford Knight went away for life in prison in August 2001. His widow and others believe it turned into a death sentence. "They basically starved him to death," his widow, Betty Biggers Knight, claims. Although technically eligible for parole in 15 years, Knight, a former first lieutenant with the Army National Guard from Corinth, served over 18 years, battled stomach cancer and died at the age of 80. Despite his family's pleas to let them take him home and pay for his care, the Mississippi Department of Corrections chose to let state taxpayers foot the more than $200,000 for his surgery and additional medical bills. In response to an open records request, MDOC said there are 192 state inmates who are 70 years old or older still in custody. Of those, 143 have chronic illnesses. In recent years, the state Legislature has squabbled over the continuing financial drain of incarcerating ill and aging inmates.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized for 'possible infection'
The Supreme Court's oldest justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was hospitalized Tuesday for treatment of "a possible infection," a court spokesperson said in a statement. Ginsburg, 87, was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore early Tuesday morning after being evaluated Monday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington due to symptoms that included "fever and chills." Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee who is the longest-serving member of the court's liberal wing, has had several bouts of cancer. In May of this year, Ginsburg also spent two nights at Johns Hopkins for treatment of a gallstone. Word of Ginsburg's latest illness came just days after the court delivered its final opinions in cases argued this term -- a term significantly interrupted by the coronavirus. Due to the pandemic, the court scuttled its March and April argument sessions. About half the cases set for argument during those weeks were heard in May during the court's first-ever telephone arguments. Ginsburg joined one day of those arguments from the hospital.
White House tells 18 million unemployed workers to 'Find Something New' in ad campaign
Ivanka Trump urged out-of-work Americans to "find something new" Tuesday as part of a new jobs initiative designed to tout the benefits of skills training and career paths that don't require a college degree. But the effort -- complete with a website, advertising campaign and virtual roundtable featuring Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM chair Ginni Rometty -- was swiftly derided on social media as "clueless" and "tone-deaf" given the pandemic, recession and Trump's own familial employment history. "This initiative is about challenging the idea the traditional 2 and 4 yr college is the only option to acquire the skills needed to secure a job," President Trump's eldest daughter and White House adviser said in a Twitter post. "This work has never been more urgent." The campaign comes with the country in the midst of a public health crisis that has upended entire industries and kicked off a recession that has sent the nation's unemployment rate shooting above 11 percent. The nation currently has 5.4 million job openings, according to the Labor Department, which is not nearly enough for the roughly 18 million Americans who are officially unemployed and the 33 million who are currently receiving unemployment benefits.
How Alabama will play a role in determining the fate of the Senate's majority in 2020
Alabama's Senate race between Democratic incumbent Senator Doug Jones and Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville will play a pivotal role in determining which political party assumes the majority in the upper chamber in January. Republicans hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, but their electoral prospects are iffy in November with five incumbents looking increasingly vulnerable: Cook Political Report rates the races held by incumbent GOP senators as "toss ups" in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Montana and North Carolina. Analysts believe the Alabama Senate contest is the only likely opportunity for Republicans to reclaim a Senate seat from a Democrat, raising the stakes -- and the pressure -- for the Alabama GOP to deliver a winner. Tuberville, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump in March, easily defeated former Senator and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions during Tuesday's GOP runoff. And despite Trump's slumping poll numbers nationally, GOP leaders in Alabama believe they have the momentum and point to the 2018 midterm elections as evidence. That year, Republicans in Alabama swept the statewide general election races, even as Democrats overall enjoyed a strong showing and recaptured the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
House battlegrounds set in Texas, unclear in Maine
Voters in Texas set the contests Tuesday for several House districts that could give Democrats an even bigger majority or offer Republicans a shot at curbing it. Election officials in Maine, meanwhile, appeared likely to need some more time to determine the GOP winner in another battleground district. Democrats are targeting suburban districts in Texas, seeking to build on their successful 2018 path to the House majority. Republicans have their eyes on recapturing Maine's 2nd District, where freshman Democrat Jared Golden holds a major cash advantage. A three-way GOP primary to choose Golden's challenger will likely take more time to be decided because no candidate appears to have cleared 50 percent, triggering the state's ranked-choice voting system. The presidential campaigns and competitive Senate contests in both states will also factor in these districts heading into November.
Employment currently remaining steady as universities prepare to open for fall semester
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) have long been major economic engines for the state and the communities where they are located. In addition to bringing in large research grants, the IHL directly employs about 28,000, including the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic upended the academic year when colleges and universities were closed beginning in late April. Students were able to finish the semester primarily with a shift to online instruction. The coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in Mississippi with 1,111 deaths in early July. But colleges and universities are making plans to open safely in the fall, and thus far no layoffs have been announced, said Caron Blanton, spokesperson for IHL. The reopening plans are vital considering the economic impact of the colleges and universities. A 2017 study conducted by the University Research Center found that, for every $1 the state invests in Mississippi's public universities, there is a $3.21 return to Mississippi's economy, and that expenditures of Mississippi public universities generate $2.46 billion in economic impacts around the state.
Former MCC President Bill Scaggs remembered as 'servant leader'
Dr. Bill Scaggs, the veteran educator and president emeritus of Meridian Community College, died Tuesday morning at Anderson Regional Medical Center, according to his family. He was 84. Per Dr. Scaggs' wishes, there will be no funeral, but a private family service will be held, said his son, Skip Scaggs. Born in Bartow, Florida, Dr. Scaggs earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida, a master's degree from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Florida. His work in community colleges began with a Kellogg Fellowship in Community College Studies at the University of Florida. Dr. Scaggs then began a 35-year career with Meridian Community College, serving first as registrar and dean before being named president in 1968, a position he held for the next 30 years, before being named president emeritus. Longtime friend and colleague C.D. Smith called Scaggs "a servant leader." "He worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make positive things happen," Smith said. "And he never, ever wanted to take credit for anything he accomplished. His satisfaction came from knowing he was able to make a difference."
Ole Miss moves Confederate statue from prominent campus spot
A Confederate monument that's long been a divisive symbol at the University of Mississippi was removed Tuesday from a prominent spot on the Oxford campus, just two weeks after Mississippi surrendered the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. The marble statue of a saluting Confederate soldier was taken to a Civil War cemetery in a secluded area of campus. Students and faculty have pushed the university for years to move the statue, but they have said in recent weeks that their work was being undermined by administrators' plan to beautify the cemetery -- a plan that critics said could create a Confederate shrine. A draft plan by the university indicated that the burial ground will have a lighted pathway to the statue. It also said headstones might be added to Confederate soldiers' graves that have been unmarked for decades. Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn Boyce said Tuesday that the plan for headstones was being abandoned.
Chancellor Boyce gives update on Ole Miss statue relocation; headstones removed from plan
On Tuesday, the Confederate statue that sat at the entrance of the Lyceum Circle on the University of Mississippi campus was removed from its longtime home. The culmination of a 16-month process began its final steps as the statue was disassembled and transported across campus to the Confederate cemetery behind C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum, where it will now reside. Ever since the University's relocation plan was approved by the Institute of Higher Learning's Board of Trustees last month, there has been intense scrutiny and pushback by several University groups about the renovations that were going to take place at the cemetery once the statue was moved. Last month, Boyce requested a ground-penetrating radar survey inside the cemetery walls be conducted to determine the depth of cover material over the buried remains. The results of that survey came back in two parts, on June 26 and June 29. "The survey concluded that in some places, minimal ground cover could create a high probability of disturbing the graves," Boyce said. "Consequently, and after many conversations and serious consideration, I feel excavating within the walls of the cemetery presents a significant risk of disturbing remains. This is a risk I am not prepared nor willing to take."
Confederate monument leaves the center of campus
Nearly a month after the state Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board of Trustees approved the relocation, the Confederate monument was moved from the Circle to the Confederate cemetery behind the Tad Smith Coliseum. The disassembly of the monument began early Tuesday morning without announcement to the public. Two fences surround the construction site at the Circle, one of which is covered in green tarp preventing onlookers from seeing inside the construction zone. A similar fence surrounds the space in which construction workers are reassembling the monument in front of the cemetery. Greg Mitchell, a university alumnus who graduated in 1974, watched as the concrete pieces were brought to their new location. As a student, he said he remembers other fans waving Confederate flags at football games. To him, the relocation was long awaited. "I have chill bumps," he said. "I've picked up a lot of new acquaintances, and I feel like they're friends. (They're) protesters and most of them (are) younger, and I'm inspired by their passion and interest in getting this done."
UMMC facing challenges during pandemic
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is continuing to battle the coronavirus, but the facility is running out of rooms and beds for patients. The lack of rooms is happening at a time when the state has had one of the fastest growing COVID-19 case rates in the United States. UMMC is Mississippi's only level-1 trauma center and one of the five largest hospitals in the state. UMMC leaders said the facility does not have any more ICU beds. Patients are waiting in the emergency room and other areas of the hospital for a bed to open up. "As you might imagine, patients are still in car wrecks, they're still having heart attacks, and they're still having strokes and all of those other things that we need to take care of, and that we are taking care of," said Vice Chancellor of UMMC Dr. LouAnn Woodward.
USM announces details for the fall semester
The University of Southern Mississippi has announced its plan on returning to class in the fall. In compliance with health protocols, many classes will be transitioned to remote delivery, while others will be relocated to larger rooms to allow for social distancing. All classes will have remote components in some way and are designed for maximum delivery flexibility. Southern Miss will be implementing three types of methods for class: In-person, Online and Hybrid. With limited classrooms that allow for social distancing, the process of choosing which classes are held in-person have been prioritized to those: 1) with learning outcomes that are extremely difficult to translate to a virtual environment and 2) that primarily serve new USM students. All students, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors are required to wear a face covering while on campus. Medical issues may prevent face coverings from being worn; or an instructor is at least 10 feet from students while teaching. Classes will begin on August 17 and conclude on November 23. Final exams will be scheduled during the week of November 30 through December 4. All final exams will be virtual.
Southern Miss, William Carey University to resume limited on-campus courses for fall
On Tuesday, William Carey University and the University of Southern Mississippi announced plans to reopen their campuses during the fall semester. USM classes will resume Aug. 17 and end Nov. 23 with fall break eliminated from the schedule "to reduce the flow of students to and from the campus returning from holidays." Carey students will move in Aug. 21 and begin classes Aug. 24. WCU President Tommy King said because the coronavirus pandemic changes on a daily basis, the university will adjust as needed based on CDC, Department of Health, and government requirements. USM announced similar plans for on-campus instruction in the fall, allowing for face-to-face instruction and the implementation of hybrid courses. University officials said the school will prioritize face-to-face classes based on three factors: class size, room availability and feasibility of online course delivery. For example, courses that "do not translate well in virtual environments without loss of learning," such as labs and performing arts, will be given priority for face-to-face instruction.
Itawamba Community College's spring online retention rate, success rates higher
Itawamba Community College's transition to online classes immediately following spring break due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not adversely impact the class retention rate, according to Denise Gillespie, dean of eLearning. In fact, spring retention for online classes was 87.6 percent, which is above the approximate average of 85 percent. "The rate is only two-to-three percent lower on average than the on-campus classes, and the national average is that online has 10-20 percent lower retention rate than traditional classes," Gillespie said. "There was a big jump in success rates for online classes in the spring with 95 percent of students completing the semester with a 'C' or better average." She noted that the average rate always ranges from 80-85 percent. Gillespie said that she believes that ICC's 19-1 student-teacher ratio has a significant impact. "Local faculty and eLearning support staff on campus are invested in the success of local students at a lower price than some options."
Brookhaven's Stan Foster named to Copiah-Lincoln Community College Foundation Board
Brookhaven's Stan Foster has been elected to serve on the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Foundation Board. "I am honored to have been asked to serve on the Board," Foster said. "Co-Lin has always been a leader in education and economic development and I welcome the opportunity work along such an esteemed group." Foster is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He holds a bachelor's degree in fisheries management and a master's degree in business administration and finance. He has worked in the banking industry for more than 25 years. Foster currently is community bank president for Trustmark National Bank in Brookhaven. "We are so pleased to welcome Stan to the Foundation Board," Executive Director Angela Furr said. "Co-Lin has a long-standing affiliation with Trustmark, and we look forward to continuing that relationship and utilizing Stan's experience as we work together to raise funds in support of the college and our students and faculty."
As Louisiana coronavirus trends worsen, Mike Pence promotes schools reopening at LSU visit
Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday traveled to Louisiana, a state struggling to get a grip on spiking infections and hospitalizations, and urged the reopening of K-12 schools and colleges for in-person instruction. At a gathering inside LSU's Tiger Stadium, where he was seated between LSU football coach Ed Orgeron and Gov. John Bel Edwards, Pence acknowledged that while rising cases across the South are "serious," the nation's schools should reopen on time. "Getting our kids back into schools is the right thing to do academically, but it's also the right thing to do for our children," Pence said. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos added that "it can't be a question of if schools reopen, it's how we can do it safely." The Trump administration offered few specifics on how it envisions schools reopening safely during the visit, though Devos said it should involve precautions like wearing masks, social distancing and practicing good hygiene. Meanwhile, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was hashing out details for how it may work in Louisiana, and one popular approach is to have younger students return to classrooms while older students rely on distance learning.
$194.7M Walton gift to aid U. of Arkansas in creation of research institute
A $194.7 million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation will establish a new research institute at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to bring together faculty members from across disciplines. It establishes the UA Institute for Integrative and Innovative Research, or I3R, with goals that include taking more ideas to the marketplace and boosting collaboration between researchers and industry. The institute will have five focus areas: data science, food systems, materials science, metabolic disease and integrative neuroscience. Having researchers in different fields working together positions UA to stand out nationally, Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said. The gift will support the hiring of 20 new faculty members and the establishment of a UA site in Bentonville, along with helping pay for construction of a new $100 million research facility. It's expected to be the costliest academic building in UA's history, said university spokeswoman Amy Schlesing.
Face masks required on UGA campus beginning Wednesday
Masks will be required on the University of Georgia campus Wednesday "while inside campus facilities/buildings where six feet social distancing may not always be possible," according to a UGA announcement. "Face covering use will be in addition to and is not a substitute for social distancing." Face coverings were optional in earlier versions of the reopening plan --- a directive from the University System of Georgia rather than UGA administrators. But USG administrators changed to require masks after widespread criticism. Public health officials say community mask wearing is one of the most effective means of limiting the spread of COVID-19 when The new rule comes as UGA prepares to enter the second phase of its reopening plan, a little more than a month before UGA classes are scheduled to being on Aug. 20.
U. of Florida study: Recyclers must be more vigilant
Despite our good intentions, a new University of Florida study suggests that one in four items headed for recycling won't make the cut. Items that are "contaminated," such as paper or cardboard covered with residual oil or food products, account for 25% of recycling materials that were sent to 10 recycling locations around the state. And the problem is getting worse, the study said. The data shows a "gradual increase in contamination rate" from 2007 to 2019. The study was commissioned by the Florida Recycling Partnership Foundation, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit with a mission to promote recycling statewide. In the press release about the study, Tim Townsend, a professor in the UF department of environmental engineering sciences who led the study, said he thinks there will need to be more attention given to ensuring clean recycling streams.
Texas A&M Provost: More than half of fall classes offered in-person
More than 50% of fall course sections at Texas A&M will be offered in-person and 63% of students will have two or more courses offered in-person, A&M Provost Carol A. Fierke announced in an email to students and faculty on Tuesday. Fierke said A&M is attempting to provide students with at least one in-person course and most with two in-person courses. All in-person courses at A&M this fall will have a remote option. Fierke said A&M will post its final fall schedule on July 24, and students will be able to make registration changes beginning July 27. Fierke sent a reminder that no student will be required to be on campus this fall, with the exception of some professional programs. A&M has also updated its classroom capacities for social distancing and will only have 13 classrooms with a capacity over 100 this fall.
Texas A&M University System to give free COVID-19 testing to all students, faculty, staff
The Texas A&M University System will provide access to free COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff at system campuses this fall. The A&M System announced a deal with California-based company Curative, Inc. that will send around 15,000 test kits to system campuses each month. Each campus will have a central location for the testing, which will consist of a mouth swab, according to a press release. Testing could start as early as late this week. A&M said Curative has committed to turning around lab results within 30 hours from when the sample arrives at the lab. Although tests will be free, those who have insurance are encouraged to use their primary care physician to access the test so that the test can be paid for by insurance. The on-campus tests will not be available to the general public and those wishing to be tested must register online.
Universities, international students celebrate demise of ICE 'go home' rule
Some international students were rejoicing Tuesday after hearing the Trump administration has rescinded an Immigration and Customs Enforcement directive that would have forced them to go home if they ended up taking all online classes in the fall. But some were still not sure whether they would come back to Columbia from their countries as uncertainty persists during the pandemic. Some international students were already ambivalent about returning to the University of Missouri. The total number of international students enrolled at MU last year was 1,634, and that represents about 5.5% of the student population, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said. Among them is Chen Xiaoyu, a journalism student from China who said she had already invested a lot of effort and money in buying tickets to fly home to Zhejiang, China, in June. "I have been quarantined for about 14 days since I came back," she said. "If I decide to go back to the U.S., I cannot come back to the U.S. directly due to the travel ban. So, it is a big-time commitment for me to come back to MU."
U.S. Rescinds Visa Policy That Could Have Forced Colleges to Hold Some Classes in Person
In a startling reversal, the Trump administration agreed to rescind a visa policy that would have forced international students to enroll in in-person classes or leave the country. The repeal of the policy, which had been broadly seen as an attempt by the White House to pressure institutions to reopen with face-to-face instruction this fall, is an enormous victory for colleges and more than a million international students. Many students, especially those with health conditions, faced a near-impossible choice: return to their home countries in the middle of a global pandemic or risk their health returning to campus. But the battle over the guidance, which was unexpectedly announced just over a week ago, may have further damaged American higher education's global reputation, sending the message that the United States is an unwelcoming place for students from overseas. The number of new international students coming to the United States has fallen for the past three years, while countries viewed as more open and hospitable, like Canada and Australia, have experienced enrollment booms.
Universities' Plan to Test Students for Covid-19 to Increase Demand on Testing Capacity
Universities, seeking to bring students back to campus this fall during the coronavirus pandemic, are laying out reopening plans that rely heavily on their health departments arranging widespread, frequent testing of students, faculty and staff. Some worry about whether the nation's testing capacity can keep up. These moves, a sampling of broad testing plans being formulated across U.S. academia, follow calls from the Trump administration and elsewhere to get students back to campus after most colleges shut down during the spring outbreak. And yet, while few argue with the goal of resuming students' education, a debate is under way over how best to assure their safety and to avoid becoming incubators facilitating the spread of the virus. Testing is widely acknowledged as necessary to track the spread of the virus and to suppress clusters once they emerge. But the nation's ability to conduct and process Covid-19 tests is already straining.
Student conduct codes and pledges promise good COVID-19 habits
As college leaders move ahead on plans to reopen their campuses this fall, it is becoming more clear that they lack confidence in their ability to control student behavior that can spread the coronavirus. In addition to plans to regularly test students for COVID-19, college administrators are putting faith in conduct codes and written pledges that mandate students refrain from large gatherings, follow social distance guidelines and wear face masks. The administrators are setting up clear expectations for how students must conduct themselves and getting the message out through campus health campaigns and online training modules. What is less clear is how far colleges can go beyond their gates to enforce healthy behavior, which some students have already proven they are not willing to engage in. Coronavirus outbreaks among fraternity members at both the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington this month reinforced faculty members' concerns that students will not follow social distancing protocols and bans on large gatherings when returning to campuses in the fall.
Charlottesville mayor: UVa reopening plan 'a recipe for disaster'
Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker on Monday called the University of Virginia's plan to allow students on Grounds and have in-person classes "a recipe for disaster." Walker held a virtual press conference with several local officials on Monday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and safety measures local residents should be taking. Walker's comments came as local government, health and K-12 schools officials are starting to sound the alarm over the possible negative repercussions of bringing college students back to the area. In the press conference, Walker mentioned that officials have received reports of house parties and other large gatherings. She said a social media post has been circulating recently showing a crowded party with UVa students. "I, for one, do not understand why the students are coming back into the community from all over the globe and why we would take that chance," Walker said. On Monday, UVa spokesman Brian Coy said the university is preparing to bring students back "in a way that reflects the advice of medical and public health experts, as well as state and federal regulations."
College students say they'll sacrifice parties if they can return to campus
College students overwhelmingly plan to return to campus this fall if their schools are open -- and they claim they'll sit out the fun even if it's available, according to a new College Reaction/Axios poll. For many, even an experience devoid of the trappings of college life is still a lot better than the alternative. 76% of college students say they will return to campus if they have the option. 66% say they would attend in-person classes. A striking majority say they're planning to forgo the fun on campus: 79% say they wouldn't attend parties and 71% say they wouldn't attend sports games if they happen. Avoiding these temptations is a lot easier said than done. Peer pressure, boredom and a gradual relaxation of strictness could all change the calculus when restless students find themselves in their dorms on a Friday night. For most students, returning to a much tamer campus with far more restrictions sounds a lot better than not going back at all.
Mask requirements are by no reasonable measure tyranny or an attack on one's liberty
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Erstwhile DeSoto County state legislator and failed GOP gubernatorial contender Robert Foster is certainly entitled to his opinions about government mask requirements. He is also free to apply whatever overwrought definitions to freedom, liberty, and tyranny that he chooses. Likewise, I am free to point out that one of the great things about America is that here, your cheese can slide all the way off your cracker and there's not much to be done about it. ... Whatever one thinks of Tate Reeves' service as governor, the suggestion that his administration's COVID-19 policies have been either tyrannical or out-of-step with the best advice of federal and state medical experts is simply just not true. And Foster's disrespectful dismissal of the work of Drs. Thomas Dobbs and Anthony Fauci is contemptible. ... The notion that the advice of public health experts should be ignored contradicts a great deal of American history. There are more than a few easy examples of science changing how we live.

SEC postpones start of three fall sports until at least Aug. 31
The Southeastern Conference announced Tuesday it will delay the starts of its 2020 volleyball, soccer and cross-country seasons until at least Aug. 31 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The delay will include all exhibition and non-conference games in addition to previously scheduled contests between SEC members. Non-conference games affected by the postponement are to be rescheduled by each respective school. Tuesday's decision comes as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb nationwide. To this point, the conference has not made any decisions regarding football, while the Pac-12 and Big Ten announced last week that it would play conference-only schedules in 2020, if health measures permit. SEC administrators met in Birmingham on Monday with conference Commissioner Greg Sankey amidst growing concern regarding the likelihood of fall athletics.
Mississippi delays start of high school sports amid virus
Fall seasons for public high school sports in Mississippi will be delayed by two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Mississippi High School Activities Association announced its decision Tuesday, but also emphasized that new information could cause changes later. Cross country, swimming and volleyball teams can start practicing Aug. 10 and competing Aug. 24. Football practice can begin Aug. 17. Scrimmages between schools can begin Sept. 4 and games can begin Sept. 11. The organization said football playoff and championship dates in November and December are unchanged. Football games scheduled for the first two weeks of the season will not be made up. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said during a news conference with the governor on Tuesday that football might be possible with some safety precautions for players, though he said it's possible that teams will have players out with the virus at different times. "Crowds are never safe right now, so that's a real concern," Dobbs said.
'The smart thing': MHSAA's two-week delay for fall sports draws praise from coaches
Caledonia High School volleyball coach Samantha Brooks remembers the painful end to her two kids' final high school sports seasons this spring. When Tori's softball season and Tony's baseball season were suspended and eventually canceled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it was "devastating," Brooks said. So when the Mississippi High School Activities Association executive committee voted Tuesday to delay the start of fall sports -- volleyball, football, cross country and swimming -- by two weeks, Brooks was happy that the dedicated players on her team won't have to experience the same feeling (yet, anyway). "I am glad that it's been pushed back," Brooks said. "I feel like that was a safe option." That was the consensus Tuesday afternoon as The Dispatch spoke to Brooks and several local high school football coaches whose teams were affected by the MHSAA's decision. "The board felt these changes will give all of us more time to try to get back into the routine of school," Executive Committee President Kalvin Robinson said in the release. "There are going to be many challenges -- ones we're anticipating and those we don't even know about yet -- in returning to on-campus learning. It's going to be different than what we've experienced in the past. Hopefully pushing back the start of the fall sports seasons will help make that transition a little smoother for everyone involved."
High school football, other fall sports will see delayed starts to seasons
High school football season is still on, for now, but it will see a delayed start. On Tuesday, the Mississippi High School Activities Association executive committee voted to delay the start of football by two weeks due to COVID-19 concerns. Cross country, swimming and volleyball will also see a delayed start. The start of preseason football practices will now be Aug. 17, with the season to begin Sept. 4. Any games originally scheduled for the first two weeks of the season will not be made up. "There was a consensus there after a lot of discussion about starting dates," executive director Don Hinton said of Tuesday's meeting. Teams in Classes 1A, 5A and 6A can play no more than 10 games, while teams in 2A, 3A and 4A can play no more than nine. The playoffs will begin as originally scheduled, concluding with the championships Dec. 4-5 at Mississippi State University.
Football is 'important for America': Mike Pence and LSU's Ed Orgeron say U.S. needs a 2020 season
LSU coach Ed Orgeron told the roundtable of White House officials that the United States needs football, and Vice President Mike Pence applauded. Orgeron continued in earnest. From his seat inside Tiger Stadium, he spoke of the professional opportunities his players would lose from a canceled season due to the coronavirus pandemic. He spoke of the steps LSU has taken to sterilize its facilities and test its members, of the pre-planned protocol that helped quell a spike of cases when some players went to a party. He said "this can be handled." "I don't think we can take this away from our players, take this away from our state and our country," Orgeron said. "We need football. Football is the lifeblood of our country." Orgeron and Tiger Stadium provided a fitting backdrop Tuesday for a symbol of unity between a college athletic program and a presidential administration that has been persistent on reopening schools and playing sports while cases of COVID-19 in the nation have soared to an all-time high.
Florida AD Scott Stricklin recovers from COVID-19
Since the return to campus last month, Florida has seen 29 student-athletes test positive for COVID-19. And one athletic director. Scott Stricklin revealed Tuesday that he tested positive for the virus last month. "Fortunately, I had mild symptoms and was able in a couple of days to kind of go back to normal," Stricklin said. "I thought I was being careful, but obviously this is a highly transmissible disease. So, I do think it speaks to the importance of all of us doing our part and wearing the masks and physical distancing and all that stuff. Hopefully we can help keep others safe during this process by doing our part." Stricklin said he went to bed one night not feeling well and woke up the next morning with the symptoms. He called one of the team doctors and was tested. COVID-19 has hit home for the Gators since the return to campus, something UF health officials anticipated back in early June. UF has tested 238 athletes across all sports since then, with 29 positive tests. The football team, with so many players, has had its share of positives, Stricklin said.
UGA AD Greg McGarity: 'Numerous options' considered in SEC scheduling and Georgia Tech game
Greg McGarity wore his Georgia themed face mask adorned with multiple dog bones to and from Monday's SEC athletic director meeting in an expansive room at the league's headquarters in Birmingham. Inside a multitude of scheduling options were discussed for a college football season that is in danger of being a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them a 10-game SEC schedule, playing conference only games while keeping longstanding in-state rivalries and delaying the start of the season. The conference hopes to make decisions about the season in late July. "We're feverishly working on a lot of what-ifs," the Georgia athletic director said. "There are numerous options that would come into play depending on where things stand at the end of the month. We hope to be in a position where we can say either A, B, C or D and get to that point and not be at a point where we have to start from scratch."
Tennessee athletics reports multiple positive COVID-19 tests after post-Fourth of July testing
Tennessee had multiple athletes test positive for COVID-19 in a wave of testing following the Fourth of July weekend, a UT spokesperson confirmed. The positive results came from multiple Tennessee sports, as UT opted to do another round of testing following the holiday and welcomed back part of the women's soccer team for its first round of testing. Previously, the only known positive tests among UT athletes were two men's basketball players tested positive. Both have cleared quarantine since their positive test. Tennessee football players and staff members were tested again for COVID-19 following the Fourth of July weekend. UT has spent $59,390 on testing as of July 8, according to a records request by Knox News. UT spent $45,990 on 511 nasal swab tests and $13,400 on 268 antibody blood tests.
Breaking down the SEC states' testing numbers
There's more uncertainty than ever as to whether college football will start on time in 2020 -- or kick off at all -- and we're about 50 days from Missouri's scheduled season opener Sept. 5 against Central Arkansas at Faurot Field. As the uncertainty grows, daily cases of the coronavirus in America also climb. Perhaps the SEC's greatest asset at times -- having such a large chunk of the country glued to televisions or in packed stadiums in the 11 states their member programs represent --- has become more of a liability now. Missouri has the lowest testing rate of any of the SEC's 11 states, according to the latest data from each state's health authority compiled by The Atlantic. The average testing rate in states with SEC schools is 110.72 per 1,000, as the combined populations of the 11 states in the conference total nearly 100 million and a combined 10,985,809 tests have been administered in those states. Mississippi has the lowest overall population of the 11 states at just under 3 million residents, but its infection rate is the third-highest in the conference at one in every 81 people statewide testing positive for COVID-19.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says 'it's too early' to make call on fall sports season
The Big 12 will continue to assess COVID-19 developments before making a call on the fall sports season, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "I believe it's too early to be making those decisions," Bowlsby said following a Tuesday meeting of conference athletic directors. "Frankly, we haven't been advised to do that by our scientists and medical advisors. We've been advised to move forward slowly and constantly re-evaluate and that's what we'll keep doing until we've told it's inadvisable." Bowlsby's comments put the Big 12 on the same page with public comments by the SEC and ACC. Although COVID-19 testing numbers have spiked recently and pessimism has grown about a fall football season, Bowlsby said any decision is likely too "circumstantial and situational." The ADs were briefed on COVID-19 testing and monitoring protocol Tuesday by Dr. Kyle Goerl, the Kansas State team physician. There is a huge financial component to the decisions facing conferences with football the prime economic driver for FBS athletic departments. Still, Bowlsby said medical guidance and health concerns will take priority.

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: July 15, 2020Facebook Twitter