Thursday, July 23, 2020   
COVID-19 puts brakes on Mississippi catfish sales
Cash flow challenges are the latest struggle for Mississippi catfish producers, as product sales to their biggest consumers -- restaurants -- are way down due to COVID-19. "Even though prices are relatively stable, it has no meaning when producers are unable to sell their products," said Ganesh Kumar, an agricultural economist at Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville. "Sales lost due to COVID-19 related closures are irrecoverable." Jimmy Avery, Extension aquaculture specialist with the MSU Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center, said Mississippi continues to lead the country in catfish production, with 35,300 acres of catfish ponds as of June 30. The majority of these ponds are in the Delta, but about 8,000 water acres are in east Mississippi. "Farmers have gotten more efficient by producing more fish per acre," Avery said. "In 2009, farmers were producing around 4,000 pounds of catfish per acre. In 2019, that production level had increased to 6,700 pounds per acre, an increase of 59 percent." Avery said that increase can be attributed to the adoption of new technologies such as the use of hybrid catfish, more intensive production systems, increased aeration and improved vaccines.
HHS awards $1.34M to Oxford & MSU for mental health, substance abuse services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Grants to Communicare of Oxford and the Mississippi State University Extension Service with $1.34 million. The award is to address ongoing mental health and substance abuse needs in Mississippi through suicide prevention and opioid abuse mitigation. The HHS Center for Flex Grants approved an $800,000 grant to Communicare for COVID-19 Emergency Response for Suicide Prevention. Communicare is a community mental health center serving North Mississippi counties, including Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Tate, and Yalobusha. The HHS Center for Substance Abuse Treatment approved a $549,550 grant to allow MSU to continue its PROMISE Initiative (PReventing Opioid Misuse In the SouthEast), a community engagement program to quell prescription opioid abuse in rural Mississippi.
Famously Bald Weatherman Paul Konrad Debuts Full Head of Hair
Have Paul Konrad and the WGN Morning News crew gone mad amid the coronavirus pandemic? Over the past few days, Chicago's famously bald weatherman has been wearing a wig during his segments. But the craziest part in all of this is that his co-anchors have failed to acknowledge the unsightly hairpiece. What exactly is going on in the Windy City? It looks like Paul and his colleagues, Larry Potash and Robin Baumgarten, are in desperate need of some laughs because the wig has turned into a running gag between the three of them. The Emmy winner graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University, but soon turned his attention from acting to television news, earning a master's degree from Northwestern University. However, his first job as a news photographer and reporter in Montgomery, Ala. proved to be a little too depressing for Paul. "I don't mean to diminish the nobility or necessity of the industry. It just wasn't for me," he said of his stint covering "tragedy and destruction, freak accidents, and fortuneless families." Thankfully, a friend suggested meteorology, which Paul studied at Mississippi State University.
SOCSD presents tentative budget pending Legislature's approval of school district allocations
Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District administrators presented a proposed budget of about $64.5 million in expenditures for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 at the school board's meeting Tuesday night, about $2.5 million more than expected revenues. While the state Legislature has not yet passed an education budget approved by the governor, SOCSD Chief Financial Officer Tammie McGarr presented what she called a "conservative estimate" of $61,972,004 in revenues, almost $30 million of which will come from local sources and another $25 million of which she projects to come from the state. "That ($2.5 million difference) would be taken out of our reserves," SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant said. The Legislature is currently not in session, and Rep. Rob Roberson (R-Starkville), who sits on the education committee, says he doesn't know when the Legislature will be called back to pass the budget for schools. Earlier this month, Gov. Tate Reeves vetoed the first such budget legislators passed because it would have changed a teacher bonus pay plan. "There's a possibility I would think over the next two or three weeks that we would have special session, but I haven't been told when exactly to lock those times down yet," Roberson said. Still, he said he does not expect the education budget to have changed significantly since last year, despite the pandemic.
Mississippi Arts Commission awards grant to Starkville Area Arts Council
The Starkville Area Arts Council has received a two-year grant award for general operating support from the Mississippi Arts Commission in the amount of $13,000. SAAC uses MAC funding and other grant sources to support general operations, which allow it to operate programs year-round. General operating support is critical to ensure oversight and growth of all SAAC programs, including after-school initiatives like Art Partners, events like Art in the Park and our Art in Public Places series, as well as the Cotton District Arts Festival. "We are extraordinarily grateful for the funding and, in particular, approval for two years. This makes budgeting much easier and frees our internal capacity to seek other sources of funding next year. MAC also serves as a key arts partner by providing resources and input on communications, diversity, and other organizational needs," says Executive Director John Bateman. "They are a real asset for the Mississippi arts community."
Mississippi CIO Craig Orgeron announces retirement
Mississippi Chief Information Officer Craig Orgeron said Wednesday he plans to retire from public service next month, after 23 years with the state government. Orgeron, whose retirement was announced by the governing board of the Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services on Tuesday, is one of the nation's longest serving statewide CIOs, having been appointed to the role in 2011. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University. The decision to step down, which will take effect Aug. 7, was "a tough one," he told StateScoop. "These are my people, these are my colleagues and my friends I've known for a very long time and that was really the toughest part of it," Orgeron said. "What I've learned and what helped me make the decision is that everybody eventually leaves. And it's very difficult to say when the time is right."
Toyota Mississippi's Sean Suggs takes on additional corporate role
Sean Suggs, president of Toyota Mississippi will be adding another corporate responsibility. Starting Sept. 1, he'll be assigned as group vice president, chief social innovation officer for Toyota Motor North America TMNA. He'll remain as Toyota Mississippi president. In his new role, Suggs is responsible for TMNA's philanthropic efforts, the Toyota USA Foundation, and the corporate diversity and inclusion strategy. Suggs is replacing Albert (Al) Smith Jr., group vice president, chief social innovation officer, TMNA, who is retiring after 30 years with the company. Smith was instrumental in shaping the company's Social Innovation team and its direction. Under his leadership, Toyota has been recognized by numerous organizations for its commitment to improving the communities where we operate and for its diversity and inclusion initiatives. Suggs was named president of Toyota Mississippi on Jan. 1, 2017. He joined Toyota Mississippi in 2013 as vice president of administration, and was named vice president of manufacturing in 2015.
Mississippi could lose millions if residents don't participate in 2020 Census
Earlier this year, Mississippi spent under a half of a million dollars to increase participation in the 2020 Census, the count of every living person that helps determine federal funding. To date, less than 60% of Mississippi residents have completed the census, meaning the state is at risk of losing millions in federal funding if the participation rate does not increase. With only 57.2% of the population completing the census as of July 16, "this puts the state at risk for losing millions in federal funding over the next 10 years," a news release stated. This figure is 5% less than the national average. Of the respondents, 34.8% of Mississippians completed the census via internet. The census is a decennial count of every living person in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the five United States territories. It's important because it is used to produce data sets to determine how billions of federal dollars are distributed to more than 100 programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), National School Lunch Program, and infrastructure, to name a few.
COVID-19 broadband grant program receives 30 applications to bring service to underserved areas
The primary deadline to submit applications to a $75 million emergency broadband grant program passed last week and there are 30 applicants that want to bring service to underserved communities statewide. This grant program was authorized after Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law Senate Bill 3046 and is designed to bring increased broadband service to areas that have been underserved or unserved areas that have been determined by the Public Utilities Staff using U.S. Federal Communications Commission data. Eighteen electric power associations, known also as cooperatives, have applied for funds under the program. There are 26 of these non-profit EPAs statewide. The rest are rural water associations, rural telephone cooperatives (four) and existing broadband providers such as CSpire, CableSouth Media and Sparklight (formerly known as CableOne). Funding for the grant program will come from the $1.25 billion the state received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March by Congress.
Senator Roger Wicker proposes paycheck protection program fix for rural hospitals
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., Wednesday announced the introduction of the "PPP Access for Rural Hospitals Act," (S.4217). The senators' legislation would waive the Small Business Administration affiliation rules for non-profit critical access hospitals and hospitals that serve rural areas so that they may qualify for Paycheck Protection Program loans. "Our nation's critical access hospitals and rural hospitals have risen to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic despite substantial increases in operating costs and an uncertain future,"Wicker said. "The PPP Access for Rural Hospitals Act would ensure these vital facilities are able to apply for much-needed financial relief from the Paycheck Protection Program so that they can continue to serve their communities." The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) established the PPP to provide immediate relief to small business owners with fewer than 500 employees in the form of forgivable loans. Many small hospitals operate as part of a larger health system that exceeds the 500-employee limit under SBA's affiliation rules, making these smaller hospitals ineligible for PPP.
Legislature limits civil liability related to COVID-19
Healthcare facilities that followed applicable public health guidance in good faith in treating patients are now immune from civil liability for COVID-19-related lawsuits, under recently enacted legislation. Senate Bill 3049, authored by former Senator Sally Doty, also extends protection to first responders, schools, or other educational entities, non-profit organizations, and businesses. Businesses that manufactured personal protective equipment in response to the virus are also covered. "The last thing our hospitals and others, many of whom have employees who have put themselves at great personal risk, need is to be faced with unfounded legal claims," Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said. "Right now, we need our healthcare workers, businesses, and communities focused on health and safety, and recovery." The legislation includes a two-year statute of limitations for any legitimate claim, and backdates to March 14, 2020, the date the Governor's original emergency declaration was issued.
Hospitalizations increase by more than 50% in weeks
Mississippi's leaders continued to express concern Wednesday over the impact that rapidly increasing cases of coronavirus and hospitalizations will have on the state's health care system. The Mississippi State Department of Health reported that 490 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on June 27, followed by 602 on July 1. On Wednesday, 942 people were hospitalized with the virus. "That is a 55% increase in patients in the month of July," Gov. Tate Reeves said at a media briefing. "We've added over 340 patients in less than three weeks, in less than 20 days." At Wednesday's briefing, Reeves once again implored Mississippians to wear masks. He referred to President Donald Trump tweeting Monday that wearing a mask is patriotic. "If you love the president, join him, be patriotic and wear a mask," Reeves said. "If you don't like the president, then just wear a mask to spite him."
Gov. Tate Reeves: A bad day to have a car wreck in Jackson
Gov. Tate Reeves continued to highlight the state's struggles to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and again pointed to the stress that hospital systems continue to experience. The governor, though, stopped short of issuing a statewide mask order, a move that could reduce the chances of spreading the disease among individuals. Meanwhile, the number of cases across the state continues to grow, as does the number of younger people contracting the virus. Ten people, between the ages of 18 and 29, have died as a result of the disease. Reeves said that of the total 272 intensive care beds in the West Central Region, which includes mainly hospitals in Jackson and a few other areas, only two remain available. Statewide, more than 40 percent of all ICU patients are coronavirus cases, state leaders say. "Today would be a really bad day to have a car wreck in Jackson. It would be a really bad day in Central Mississippi for something to go wrong. Oh, and by the way, it would be a really bad day to have COVID and have to go into the hospital," Reeves said.
'The spread of the virus is bad.' Reeves has message for COVID-19 cynics: You're wrong
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has grown tired of people who repeatedly attempt to downplay the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that showed in his Wednesday press briefing. One common point of argument for those who aren't buying the severity of the crisis is that the coronavirus only presents a threat to those who are elderly. On Wednesday during a press briefing, Reeves pointed to the data to push back against the cynics. "In mid-April, we had 1,500 cases in one week and we thought it was bad," Reeves said. "My friends, we're going to report over 1,500 cases today. That's after having over 1,500 cases yesterday. "What does that mean? The spread of the virus is bad." Reeves warned that those numbers could translate into many more hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Reeves has been looking into the prospect of limiting capacity in some restaurants and bars. He indicated Wednesday that he plans to make an announcement soon regarding bars. "We are continuing to talk about certain areas, particularly bars, and exactly what that looks like," he said.
'Terrified' parents beg Reeves, Dobbs to re-think opening schools during COVID-19
As Tate Reeves talked Wednesday on Facebook Live, with COVID-19 cases deluging Mississippi, the comments rolled in one after another, until thousands stacked up. Many of them were from commenters who are terrified or angry over the thought of sending children back to school the first week in August. Those watching were especially alarmed as State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs assured viewers that children get sick from COVID-19 and, on rare occasions, they even die. Dobbs was not talking about schools when he brought this up. A journalist attending the news conference by video asked how school could start with new cases averaging almost 1,215 cases a day over seven days. "It's probably going to be bad for a long time," he said, "and I'll tell you, as far as just from a pure infection control perspective, it makes perfect sense to just not open schools at all because there will be more cases of coronavirus when we open schools and when we do other stuff. But schools are important. Our kids have to get educated, our kids have to have access to socialization. And, sometimes, nutrition is a very important part of that and just a lot of different support mechanisms."
Lonely Farewells on the Front Line of Coronavirus
Ashley Moore is saying goodbye. She does not offer a traditional farewell, neither the last rites of a priest nor the comforting touch of family. "I'm gonna stay here with you the whole time to support you. I'm gonna make sure you're comfortable," she says to a breathless COVID-19 patient. She places the ventilator on her patient, soothing the best that she can, treating the myriad complications of an organ system in terminal decline---but for many, little she can do helps, and nothing works. "Hours later, days later, a week later ... they pass away," Moore says in a later interview. The isolation, more than anything else, haunts her. "They didn't get to talk to their children before they passed, or their loved ones. You are the last person they talked to." She said goodbye to a victim of coronavirus once again only days before her interview. For her, it was the 11th time. For Mississippi, it was one of more than a thousand lonely deaths just like it. Moore is nurse manager at the University of Mississippi's Medical Intensive Care Unit, a unit entirely devoted to severely ill coronavirus patients. She spoke to the Jackson Free Press alongside Dr. Andy Wilhelm, medical director for the same unit.
'You are making history': Mississippi flag commission begins process to choose new banner
Mississippi's flag commission agreed on a process for selecting a new state banner at its first meeting Wednesday, despite still lacking three members to be appointed by Gov. Tate Reeves. Department of Archives and History officials said they have already received about 600 design proposals from the public. The commission plans to keep the submission process open until Aug. 1. The commission will review the designs and whittle them down over the coming weeks -- and perhaps add a few designs of their own. Eventually, the public will comment on five finalists. Commission members will make a final selection, which voters must approve in November. A new state flag could fly as soon as early 2021. "I want you to understand the weight of what you're about to do," House Speaker Philip Gunn told the commissioners as their first meeting began Wednesday. "This last flag that we had existed for 126 years or so. And what we are about to set the course on is going to last beyond the lifetimes of any of us. People are going to look at this new flag for years to come."
Public 'engaged' in Confederate-free Mississippi flag
The public has already submitted about 600 proposals for a new Mississippi flag without the Confederate battle emblem, the director of the state Department of Archives and History said Wednesday. "People are really engaged," Katie Blount said at the first meeting of commissioners in charge of designing a new state flag. State law says the new flag cannot include the Confederate emblem and must have the phrase, "In God We Trust." The law also created the nine-member commission, but the group only has six members so far. House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann appointed commissioners last week. Gov. Tate Reeves still had not appointed his by Wednesday. "I've been a little bit tied up," Reeves said. "We've got serious hospital capacity issues in this state. We've got people dying every single day. And so while there (are) certainly other issues that exist out there, we will make our appointments whenever we choose to make those appointments." Reeves -- who signed the bill that created the commission -- also said he doesn't think legislators have the constitutional power to call a meeting of an executive branch agency.
Flag commission gets moving, without Gov. Reeves' appointments
The commission lawmakers charged with putting a new Mississippi flag design before voters held its first meeting Wednesday, minus three members Gov. Tate Reeves failed to appoint by last week's deadline per a new law he signed. Six members of what is supposed to be a nine-member commission unanimously moved up their deadline to have a new flag design from Sept. 14 to Sept. 2 to allow more time to put it on a Nov. 3 ballot. The commission agreed to over the next few weeks review hundreds of designs the public has submitted --- and likely to choose a final design from one of those. They agreed to meet next week with a vexillologist, or expert on flags. They also unanimously chose former state Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson as chairman of the commission. Officials at the meeting had little comment on Reeves' failure to make his three appointments to the commission, other than the commission has enough members for a quorum and will move forward regardless.
Charles Evers: Brother of Civil Rights icon Medgar Evers dies at 97
Civil Rights icon Charles Evers, the first Black elected mayor of a Mississippi city and brother of Medgar Evers, has died at the age of 97. Evers became the first black mayor of a Mississippi town or city since reconstruction when he was elected mayor of Fayette in 1969. Evers died Wednesday surrounded by family at his daughter's Rankin County home. Evers' family said in a statement: "Our family appreciates the outpouring of affection, love and support over the years. Our family is heartbroken and proud of his legacy. His voice will be missed. James Charles Evers was 97 years old." Evers has always followed the beat of his own drummer. In his 1971 autobiography, Evers outlined how he had been a gun-toting bootlegger, a numbers-runner and a pimp in Chicago before coming back to Mississippi after his brother was assassinated in June 1963.
Mississippi politico, civil rights figure Charles Evers dies
Charles Evers, who led an eclectic life as a civil rights leader, onetime purveyor of illegal liquor in Chicago, history-making Black mayor in deeply segregated Mississippi and contrarian with connections to prominent national Democrats and Republicans, died Wednesday. He was 97. Evers -- who was the older brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers -- died of "natural causes" at a home in the Jackson, Mississippi, suburb of Brandon, where he was surrounded by relatives, Rankin County Coroner David Ruth told The Associated Press. Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said in a statement Wednesday that Charles Evers was one of his favorite people, with a career that "covered the spectrum from his roguish youth to a respected civil rights leader, mayor, businessman and radio host." "Charles Evers was never afraid to challenge the accepted norms or fly in the face of political correctness," Wicker said. "As an elected official, he navigated the circuitous route from Freedom Democrat to Independent to Republican. ... He used his powerful personality and platform to change Mississippi for the better."
Charles Evers, civil rights activist and politician, dead at 97
Civil rights activist and politician Charles Evers, brother of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers, died Wednesday morning in Brandon, his family said. He was 97. "The world lost a fearless Civil Rights leader this morning," a statement from his family said. "... The life mission of Charles Evers was to advance the work of his beloved brother, who was assassinated on June 12, 1963. After his killing, Charles Evers rushed to Jackson to take his brother's place as field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP and in 1969 he became Mississippi's first black mayor since Reconstruction in a biracial town (Fayette) ... Our family is heartbroken and proud of his legacy." Charles Evers ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1971 and for U.S. Senate in 1978, as an Independent candidate. Gov. Tate Reeves in a social media post on Wednesday said Evers "was a true friend to me and so many Mississippians." "His memory will always be cherished and honored," Reeves said.
Q&A: New DHS director considers increase to welfare benefits
Bob Anderson had recently taken over the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit inside the Mississippi Attorney General's Office when he got a call from Gov. Tate Reeves' office, just weeks into the new governor's administration. The staffer wanted the longtime investigator to visit his office to talk "about an agency," Anderson said, chuckling as he recalled that the staffer wouldn't say which one. "Just come up to the governor's office," the caller said. The governor was tapping Anderson to lead the state's more than $1 billion, mostly federally-funded welfare and social services agency called the Mississippi Department of Human Services, or DHS -- which had become the subject of one of the largest public embezzlement cases in state history in early February. "Okay, DHS. The DHS where the executive director just got indicted -- that DHS?" Anderson replied. The governor's office told Anderson they needed someone who had a history of rooting out fraud and whose integrity had never been questioned: He came in at the top of the list.
Carla Reid Thornhill named chief of staff for Secretary of State
Philadelphia native Carla Reid Thornhill has been named chief of staff in the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office. Thornhill, whose parents, the Rev. Albert and Lola Reid, pastored in Philadelphia for 37 years. They are retired and living in Jefferson Davis County. Thornhill first received an internship at the Secretary of State's Office in 1993 when Dick Molpus was in office. She went full-time in 1997. She has worked under four administrations, Molpus, Eric Clark, Delbert Hosemann and now Michael Watson. "I consider it a great honor to continue to serve Secretary Watson in this new role," said Thornhill. "It is truly a privilege to work for someone with such a passionate commitment to public service. I am confident about the direction he is taking the agency and look forward to carrying out his vision of a team-centered approach with the dedicated staff at the SOS." Thornhill was born in Philadelphia and was a 1992 graduate of Philadelphia High School. She attended Mississippi College where she earned a bachelor's degree in Political Science and History, and a Master's in Social Sciences.
As Mike Espy chases Cindy Hyde-Smith in polls, race emerges as campaign topic
Mike Espy was dozing off in his Yazoo City High School chemistry class when an odd sensation came over him. It felt cold and frothy, with popping sounds around his ears and shoulders. His white classmates were laughing. When he opened his eyes, Espy's teacher was standing over him wearing horned-rim glasses and a "sneer on his face." "He was holding a high-pressure foam water hose, and he had sprayed me, all of my upper body, to awaken me," the Black U.S. Senate candidate recalled in a Tuesday interview, about 50 years after the encounter. "And then when I jumped up, because it was so cold and stinging, he sprayed the rest of my body." Espy, then a junior, left the class and never came back. He got a D. Espy has rarely discussed this and similar stories from Yazoo High during his political career. But the Democrat is discussing them now -- as a reckoning with race sweeps the state and nation, and as he seeks out more support before his rematch with Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Bennie Thompson accuses administration of backing out of deal on threats briefing
The House's Homeland Security chairman is accusing U.S. law enforcement leaders of reneging on a deal to brief lawmakers next week about national security threats, in the latest clash between the Trump administration and members of Congress over the Hill's access to intelligence. "Your intransigence at the eleventh hour is outrageous, as is your offer to brief the Committee nearly two months from now, and these actions raise serious questions about whether your agencies are truly committed to keeping Members of Congress informed and respecting the Committee's oversight responsibilities," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote in a Wednesday letter obtained by POLITICO. The friction with the House panel comes as top lawmakers on the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee have separately pushed for President Donald Trump's intelligence officials to testify publicly about worldwide threats before Congress' August recess. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has sought to move the Senate briefing entirely behind closed doors after last year's session prompted Trump to spend days attacking his agency chiefs for contradicting him on issues like Iran and North Korea.
Senate Republicans back more stimulus checks, money to schools in new pandemic aid proposal
Senate Republicans plan to release details of a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package on Thursday that will include another round of stimulus checks and additional funding to help schools recover from the pandemic. GOP leaders and the White House agreed Wednesday on key parts of the legislation, which will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Democrats, who have already passed their own bill in the House. Congress and the White House are under pressure to clinch a deal on a fresh pandemic aid package, with a federal program of expanded unemployment benefits set to run out within days. One item that will be missing from the GOP plan is President Donald Trump's demand for a payroll tax cut. Republicans abandoned that proposal even though Trump had suggested he might not sign any bill that doesn't include it. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that a payroll tax cut will not be included in the bill because the focus is getting money to workers quickly. "The payroll tax takes time," he said.
Experts: Daily life may remain disrupted after vaccine launch
Public health experts, even optimistic ones, say it may take months after a COVID-19 vaccine is developed before public and economic activity begins to resemble pre-pandemic days. "I think people have construed the development of a vaccine as almost like a reset button that will take us back to life prior to the pandemic," said Yonatan Grad, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "I am worried we're not going to be able to just press a button and go from pandemic to no pandemic. It will take a lot of time, and it may not happen to quite the extent that we might imagine." Enormous hopes are hinging on the vaccine race that could blunt the coronavirus' impact. At least 142,401 U.S. residents have died of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Millions of people have lost their jobs. But stopping transmission is more complicated than approving a vaccine.
New unemployment insurance claims rise for the first time since March
The number of new unemployment claims rose for the first time in months last week, to 1.4 million -- a troubling sign for the labor market that's weathering a new round of closures as the pandemic spreads. For the week ending July 18, about 109,000 more jobless claims were filed compared to the week prior, according to the Department of Labor. "What you're seeing is that, as the economy slows, the pace of claims picks back up -- which really puts at risk the monthly jobs report over the next few months," said Joseph Brusuelas, the chief economist at RSM. "The July numbers are going to be tenuous, but it's August that I'm worried about." The number of workers continually claiming unemployment insurance went down, however, a statistic that lags by a week, to 16.1 million workers for the week ending July 11, from 17.4 million for the week ending July 4. In addition to the 1.4 million seeking unemployment nationwide last week, another 980,000 new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims were filed, the benefits offered to self-employed and gig workers.
Covid-19 Measures Have All but Wiped Out the Flu in the Southern Hemisphere
For the past two months, as winter descended on Chile, infectious-disease specialist Claudia Cortés worked tirelessly to keep a wave of critically ill Covid-19 patients alive in the hospital where she works. At the same time, she worried about what would happen when the usual wave of influenza patients arrived. They never came. From Argentina to South Africa to New Zealand, countries in the Southern Hemisphere are reporting far lower numbers of influenza and other seasonal respiratory viral infections this year. In some countries, the flu seems to have all but disappeared, a surprise silver lining that health experts attribute to measures to corral the coronavirus, like mask use and restrictions on air travel. The decline could be good news for health officials in the U.S. and Europe worried about a possible second wave of coronavirus infections this fall and winter. Not only is the coronavirus more likely to spread as people gather indoors during cold weather, but it is also flu season, meaning hospitals could get a double whammy of influenza and Covid-19 patients, both of whom sometimes require intensive-care treatment.
One-Third Of U.S. Museums May Not Survive The Year, Survey Finds
Museums seem like immortal places, with their august countenances and treasured holdings. Even in our TikTok era of diminishing attention spans, they draw more than 850 million visitors a year in the U.S., according to the American Alliance of Museums. But the coronavirus was not impressed, and the effects of the pandemic-related shutdown on the country's museums have been dire, says AAM President and CEO Laura Lott. In a survey released Wednesday of 760 museum directors, 33% of them said there was either a "significant risk" of closing permanently by next fall or that they didn't know if their institutions would survive. "There's a large public perception that museums rely on government support, when the reality is they get only a quarter of their funding from the government," Lott tells NPR. Ticket and gift shop sales, school trips and museum events are primary sources of funding, she says, "most of which went to zero overnight when they were all shuttered."
Caring for COVID moms a labor of love
Dr. Rachael Morris remembers well the first pregnant woman positive for COVID-19 to give birth at the Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants. It was April 14. The gravely ill expectant mother was in the medical intensive care unit, not on a ventilator, but receiving oxygen. Nurses carefully pushed her in her bed to one of the two Wiser operating rooms reserved for COVID patients. After her baby was born via C-section, the young mother was wheeled back to the Conerly Critical Care Tower, about a five-minute walk from Wiser. Because the baby was so close to term, "we moved toward delivery," said Morris, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The baby, born free of the virus but ill enough to need critical care, was whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit on the first floor of Wiser, UMMC's hospital primarily devoted to women and newborns. Although many COVID patients who end up in the ICU don't survive, this mom and her baby did. Since that first delivery, about 56 COVID-positive moms have given birth at Wiser. All told, as of July 22, Labor and Delivery has cared for 92 COVID-positive women.
USM makes changes to Eagle Dining services due to COVID-19
Eating on campus will be a bit different for University of Southern Mississippi students this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Southern Miss announced several adjustments that have been made to Eagle Dining services on campus, including cashless and no-touch payments whenever possible, socially distant seating and changes to food preparation. USM said the changes will support university, local, state and federal guidelines. Instead of self-service and buffet style dining, dining personnel will serve food where applicable. Eagle dining employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to their shift, including temperature checks. Employees must wear face coverings and gloves and wash hands at least every 20 minutes. Production and dining areas will be cleaned and sanitized frequently. Dining locations on campus have implemented a "no cash" operation to provide safer transactions. Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung and a student ID with a meal plan or declining balance dollars will be accepted as payment. Credit card machines will face guests and not require a PIN.
USM student reacts to fall semester changes for COVID-19
The University of Southern Mississippi is taking needed precautions to keep students and staff safe during the upcoming semester. "If one person in the class tests positive, that's a risk for everyone in the class, including the teacher," said USM student Mckaylin Townsend. "Even if the teacher were to test positive, that's also a huge risk for all the students." Townsend is an education major at USM. She will be taking both in-person and online classes starting in August. "I'm not used to taking online classes, and that is kind of mostly what was offered," Townsend said. Townsend says she wasn't thrilled about the idea of online classes at first, but understands the situation. "I feel like it'll help people feel safer. It definitely gives us more options," Townsend said. "It'll be a little bit different for me this semester but they've done a really great job of making us feel safe."
Auburn details required COVID testing for fall 2020 students
Auburn University has outlined three accepted methods of COVID-19 testing for students returning to campus in the fall: by using a Stay Safe Together kit, on-site or privately. A summary of the three methods was sent to students in an email on Wednesday. The University announced last week that students will be required to provide test results within 14 days of returning to campus as part of its A Healthier U plan. "Our ability to test every student entering campus this fall will go a long way in helping maintain a safe environment for you this semester," said the University. "At Auburn, testing will supplement other safety strategies such as the use of face coverings and observing physical distancing, as well as daily symptom and exposure reporting." Stay Safe Together testing kits, developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will be available for free to all Auburn students. The program is federally funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville shifting some in-person classes online for fall
About 28% of courses are shifting to online-only instruction this fall at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, a spokesman said. Class sizes, subject matter and faculty requests all are reasons for courses changing to online-only as the university seeks to encourage physical distancing during the pandemic, said UA spokesman John Post. Out of 4,675 courses previously scheduled to meet in-person this fall, 1,320 are changing to remote delivery, Post said. Post said in an email the majority of classes at UA are planned as face-to-face or "hybrid" courses. If different methods of instruction are available for a course, the university is allowing some schedule changes when possible. "Not sure at this time about how many of these requests we might receive but we will grant as many requests as we can," Mark Rushing, UA's associate vice chancellor for university relations, said in an email.
U. of Kentucky president reassures 'anxious' Chinese students affected by growing US-China tensions
The University of Kentucky's Chinese students and faculty are "understandably, feeling anxious," wrote President Eli Capilouto in an email to the campus on Wednesday. Citing national security concerns related to foreign government interference into academic research, a COVID-19 inspired spike in xenophobia and growing worries over potentially changing visa policies, Capilouto sought to reinforce the university's goal of a diverse research environment. The email came hours after the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, accusing the Chinese government of a nationwide pattern of espionage and theft of intellectual property. According to university international student enrollment data, 548 Chinese students attended UK last fall. Like many other universities across the country, UK also has a Confucius Institute which facilitates student exchange programs with Chinese universities and also functions as a Chinese cultural learning center on campus.
Florida Board of Governors chair: 'Still moving forward with our reopening plans'
The head of the panel that oversees Florida's state universities remains cautious but committed with plans to restart classes next month. Florida Board of Governors chair Syd Kitson reiterated the fall reopening during remarks at Tuesday's virtual board meeting. "The (State) University System will play a major role in the economic recovery of our great state," he said. But Kitson, who has guided the system's blueprint for the fall restart with input from a task force, said the focus must remain on safety and getting buy-in from everyone stepping on campuses. "It is amazing how much changes week to week, sometimes day to day during these unpredictable times," Kitson said. "It seems that so much has happened since we came together last month at the University of Central Florida," he added. "But we are still moving forward with our opening plans. Those plans have flexibility as things continue to evolve."
Students, families hear details of U. of Missouri reopening in town hall
The University of Missouri may require students to notify the institution of if they test positive for COVID-19, an MU official said Wednesday during a virtual town hall with students and families about the reopening of campus. "We are exploring requiring the student to notify us" of a positive COVID-19 test, said Scott Henderson, MU assistant director of student health. Contacted after the meeting, MU spokesman Christian Basi said the idea is being discussed, but no decisions have been made. It would provide the university with information that may be useful to instructors and students in classes, he said. The statement comes a day after another university official said in a virtual town hall for faculty and staff that a classroom instructor might not necessarily know if a student tests positive because it's medically protected information. Contact tracers would inform those at the university who have had close, sustained contact with someone who has tested positive, Henderson said.
Clemson: In-person classes delayed, no changes to academic calender
Clemson University students will begin the new school year the same way they finished last year -- virtually, according to university officials. The first day of classes remains August 19, but online instruction will be taught until at least September 21, according to a message sent to employees and students Wednesday. No changes have been made to the semester's academic calendar. In his message to students announcing the changes, President James Clements said the move will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the area in order to safely resume on-campus classes and fall activities. "We simply don't see the situation improving enough over the next few weeks to safely bring students and employees back to our locations in large numbers in August as originally planned," the email said. Once the normal schedule resumes, classes will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual instruction aimed at reducing large gatherings in buildings. The university has also announced students and employees must wear masks when in campus buildings and around others, and social distancing will be enforced.
COVID-19 roundup: Colleges tilt toward online openings
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Lafayette College, the University of Delaware and St. John's College of Nursing on Wednesday announced that they would offer all or most of their classes virtually this fall. The University of California, Merced, meanwhile, joined the university's Berkeley campus Tuesday in saying that it would start the semester online in late August but hoped to reassess after four weeks if health conditions permit. Clemson University said that it, too, would begin the fall term online Aug. 19 but planned to bring students back to campus a month later, on Sept. 21. While the latest announcements vary in how definitively institutions are committing to fully or mostly virtual instruction this fall, they reflect an increasingly evident shift by colleges and universities in conceding that previously announced plans to resume in-person learning are no longer feasible. That's more than a gut sense. A database released this week by Davidson College's College Crisis Initiative shows that of the roughly 2,000 two-year and four-year colleges that have definitively announced plans for the fall so far (the project lists 800 as "to be determined"), slightly more will be fully (119) or primarily (693) online than primarily (627) or fully (72) in person, with most of the rest (480) planning for mostly hybrid classes.
Harvard, Southern Cal tell new international students not to come
Harvard University and the University of Southern California have advised new international students not to come to campus this fall, saying they will not be allowed to enter the U.S. to participate in remote instruction. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued earlier this month to block a directive from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would have required international students to take at least some of their coursework in person in order to remain in the U.S. But while ICE rescinded that directive in response to the Harvard/MIT suit, the net result -- a reversion to policy guidance issued in March that gave international students relief from normal regulatory requirements limiting them to one online class at a time -- did not provide relief to new international students, who were not covered by the March guidance. Further, an FAQ reissued by ICE on July 15 says new international students who are not already in the U.S. should stay in their home country.
COVID-19 hot spots like frat parties, bars could ruin fall 2020 college reopening plans
As hundreds of universities attempt to offer in-person classes this fall, their success or failure hinges on much more than just emptying out the lecture halls or reducing dorm-room density. A masked student might successfully navigate her chemistry class, but then contract coronavirus while eating lunch with friends. Another might wash his hands and wear a mask on campus, but drop his guard at an off-campus fraternity house. A third could obey all campus guidelines, but pop into a crowded bar on Thursday night. Game over. These are the sorts of scenarios people like Cait Kirby, a doctoral student studying genetics at Vanderbilt University, are imagining while they're quarantined at home. Kirby has gone a step further and created a series of interactive games where hypothetical undergrads, graduate students and professors try to navigate a prestigious college campus with varying success. In one scenario, a student may catch coronavirus if they fail to wake up on time for their allotted bathroom time. Another pitfall? An empty bottle of hand sanitizer in a campus common area.
Fraternity chapter suspended for statement on ties to Confederacy
A Texas college fraternity chapter is fighting with its national leadership about how to confront the organization's legacy of racism, at a time when college students across the country, especially students of color, are calling for such introspection and actions by white classmates and administrators. Leaders of the Kappa Alpha Order chapter at Southwestern University say it was recently suspended by the national organization for attempting to reckon with the fraternity's past by issuing a statement criticizing its ties to the Confederacy. The national leaders say they have no problem with the local chapter's intent, they just took issue with how the chapter went about it stating it. "The issue was the procedure, not the sentiment," Larry Stanton Wiese, executive director of the national organization, said of the statement. It did not follow the fraternity's official protocol, he said. "I would've hoped that the message itself would've outweighed any policy," said Jeremy Wilson, a senior at Southwestern and a member of the local chapter. "Because it was the right thing to do."
OpenTable partners with colleges to manage student dining
OpenTable is partnering with colleges to help them manage dining areas as students return to campus during the coronavirus pandemic. The San Francisco-based restaurant reservation service said it's offering its technology to universities for free. Students can make on-campus reservations through the OpenTable app and see descriptions of menus or safety measures. Students can also be notified by text when a table is available. "Reservations allow campus dining establishments to safely manage capacity and pace the flow of students," OpenTable's Chief Operating Officer Andrea Johnson said in a statement. The University of Wisconsin-Madison started using OpenTable on June 22 for the Memorial Union Terrace, an outdoor dining space. Spokeswoman Shauna Breneman said the reservation system ensures that the restaurant stays at 25% capacity with six feet between tables.
Cal State trustees pass ethnic studies and social justice course mandate
In the first major change to general education across its system in decades, all 430,000 undergraduates attending Cal State universities must take an ethnic studies or social justice course, a requirement approved by CSU trustees Wednesday following a fierce two-day debate that left some longtime social activists in the awkward position of voting "no." The requirement will take effect starting in the 2023-24 academic year in the nation's largest four-year public university system. Five trustees voted against it --- including State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and social justice activists Lateefah Simon and Hugo Morales --- who said it did not hew closely enough to the definition of ethnic studies. One trustee abstained. Two questions dominated their debate: What should an ethnic studies requirement include? And who should decide: faculty, trustees or state lawmakers? "I'm trying to hold with fidelity to what ethnic studies is and has been and what those who framed it and have been fighting for 52 years have asked for," Thurmond said at the meeting Wednesday, referring to the discipline's focus on the experience of four oppressed groups in the U.S.: African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Indigenous peoples.
COVID layoffs, furloughs begin hitting colleges hard
Colleges and universities in recent days have ordered a wave of layoffs, furloughs, program reductions and other budget cuts as the COVID outbreak saps higher education enrollment, fundraising and other revenues. The University of Akron has made some of the deepest cuts to its professorial staff of any college, laying off about 100 faculty members and a fifth of its workforce, The New York Times reported. The University of Texas at San Antonio has laid off 69 instructors. University of Michigan, Flint cut more than 40% of 300 of its busiest lecturers. Ohio University has conducted three rounds of layoffs. The University of Massachusetts system, facing a $264 million shortfall, announced Monday that it will lay off 6% of its full-time employees and furlough thousands more, WBUR reported. The University of North Carolina system on Monday directed its campus chancellors to submit plans for 50% "worst-case scenario" budget cuts, The News & Observer reported. University Board Chairman Randall Ramsey has also asked campus chancellors to examine closing campuses and canceling fall sports, according to The News & Observer.
Public colleges are the workhorses of Middle-Class Mobility
The fiscal distress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has sparked ongoing discussion about the failure of elite, private universities to use their large endowments to avert steep cuts. Coupled with the recent sentencing of Lori Laughlin in the Varsity Blues scandal, it's easy to forget that most students don't attend these types of institutions. In 2018, private, four-year colleges accounted for just 20 percent of total freshman enrollment, as compared to 45 percent for public, four-year colleges and universities. Public four-years go beyond enrolling many students, however -- they are the workhorses of upward mobility for the middle class. In our new report, which draws on data produced by Opportunity Insights, we show that students who attend college -- particularly a four-year college -- are significantly more likely to experience upward mobility in adulthood, relative to their parents' position in the income distribution, than nonattenders.

Mississippi State could lose another football game
The Mississippi State football program could lose another non-conference game soon. The governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has formally asked the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University to suspend football and other contact sports this fall. This request comes after an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in people aged between 20-39 in the state. Mississippi State is set to open the 2020 football season against the University of New Mexico on Sept. 5. "I know what I am asking you to contemplate is difficult and unprecedented, but these are difficult and unprecedented times," Grisham wrote in a letter to both schools. If the New Mexico game is postponed or canceled, Mississippi State will be down two non-conference games this fall. The Bulldogs already lost their game against Alabama A&M, which was set for November 21, when the Southwestern Athletic Conference postponed all of its fall sports to the spring.
Matt Leinart excited about KJ Costello, Mississippi State
The transfer market in college football has been a game-changer. Now more than ever before, players changing programs is drastically impacting the game. This is particularly true for quarterbacks. Widely considered the most important players on the field, quarterbacks are more valuable to college football than at any point in the sport's history. One of the transfer quarterbacks expected to make noise in 2020 is Mississippi State's KJ Costello, who previously played at Stanford. FOX Sports' Matt Leinart discussed Costello's potential impact at Mississippi State during the Big Noon Kickoff live stream Wednesday night. "Listen, KJ Costello is a really good football player, and I'm more just excited to see this system and he go into the SEC with Mike Leach and compete," Leinart said. "When I combine KJ Costello, his skillset, his game and this system, this kid is gonna have a massive year. This kid two years ago was an all-Pac 12 quarterback, he threw for 3,500 yards, 29 touchdowns, he can run the football, he's a big dude, athletic. I think we all are excited and entertained to see what Mike Leach can do in the SEC and I think he's got a great signal-caller in KJ Costello leading that football team. You talk about KJ Costello, he's a mature player, he's been around college football for a while, he's got a lot of experience. I think he'll fit in really nicely for the Bulldogs and in the SEC."
'It's been really good to be back': Catching up with former Mississippi State standout Brent Rooker on opening day, the offseason and major league training camp
After concluding his Mississippi State career by becoming the second player in history to lead the Southeastern Conference in batting average, home runs and RBIs, Brent Rooker has climbed the minor league ladder in short order. In the three years since his final season in Starkville, Rooker has hit a .267 with 54 home runs and 178 RBIs between varying levels of the Minnesota Twins organization. Now entering his fourth professional season, he's among the 60 players in the Twins' 60-player pool ahead of this fall's COVID-19-shortened campaign. With MLB teams set for Opening Day on Thursday, Rooker caught up with The Dispatch this week to discuss his offseason, training with the Twins and adjustments he's made since last season.
Mississippi State basketball to face Clemson in Cancun Challenge
The Mississippi State men's basketball program will face Clemson in the Cancun Challenge Opener this season. The matchup, set for 7:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday, November 24 on the CBS Sports Network, was announced on Wednesday by the the tournament organizers. The Bulldogs will follow that game with a matchup with either Purdue or Illinois State the next day. The two-day event has been moved from Cancun, Mexico to Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne, Florida. This will be the second time Mississippi State and Clemson have met in the last three years, with the Bulldogs winning 82-71 on December 8, 2018 in the Never Forget Tribute Classic.
'It's Time for Substantive Reform': Senators Demand More From Mark Emmert, NCAA in Hearing
U.S. senators want the NCAA to go beyond athlete compensation in its modernization of rules. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, lawmakers demanded the NCAA develop full-scale reform for college athletics, even requesting president Mark Emmert present Congress with a more broad set of modifications to the organization's archaic policies. More than any senator, Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) scolded Emmert and the NCAA for not enforcing proper health-and-safety standards and for not seeing that athletes are graduating, even using his own time as a tight end at Stanford to lambast the NCAA leader. "The time has come for substantive reforms," Booker told Emmert, appearing at the hearing virtually. "The NCAA has failed generations of young men and women even when it comes to the most basic responsibility: keeping the athletes under their charge safe and healthy." The third Senate hearing on the raging debate over athlete compensation resulted in little news and a lot of fireworks, as two Democratic lawmakers, Booker and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chastised Emmert for, mainly, the NCAA's lack of universal and long-term healthcare for athletes. This has been building for months.
NCAA football oversight asks board for time on fall sports
The NCAA football oversight committee is asking the association's Board of Governors to avoid making a decision soon on whether to conduct fall championships as college sports tries to find a path to play through the pandemic. A letter dated July 21 was sent by committee chairman Shane Lyons, the West Virginia athletic director, to the board before it meets Friday. The letter was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press and first reported on by Yahoo Sports. "We acknowledge that the path forward will be challenging, and that the virus may ultimately dictate outcomes," the letter says. "We are simply requesting that the Board of Governors not make an immediate decision on the outcome of fall championships, so that conferences and schools may have ample latitude to continue to evaluate the viability of playing football this fall." The NCAA has no authority to postpone or cancel specific seasons, a decision that would be up to individual schools or their conferences. But canceling or postponing NCAA championships could increase pressure for conferences to call off sports -- including at the top-tier of college football, where Bowl Subdivision conferences are weighing options.
Ole Miss coaches like Lane Kiffin, Kermit Davis, take pay cuts as pandemic continues
All Ole Miss athletics employees who make more than $100,000 annually have agreed to take pay cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic, athletics director Keith Carter confirmed to the Clarion Ledger on Wednesday. That bracket of employees includes a large number of coaches. Football coach Lane Kiffin and all 10 of his on-field assistants make at least $100,000, as does the football strength and conditioning coach. Men's basketball coach Kermit Davis, women's basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, baseball coach Mike Bianco and softball coach Jamie Trachsel would also take a pay cut. Carter told the Clarion Ledger that some of pay cuts will last for a three-month period and others will last for as long as six months. Carter did not say how big the pay cuts will be. Ole Miss is just the third among 14 SEC schools to announce pay cuts to athletics during the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to spread across the United States and put the 2020 college sports calendar in jeopardy. South Carolina and Missouri have announced similar pay cuts for coaches and administrators.
While SEC mulls decision on football, UGA working behind scenes on plans for fans
While big, looming questions remain to be answered about if there will be a college football season and when it would start, Georgia continues to prepare for the possibility that a limited number of fans will be able to attend games in Sanford Stadium. How many and who will fill those seats should be announced in early August if the decision is made to move forward with the season, UGA athletic director Greg McGarity said. McGarity has kept an eye on the pro sports world where the New York Jets and Giants won't have any fans in attendance at home games, and NASCAR which has had about 20,000 fans at its last two races. "We're looking at what others are doing," McGarity said. "The good thing is we don't have to make that decision right now, but I think we would all be naïve if we think there's going to be 100 percent capacity. ...I don't think anybody's been over the 50 percent threshold." McGarity said while SEC athletic directors are listening to their conference counterparts about their plans, he expects schools to come up with different capacity scenarios for each of their stadiums.
SEC, ACC, Big 12 considering 'plus one' scheduling model with shortened 2020 season becoming an inevitability
Gary Stokan has become a matchmaker. The president and CEO of the Peach Bowl has to be in his position. Stokan is in desperation mode with the coronavirus potentially impacting all three of his Chick-fil-A Kickoff games in the with college football trying to figure out when and how to play its 2020 season. Stokan sprung to action once the Big Ten and Pac-12 decided earlier this month to play conference-only schedules. "Playing only conference games certainly doesn't help us," Stokan said. "When I saw that, I said, 'I should get to work here seeing if it's even possible.' ... We've got three games to put on. I don't want to lose them." With all Power Five conferences seemingly trending toward a shortened regular season amid COVID-19, Stokan said he "promoted" the idea of a "plus one" schedule to commissioners of the SEC, ACC and Big 12. The "plus one" structure would preserve traditional SEC-ACC rivalry games this season in a limited schedule -- Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, Kentucky-Louisville -- that would otherwise be lost in a conference-only format.
MLB players taking visible stance on social justice
Major League Baseball hasn't always been at the forefront of the social justice movement in recent years, with leagues like the NBA and NFL usually taking center stage. But in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis -- and because of the quirks of a coronavirus-altered sports schedule -- baseball is in the position of having the American sports world largely to itself for the next week. Even before Thursday's opening day, players and coaches in the sport are taking a more active approach to supporting racial justice. Among the examples: San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler and several players kneeling during the national anthem before an exhibition game and several Dodgers -- including NL MVP Cody Bellinger and three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw -- speaking out about racial injustice in a video message. It's a marked change for baseball, which has dealt with a slow decline in the number of Black players for several decades. In recent seasons, the percentage of Black players has hovered around 8%.
PGA Tour to allow more people at tournaments starting with FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis
The PGA Tour will begin loosening its restrictions on the number of people allowed on-site during tournaments beginning with next week's WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis. While fans are still prohibited from attending, Golf Digest reported Wednesday that the PGA Tour notified players in an email that tournament and title sponsors will be permitted to have as many as 50 guests per day. A source with direct knowledge of the email confirmed the move to The Commercial Appeal Thursday morning. The source requested anonymity because no official announcement has been made. In addition, players' spouses or significant others will be allowed on-site on competition days, as well as honorary observers (16 two-person groups per day). Neither invited guests, spouses/significant others nor honorary observers will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing, but they will be subject to a temperature check and have to fill out a questionnaire when they arrive at TPC Southwind each day. In addition, there will be limited access to where they can go while on-site.

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 23, 2020Facebook Twitter