Monday, July 27, 2020   
New website aims to help Mississippi students pursue careers
According to the Institutions of Higher Learning, a new, streamlined website is aiming to provide career information to middle school and high school students in a user-friendly format that is easy to navigate and easy to understand. The website, serves as a guide for students to find this information and much more. "The website helps prepare the workforce for Mississippi's future," said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. "The website connects students and adults with their chosen careers by providing the information needed to obtain the skills, credentials and degrees needed to enter the field and Mississippi's workforce."Developed through a partnership between the Institutions of Higher Learning, the Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid and Woodward Hines Education Foundation, the website is hosted by Mississippi State University.
Flowers delivered for hands-on instruction in MSU's floral design course
In a time of social distancing and face coverings, the decline in mental health and the rise in emotional distress have almost everyone looking for solutions during coronavirus. One Mississippi State instructor has found a way to reach students all over the world and create immediate social and emotional connections through virtual floral design. Floral management teacher Lynette McDougald designed and introduced the first basic floral design course offered virtually during MSU's Summer Advantage Online. "It's been proven in a number of studies that the presence of flowers increases emotional wellbeing at home, at work and as a gift," said McDougald, whose class is offered through the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. "I don't think the average floral consumer looks at buying flowers as the purchase of a highly perishable commodity, but as an emotion. Flowers convey our emotions when we don't necessarily have the words." Especially in the midst of social distancing, she hopes floral design helps students understand the benefits of living with flowers while, at the same time, instilling in them the principles and elements of the craft.
For small town Mississippi, the pandemic could not have come at a worse time
Since the arrival of the virus in March and the subsequent shutdown of downtowns, COVID-19 has complicated the task of keeping many of those communities vibrant and reversing a downturn in population and economic stability. An April survey of 149 Mississippi small business owners by Main Street America indicated that 62 percent of those businesses were at risk of closing permanently by September 2020. But the story doesn't end there. Just ask Thomas Gregory, state coordinator for the Mississippi Main Street Association, a non-profit organization boasting a membership of over 50 cities and towns. "We're fortunate in Mississippi that our economy is more rural and has been allowed to re-open so quickly." In partnership with Mississippi State University's Carl Small Town Center, Starkville Main Street approved a plan to utilize parking spaces for temporary outdoor seating at several downtown restaurants. "The plan that Starkville is working on is a perfect example of a program and city working together to expand capacity for restaurants," said Jennifer Prather, MSM's director of community development. "This will not only serve as support for their bottom line during the pandemic, but it could also be a test run for a more permanent development of outdoor dining and streetscape plans."
School reopening plans still fluid as pandemic continues
Until the social distancing directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lifted, "normal operations" for schools are a thing of the past, Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Superintendent Eddie Peasant said on the district website. It's true for school districts both locally and nationwide as they make plans to try to keep students, teachers and staff at a safe distance from each other in buildings and on buses. Public health data changes daily, so districts have to make adjustments on the fly if needed. Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will allow families to choose the learning environment they feel is best for their children. The hybrid option will be available for grades 10-12, but all other students have only the virtual and traditional options. SOCSD is placing decals emblazoned with the Yellow Jacket mascot six feet apart on some of the floors of its buildings to give students and parents a visual aid for social distancing. Peasant said protective face masks will most likely be available on site.
Starkville-Oktibbeha libraries request more funding for staffing, programming
Loraine Walker has held a livestreamed storytime for children "every day at 10 a.m. without fail" on Facebook since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic halted most activity in March. Walker is the children's librarian in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Public Library System, and she said she "cannot tell you how fired up" she is with ideas for children's activities and programming once normal operations can resume. But in order to broaden the library's programming and collection, the system needs extra funding from both the city of Starkville and Oktibbeha County, director Phillip Carter said. He approached the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors July 6 with the funding request and plans to approach Starkville aldermen Aug. 4. He told The Dispatch he has drawn up a five-year plan for gradual funding increases "so we can start to get our services, programming and staffing up to a more appropriate level for the community we serve." The library system also needs more staff, a new air conditioning unit and more technology, Carter said.
COVID causes delays at North Star; officials still optimistic about site
Construction of the long-awaited North Star Industrial Park at the northwest intersection of Highways 389 and 82 in Starkville has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, though not without delays, Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said. Most of the infrastructure -- roads, water lines and sewer lines -- is in place after two years of construction. The only building in the works at the moment is the new headquarters for Garan Manufacturing, the park's first confirmed tenant last year, which is relocating from its current site on Highway 12. Three potential tenants are interested in the site, and one will visit in the next few weeks, but the other two are from other countries and cannot travel internationally due to the pandemic, "so those projects are just kind of hanging in limbo until that can happen," Higgins said. Construction of a 500,000-gallon water tank near the park's entrance will "start in earnest" in August, Higgins said, with the notice to proceed coming Monday. Indiana-based Phoenix Fabricators and Erectors bid $2,468,300 in May for the tank's construction. Meanwhile, construction of the Garan building is slightly ahead of schedule and should be done by the end of January 2021, said site superintendent Gill Lucas of Hattiesburg-based Codaray Construction.
Renovations to the Mississippi Coliseum completed early
A multi-million dollar renovation of the Mississippi Coliseum has been completed ahead of schedule because of performance cancellations at the venue due to the coronavirus pandemic. Renovations included repairing and painting the floors and walls, installing new seating and adding handrails and reflectors to light walkways, according to a press release from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The floors were equipped with an abrasive, slip-resistant paint to prevent falls. The $2.2 million renovations began in October 2019 and were set to be completed in January 2021, with work taking place in between scheduled performances, Mississippi Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson said. However, with events canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was time for contractors to complete the project early.
Former DOR director: Mississippi is losing 'tens of millions' in uncollected business taxes each year
Mississippi lawmakers in May approved $60 million in COVID-19 relief grants to small businesses with the goal of quickly circulating $2,000 each to more than 29,000 shops shuttered temporarily by the pandemic. The federally funded grants were to be automatically given to a long list of small businesses including restaurants, barber shops and clothing stores. The only caveat: those businesses had to have filed their 2018 or 2019 state income tax returns. About 25% -- more than 7,200 -- had not and were disqualified. This brings up an age-old issue: Many Mississippi businesses don't pay their tax bills, and the Department of Revenue lacks the manpower and budget to audit and collect. "People who pay on time are being abused by the cheats," said Herb Frierson, who recently resigned as revenue commissioner, not long after he reported the COVID-19 grant tax issue to lawmakers and not long after the Legislature cut the Department of Revenue's budget by about 5%.
State economist: Complete recovery from COVID-19 recession could take two years
According to the state's economist, it might take two years for the Mississippi economy to completely recover from the COVID-19 recession despite it being the shortest one on record. Now that numbers for now-concluded fiscal 2020 are in, comparisons can be made between COVID-19 recession and the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 until June 2009. Darrin Webb is the state's economist for the Institutes for Higher Learning. He told the Northside Sun that he believes this recession is likely to be a lot shorter than the Great Recession, which lasted about 18 months before recovery began. According to Webb, the COVID-19 downturn will be the shortest recession on record. He said the consensus for most economists is that the COVID-19 related recession began in March and ended in May, but that the biggest difference between the two was that 2020 had a much deeper dive when it comes to economic activity (11.3 percent decline vs. a 3.3 percent decline during the Great Recession).
State officials hope mandates for bars and social gatherings will slow the spread of COVID-19
Bars in Mississippi are limited to 50 percent capacity, customers must be seated to be served, and alcohol sales stop from 11:00 pm until 7:00 am. Social gatherings are also limited to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors. Governor Tate Reeves says he struggled to make these changes, but they must be done to protect the state's healthcare system. He says "I'm a firm believer that people can do typically whatever they want to do at home. I'm very much a libertarian in that regard. Except when that individual crosses over into doing something that puts other people at risk." State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says a large part of Mississippi's Coronavirus spread can be traced to young people in their teens and 20s. "Social stuff is killing us," says Dr. Dobbs. "It's gonna be a party, it's gonna be just people hanging out. It's going to be things that normally we applaud as a strong element of society. Funerals and churches and that sort of thing. Every time we put people together there's gonna be a risk. And we really, just for now, we need to avoid being around other folks as much as we can."
Gov. Tate Reeves imposes bar restrictions due to 'drunk, careless folks'
Mississippi's governor is setting new restrictions on bars and social gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus among a group he called "young, drunk, careless folks." "Our bars must look more like restaurants and less like mobs of COVID-19 spread," Gov. Tate Reeves said during a Friday afternoon media briefing. Reeves said cases of coronavirus have been rising steadily in people in their 20s who are not being responsible under the current regulations. Right now, bars and restaurants can be open in the state if they serve only 50% of their capacity for patrons. Under the new rules, they can still be open at 50% capacity but people will need to be seated to order alcohol. Additionally, alcohol sales will cut off at 11 p.m. "We know that's when these crowds, primarily of young people, throw social distancing out the window," Reeves said. Statewide, crowds will be limited to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors, a rule previously regulating only the counties with the highest numbers of new cases.
Gov. Tate Reeves announces new restrictions on bars, size of gatherings and adds counties to mask mandate
Gov. Tate Reeves announced new restrictions Friday on bars and the legal size of gatherings while mandating that residents of six additional counties wear masks. The new restrictions come as virus cases surge in Mississippi, with more than 1,600 new cases Friday -- the second-largest tally since the crisis began -- and nearly 6,000 new cases total over the last four days. In the South, only Louisiana and Florida have seen more cases per capita over the past week, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. Reeves said the new bar restrictions came in response to surging case counts among young people. He said the new rules also were developed after studying other states that had clamped down on bars. The mandate follows a visit last week by White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. Reeves said there was a "strong viewpoint" from Birx and other experts "that when you look on the rising number of cases, among that 20-29 crowd, and you anecdotally see what's happening in bars around the state, that there is a lot of spread that's happening in those facilities."
Analysis: First months not what Tate Reeves expected as governor
Republican Tate Reeves has made clear that his first six months as Mississippi governor didn't shape up the way he expected. Reeves took office in January after eight years as lieutenant governor and eight before that as state treasurer. A pandemic wasn't expected when Reeves campaigned last year, and responding to the new coronavirus has occupied most of his time as governor. "In 2020, things aren't like they were in 2019," Reeves said Friday. "2019, I was running a political campaign, working 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and I never thought I would long for those days. But I can assure you that I long for those days rather than dealing with this virus." The new coronavirus was first detected in Mississippi in early March, weeks after the first U.S. cases were reported.
Growth of COVID-19 in Northeast Mississippi earns attention
Officials in state government say they are increasingly wary of mounting COVID-19 case numbers in Northeast Mississippi. In the first wave of COVID-19 that spread across the state in the spring, Northeast Mississippi never emerged as a hot spot, even as places like the Jackson-metro area, the Gulf Coast, the Delta and DeSoto County saw high transmission of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But following the relaxation of closure orders and other measures designed to stem the time of COVID-19, a second wave of the disease continues to deepen in Mississippi, and the northeast region might soon find itself the target of orders the governor has imposed in other regions. "Lee County is on my list to watch," Gov. Tate Reeves said in a press conference last week in response to questions by the Daily Journal. "Lee County is one that we are watching and monitoring very closely." Mississippi's Chief Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs made similar remarks at Friday afternoon's press briefing. "The trajectory is certainly very worrisome," Dobbs said.
Black Mississippians discuss protesting, the intersections of Black Lives Matter and existing health disparities
Black Mississippians were already reeling from representing over 50 percent of COVID-19 cases and deaths when George Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was killed on May 25 when a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. The tragedy sparked a nationwide movement for Black Lives as each state protested, and thousands across Mississippi added their voices to the chorus with protests within their own regions. Black Mississippians who protested did so while knowing they were putting their lives at risk by doing so. "The fact that the George Floyd incident happened in the middle of a pandemic and people still went out there and protested and marched and even taking into account that they might get COVID-19 or putting themselves at risk, just meant that the mentality is changing for a lot of people in this country," said Sandra Melvin, the Health Committee Chair for the MS State Conference NAACP and CEO/founder of the Institute for the Advancement of Minority Health.
Choctaw chief chosen to help design new Mississippi flag
The chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians will help design a new Mississippi state flag that does not include the Confederate battle emblem. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced Friday that he is appointing Chief Cyrus Ben and two other people to a nine-member flag commission. Mississippi legislators voted in late June to retire the last state flag in the U.S. with the rebel emblem that's widely condemned racist. The change came after national protests over racial injustice sparked new debates about the public display of Confederate symbols. In addition to Ben, the appointees Reeves announced Friday are Betsey Hamilton of New Albany and Frank Bordeaux of Gulfport. Hamilton is a retired public school teacher, real estate broker and appraiser. She is on the Union County Heritage Museum board of directors and was a founding board member for the Union County Historical Society. Bordeaux is an insurance company vice president.
John Lewis makes final journey across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma
Fifty-five years ago, Alabama state troopers beat John Lewis and hundreds of protesters as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On Sunday, troopers saluted the late civil rights leader after he made his final journey across the span. The body of the 17-term congressman was carried on a horse-drawn caisson from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to the bridge, where rose petals had been scattered. Two horses and a driver led the flag-draped casket, which paused for two minutes at 10:55 a.m. Central time when it reached the top of the bridge above the Alabama River. On the other side, the words of "We Shall Overcome" could be heard as family, hundreds of onlookers and several troopers greeted Lewis. The ceremony came on the second of six days of tributes to the son of sharecroppers, fighter for civil rights and lawmaker widely hailed as the conscience of Congress. Lewis (D-Ga.) died July 17 at the age of 80 after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer six months earlier.
COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Heads To Widespread Testing In U.S.
The COVID-19 vaccine candidate made by the U.S. biotech company Moderna and developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health starts its final phase of testing Monday. This phase is called Phase 3 efficacy testing, and it is designed to see if the vaccine actually prevents disease. Up to 30,000 volunteers will be assigned to one of two groups. One group will receive two injections spaced approximately 28 days apart of mRNA-1273, as the vaccine is known. The other group will receive an injection containing only salt water. Neither the volunteer nor the person administering the injection will know what's in the syringe in order to avoid bias in favor of one outcome or another. Of course, people running the trial will know who is getting what. Researchers will monitor both groups to see who, if anyone, gets sick.
Google to Keep Employees Home Until Summer 2021 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Google will keep its employees home until at least next July, making the search-engine giant the first major U.S. corporation to formalize such an extended timetable in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The move will affect nearly all of the roughly 200,000 full-time and contract employees across Google parent Alphabet Inc., GOOG +0.72% and is sure to pressure other technology giants that have slated staff to return as soon as January. Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai made the decision himself last week after debate among Google Leads, an internal group of top executives that he chairs, according to a person familiar with the matter. A small number of Google staffers were notified later in the week, people familiar said. Mr. Pichai was swayed in part by sympathy for employees with families to plan for uncertain school years that may involve at-home instruction, depending on geography. It also frees staff to sign full-year leases elsewhere if they choose to move.
Unsolicited packets of seeds may be mailed from China, states warn
Officials in several states said residents have reported receiving unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail that appear to be sent from China and are urging the public not to plant them. The agriculture departments in Washington, Louisiana, Kansas and Virginia have recently issued statements warning residents that the seeds may be invasive or otherwise harmful to local plants or livestock. People in Utah, Arizona and Ohio have also reported receiving the mysterious packages, local news outlets reported. Some of the packages were labeled as jewelry and may have Chinese writing on them, according to agriculture officials. Mike Strain, the commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, asked residents to notify his department if they receive unsolicited packages of seeds said in a statement Friday. "Right now, we are uncertain what types of seeds are in the package," Strain said. "We need to identify the seeds to ensure they do not pose a risk to Louisiana's agricultural industry or the environment."
New grant will save transfer students time and money
Transfer students attending Mississippi University for Women will benefit from a four-year $357,736 grant commitment from the Woodward Hines Education Foundation (WHEF) to support college retention, persistence and completion through the Improving Mississippi's Persistence and Completion Together (IMPACT) initiative. The WHEF grant will fund the Navigating Transfer Student Success project at The W. The program will expand services presently focused on first-time freshmen to the university's incoming transfer students, while highlighting the needs of this specific population. "We are constantly looking for ways to help our students succeed. The Woodward Hines Education Foundation's IMPACT grant provides us with the resources to expand certain services and establish new supports for our students in the form of simplifying financial aid processes and providing completion grants to students close to graduation who need that extra lit bit of financial help," said David Brooking, director of the Student Success Center.
Arkansas State system formally names Dr. Jim Borsig interim chancellor for Henderson campus
Dr. Jim Borsig will officially become interim chancellor at Henderson State University on Monday following the Arkansas Legislative Council's approval of his contract Friday. "We are fortunate to have attracted a professional educator with considerable experience as both a campus chief executive officer and a system-level administrator," said Dr. Charles Welch, president of the Arkansas State University System. Borsig received a one-year employment contract with the understanding that it could be extended to a second year by mutual agreement, Welch said. Borsig will earn an annual salary of $230,000. Borsig most recently served as president of Mississippi University for Women from 2012-2018, and served as both associate commissioner and interim commissioner of higher education in Mississippi. He holds a Ph.D. in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University.
Renovation of Cook Library at USM almost done
Renovation of the Joseph Anderson Cook Library on the University of Southern Mississippi's Hattiesburg campus is almost finished. This $12 million renovation project started last year in the spring, with an estimated completion date of January 2021. The work is supported by state bond funds, as well as $1.7 million in private gifts toward the Bower Academic Center, which is found inside the library. The project involves the total renovation of the first and second floors of Cook Library, along with upgrades to other service areas on those floors. "The transformation of Cook Library will mean users will be able to better access resources to help them progress successfully in their studies," said Dr. John Eye, Dean of Libraries at USM. "I am very excited that our library faculty and staff will be able to work much more efficiently in these newly designed spaces, and the library as a whole is much more inviting with the new flooring and finishes." Another feature of the renovation is the Bower Academic Center, named in honor of Jeff Bower, a former player and head coach of the USM football team. The center is designed so that USM's Athletics Department offers greater assistance to student-athletes in the pursuit of educational endeavors.
USM Graduate School Extends GRE/GMAT Waiver through Fall 2021
The Graduate Records Exam (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will continue to be waived for admission to USM graduate programs through the summer and fall 2021 semesters, in response to the pandemic. The move is an extension of an earlier waiver of these test scores granted for the summer and fall semesters of 2020, and the spring 2021 semester. An English proficiency exam score is still required for international applicants; USM International Admissions will continue to accept the International Test of English Proficiency (iTEP), which offers at-home testing. "We do not believe barriers outside one's control should be an impediment to personal and professional growth. Graduate programs at USM will continue to evaluate applicants using a holistic approach that examines a variety of indicators of academic potential," said Dr. Karen Coats, dean of the USM Graduate School.
State Treasurer returns over $31k in unclaimed property to Jackson State University
Treasurer David McRae today presented Jackson State University with a check for more than $31,000 after the State Treasury found unclaimed property in the school's name. This adds to the $9 million found and returned since McRae took office in January, $4.8 million of which was returned during the COVID-19 crisis. "Returning unclaimed property is one way the State Treasury can give Mississippi an economic boost without adding to the financial burden hardworking taxpayers already carry," said McRae. "I am hopeful these returned funds will go a long way as Jackson State University works to serve students in the age of COVID-19." Unclaimed property is turned over to the state when banks, credit unions, and even retail stores are unable to find the rightful owner. After five years, financial institutions turn that money over to the state and the Treasury's Unclaimed Property Division is charged with finding the owner and returning the money.
Colleges work around pandemic restrictions for their training programs
As the spring semester began winding down in late April, educators and school administrators were making changes to safely educate and accommodate students and staff during an uncertain situation. Typically, classes moved online and graduation and other year-end ceremonies were postponed or delayed due to Covid-19 health-related concerns. Training programs that require hands-on learning and on-the-job internships presented some of the biggest challenges for educators and their students at colleges around the state, including Pearl River Community College and Hinds Community College. In the spring, Hinds Community College administrators were making what they called "small, measured steps toward resuming regular business operations." Most classes remained online for the summer semester as did student recruiting and other activities. The college also reported in its employee newsletter that students in the career and technical programs such as agriculture and aviation used virtual learning platforms for live and recorded lectures. Lee Douglas, agribusiness technology instructor, said the ultimate goal was to "maintain quality instruction."
MGCCC changes names of Jefferson Davis campus in Gulfport
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has changed the name of its Gulfport campus. The Jefferson Davis campus has now been renamed to the college's Harrison County campus. The move is part of the college's strategic plan for the next 10 years. The plan is called "Accelerate" and is an evaluation of how the institution is doing and where it needs to go from here. The Jefferson Davis campus opened in 1965. The college now has multiple campus throughout South Mississippi, with the main campus located in Perkinston. In addition to the former Jefferson Davis campus, the colleges other campuses include the Jackson County Campus in Gautier; the George County Center in Lucedale; the West Harrison County Center in Long Beach; the Advanced Manufacturing & Technology Center in Gulfport; the Keesler Center at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi; the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport; and the Bryant Center at Tradition in Harrison County.
Survey: Most Mississippi teachers want later start date or virtual learning
As educators and their supporters begin to protest across the state urging for a delayed start to the upcoming school year, a new survey of nearly 2,400 teachers in Mississippi shows most do not want to return to traditional in-person schooling. The survey released Monday was administered by the Mississippi Association of Educators, the state's teachers union. Of the 2,391 respondents from every county in the state, 78% were teachers, 5% were teaching assistants, and the remaining respondents identified themselves as administration, counselors or other. When asked about their thoughts on reopening schools, 86% of respondents expressed negative sentiments "advocating for schools to re-open at a later date and/or virtual learning." They also cited concerns for their health as well as the health of their students. Though the survey report did not identify teachers by name, many said they were concerned about their district's ability to get proper safety measures and technology in place by the start of school. Some said they wanted more guidance around how to teach and interact with students now that so much has changed.
State medical groups urge schools to reopen September 1 or later
The Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MS-AAP) and the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) have collaborated to help preserve the health of students, teachers, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud the decision made by governmental officials, Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), and the Mississippi School Boards Association (MSBA) at the onset of the pandemic to close Mississippi schools to protect the public health. The procedure to reverse this decision is complicated and should involve input from all interested parties. MS-AAP and MSMA strongly feel that schools should make every effort to open in-person school safely this fall, while also considering the earlier White House guidance that cases in a given region or state should be on a downward trajectory before reopening. As experts in children's health and development, we urge superintendents to consult with local pediatricians and other physicians regarding their district's planning. Given this flexibility and current conditions in our state, Mississippi Physicians advocate for the following minimum standards: 1) Delayed re-entry to at least September 1, 2020, to allow sufficient time to implement mitigation strategies, allow time for reduced COVID-19 transmission, and possible availability of financial assistance (state or federal) for schools to apply appropriate plans.
Some Countries Reopened Schools. What Did They Learn About Kids and Covid?
As school officials try to figure out whether to open classrooms this fall, the science they need to make these tough choices is still evolving. A few things are clear: That most kids don't become as seriously ill from Covid-19 as adults, and have much lower fatality rates. That's according to data from the US and China published by the Centers for Disease Control. But the question of how likely children are to spread it to teachers, staff and other students still hasn't been settled. One large new study from South Korea found children under the age of 10 appear to not transmit the virus very well. But older students are more like adults in their ability to transmit the virus, according to the South Korea study, which makes school opening decisions tougher. The CDC announced school reopening guidelines on Thursday that call for officials to reopen classrooms this fall, based on the idea that children do not become as sick from Covid-19 and are less likely to spread it as adults, and to belay any emotional and psychological harm from the disruption of schools staying closed. The agency issued these new guidelines after President Donald Trump attacked initial rules that called for desks being set 6 feet apart, staggered lunches, and temperature screenings, as being too costly and burdensome.
Tensions flare ahead of Auburn University campus restart
The atmosphere on the Auburn University campus has grown tense in recent weeks, as faculty and administrators strain to work out how the classes will be taught this fall amid the continuing COVID- 19 pandemic. Provost Bill Hardgrave and President Jay Gogue have said publicly that the methods of instruction -- online, in person and/or a mix of both -- will be left largely to faculty members' discretion. However, faculty members have told the Opelika-Auburn News on background that they are concerned with recent communications from Hardgrave that indicate otherwise. July 17 email from Hardgrave raised the ire of many faculty members. Of particular concern was the following passage about settling teaching plans for classes: "While delivery methods will vary depending on course needs, you should begin with the assumption that a course will be delivered using a modality (method) in which it was delivered prior to the pandemic. Any transition to purely online should be considered an exception."
As university presidents urge in-person fall classes, faculty around Georgia advocate for virtual learning
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase around the state, faculty members at Savannah State University and Georgia Southern University have called on the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) to begin the 2020 fall semester virtually as opposed to in the classroom. This week, nearly all of the system's presidents have penned a letter the USG voicing support for in-person learning as the start of the semester nears. Nancy McCarley, an associate professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University's Armstrong Campus in Savannah, said her main concern is what appears to be the one-size-fits-all approach used by the USG. "First, I sincerely hope classes will not resume in person. If they do, I will follow my university's protocols. Beyond that, I'm not sure what else I can do," she said in an email. "I am concerned about my 100-student Introduction to Psychology course. It's scheduled to meet in a room that normally holds 300 and the University's COVID formula for safe capacity for the room is 100." McCarley believes each university is the best judge of what an effective reopening plan looks like for its campus.
Colleges in Arkansas see lag so far in students enrolling in fall term
Just a few weeks before the first day of the fall term, Arkansas colleges and universities have far fewer students registered than at this time last year, and more so than most years, the short-term future of higher education is up in the air. Several schools have reported fall registration declines, noting the uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic has caused. At the University of Arkansas, the state's largest university, fall registration was down less than 1% as of July 15. UA had 23,550 students registered as of that day, compared with 23,725 on July 15, 2019. The difference between 2018 and 2019 was more significant than between 2019 and 2020, data show. At the undergraduate level, 21,007 students were registered for the fall on July 15, compared with 21,209 last year. Rebecca Morrison, a UA spokeswoman, said a "great deal can change within a short time."
UT-Knoxville will not require ACT, SAT for fall 2021 applicants
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will not require standardized test scores, like the ACT or SAT, for students applying for the fall 2021 semester. UT announced this change in response to the coronavirus pandemic, "to make the application process for undergraduate admission easier for prospective students." "We are working to be compassionate, creative, and flexible with our current and future students in extraordinary circumstances," said Chancellor Donde Plowman. "Future Vols should not have to put off their college education or choose another university because they lack access to standardized testing." Students can still submit ACT or SAT scores "if they believe their scores adequately reflect their academic achievements and college preparedness," UT said in a news release. The admission process for fall 2021 opens on Aug. 1.
18 UF Health anesthesiologists contract virus after party
At least 17 anesthesiologist residents and a fellow at one of the premier university hospital systems in Florida contracted COVID-19 earlier this month after attending a private party together, according to hospital insiders and internal documents. The outbreak at University of Florida Health occurred after a party at a private home, according to people familiar with the situation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they said UF Health prohibits employees from speaking to reporters without authorization. After the July 10 party, chairman of anesthesiology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Timothy E. Morey, emailed staff to report that the hospital system's anesthesiology department had 18 positive cases of the coronavirus who were recovering at home. The UF Health outbreak illustrates the difficulties of stemming the spread of the pandemic, when even trained health care professionals can be sickened from a private party in Florida -- one of the nation's hot spots for the virus -- after explicit warnings about the risks of social gatherings.
Eight more laid off, 36 more furloughed in continuing U. of Missouri cuts
The number of employees laid off at the University of Missouri increased by eight, to 181, in the weekly budgetary actions released Friday by MU Human Resource Services. Savings from layoffs total $7.5 million. The university has suffered economic hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on state and university revenues. MU has lost approximately $35 million since the start of the pandemic. On Thursday, the university opted not to fire its 150 union custodians and outsource the work to a custodial services contractor, despite what officials said was potential annual savings of $3 million. Employees placed on furlough -- unpaid time off -- increased by 36, to 3,634. Those savings total $4.4 million. Another 29 employees will face voluntary or mandatory salary reductions, bringing the total number of employees affected to 2,346. The savings are $5.58 million.
U. of Missouri names Brenda Lohman interim dean of College of Human Environmental Sciences
Brenda Lohman, chair and professor of the Department of Human Development and Family Science, will serve as interim dean of the University of Missouri's College of Human Environmental Sciences, the university announced Friday. Lohman, who has served as faculty at MU since August 2019, will assume responsibility for the interim position on Aug. 1, according to a campus email from Provost Latha Ramchand. Dean Sandy Rikoon is stepping down from the role and departing MU on July 31 after 33 years at the university and over three years as permanent dean of the college. Lohman will earn $240,000 in the interim role. Rikoon made $235,775 as permanent dean. Prior to her time at MU, Lohman served as professor and associate dean for research and graduate education at Iowa State University's College of Human Sciences. She is serving her second term on the Board of Directors for Great Plains IDEA.
ICE clarifies new international students can't take all-online courses
U.S. immigration officials have issued new guidance saying new international students -- unlike current international students -- cannot come to the U.S. to take an entirely online course of study. However, while one expert noted a lack of clarity on this point, the guidance issued Friday by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program seems to affirm that new international students may enroll in hybrid programs consisting of a mix of in-person and online courses, as long as their coursework is not "100 percent online." It also says that students will not be at risk of deportation if their institutions switch from an in-person or hybrid mode to an online-only mode in the middle of the term due to the pandemic. Brad Farnsworth, the vice president for global engagement at the American Council on Education, said while the association is "disappointed that there's inconsistency between the treatment for existing students who are in the United States who will be allowed to enroll in fully online institutions and the treatment of new students," it's nonetheless pleased to see the flexibility for hybrid learning options. But Farnsworth added the new FAQ doesn't resolve everything. "We still have questions, and we're keeping our options open as to how to respond."
Duke Updates Reopening Plans
With the growing numbers of new COVID-19 cases in both North Carolina and the country, Duke University is adjusting plans for the residential component of its fall semester. In a message sent to Duke students, faculty and staff Sunday, President Vincent E. Price said the university will limit Duke-provided housing in the fall to first-year students, sophomores and students who require special accommodations because of personal, academic or other reasons. Juniors and seniors will receive priority for the spring semester, Price added, with first-year students and sophomores to join them if conditions improve. The decision to revise the university's Fall 2020 plans came amid an increase of COVID-19 in North Carolina and in Durham in particular, and following discussions with leading infectious disease experts and other Duke experts who have been advising Price and the university leadership on public health measures related to the pandemic, including a comprehensive COVID-19 testing program that will cover all undergraduate and graduate students.
'I see a disaster in the making.' Professors slam reopening plans at Illinois colleges amid COVID-19 crisis, prompting some schools to reverse course
With the fall term rapidly approaching, faculty members at Illinois colleges are escalating their complaints and have emerged as a leading force against the resumption of in-person instruction. Their concerns, aired in petitions and debates in academic senates, are taking on renewed urgency after reports that students returning to some college towns are spreading the coronavirus at parties and other gatherings. Despite the risks, some students are eager to restart college experiences that were upended this spring and want to get their money's worth, since most schools aren't discounting tuition. The state's largest university is also caught up in the debate. In May, an association of professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign issued a statement opposing plans to offer in-person instruction this fall, warning that welcoming students back could create a "super-spreader" event. But the school forged ahead. Students begin moving into dorms next month, and more than a dozen saliva-based testing centers are supposed to be up and running by then. The school is also asking students to publicly pledge -- and share on social media -- that they are committed to acting responsibly on campus, including regularly undergoing testing.
For HBCUs, the coronavirus pandemic hits especially close to home
Leaders of historically Black colleges and universities are grappling with a challenge others in higher education don't fully share: how to reopen their campuses to a population that has proven especially vulnerable to Covid-19. Black people are dying at 2.5 times the rate of white people, according to the Covid Racial Data Tracker. And nearly a third of deaths among nonwhite Americans were in people younger than 65, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared with 13 percent among white people under that age. "We have to acknowledge and recognize that African Americans with comorbidities have fared far worse in this pandemic than any other group," said Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick in an interview. "I think, for an HBCU in particular, there's a lot of differences in terms of opening that are probably a little more accentuated because of our circumstances." A growing number of private HBCUs, which are predominantly located in the South, are opting for online-only instruction, university presidents and officials from the United Negro College Fund told POLITICO.
Financial disparities among HBCUs, and between the sector and majority-white institutions
The CEO of Netflix and his wife donated $120 million to Spelman College, Morehouse College and the United Negro College Fund in June. The donation rekindled old discussions among historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, about who gets large gifts, who doesn't and why. It also coincided with a pandemic-fueled recession that is rocking all of higher education, but particularly HBCUs, which are generally less resourced and have smaller endowments. "For someone who has a lot of money and wants to make a donation, a lot of times in the United States, we tend to invest more in what we see as the winners," said Ivory Toldson, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and president of the Quality Education for Minorities Network, a nonprofit focused on improving education for underrepresented students. The issue turns into one of meritocracy versus charity, Toldson said. Across higher education, colleges that hold more prestige tend to get the most donations, said Gregory Price, professor of economics at the University of New Orleans.
We need more servant-leaders like Dr. Bill Scaggs
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: Despite our torrid culture today, servant leaders still work to make our lives better. It's a respite amidst the yammering bloggers, tweeters, and talking heads when local media like this take the opportunity to tell us about their many acts of kindness, charity, and courage. ... Such a leader was Dr. William F. "Bill" Scaggs who passed away two weeks ago at age 84. Most Mississippi community college leaders knew Dr. Scaggs, because he taught, mentored, and worked with them. Over 35 years he built Meridian Community College from a 13th grade at Meridian High School into a highly successful college. He passed on his experiences and servant-leadership ways by teaching for years in the Community College Leadership doctoral program at Mississippi State University, providing a quiet voice of wisdom many presidents relied upon, and personally counseling and nurturing upcoming college leaders. ... We need more like him.
Reeves depends on opinion of old rival Hood to ensure education funding
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: During last year's gubernatorial election, Republican candidate Tate Reeves could not find much positive to say about his Democratic opponent Jim Hood's four terms as state attorney general. But now Gov. Reeves is relying heavily on a 2009 official opinion from Hood's AG office to ensure the public schools are funded during this unprecedented time in state history when the kindergarten through 12th grade education system has effectively no legislative appropriation. The fact that this non-funding is occurring while local districts are struggling with decisions over if and when to start the school year in the midst of COVID-19 only exacerbates the uniqueness of the problem. The Legislature in late June did provide a $2.5 billion budget for education. But Reeves partially vetoed about $2.2 billion of the appropriation because the budget bill did not provide funds for the School Recognition Program, which provides essentially Christmas bonuses for teachers and certified staff of top performing and improving school districts.

CWD management changes opposed by conservationists, biologists
A proposal to reduce the size of chronic wasting disease management zones and change the current management zones to surveillance zones was tabled by the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, but not before drawing the attention of conservationists nationwide and comments indicating widespread disapproval of the plan. In addition to resistance from national and regional organizations, the change didn't gain support within the state, either. "The general consensus within the scientific community is that it's premature to shrink the management zones at this point and potentially dangerous," said Ashlee Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation. The Mississippi State University Deer Lab also provided insight to problems related to reducing the management zones and co-directors Steve Demarais and Bronson Strickland sent a letter to the commission outlining them. In the letter, it was pointed out that deer in Mississippi are 10 times more likely to visit an area with a feeder than a similar area without a feeder, based on game camera surveys. When deer eat at feeders their mouths and the saliva left behind are more concentrated than in nature, which can increase infection rates.
Former Mississippi State standouts big factor in MLB's opening weekend
After taking months off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball saw its highly-anticipated opening weekend come and go last week. Several Mississippi State baseball alumni played prominent roles for various teams throughout the sport over the weekend. Milwaukee Brewers ace Brandon Woodruff earned an opening day start and held the Chicago Cubs to two runs over five innings of work while allowing four hits. Woodruff also struck out five batters. The Brewers couldn't provide Woodruff with any run support, though, falling 3-0 to Chicago on Friday. Mitch Moreland only had one hit this weekend for the Boston Red Sox, but it was a big one. The powerful first baseman cranked a solo home run against the Baltimore Orioles Saturday, albeit in a 7-2 losing effort. Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Adam Frazier went 2-for-11 and drew a walk in a three-game set with the Cardinals. On Saturday, Jonathan Holder pitched 1 and 1/3 innings of relief for the New York Yankees while striking out a batter.
Mississippi junior colleges decide to step out on their own and play football this fall
If the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges has its way, there will be junior college football played in the Magnolia State this fall. The MACC voted on Friday to delay the start of the football season until Oct. 1 with teams playing a six-game schedule that will only consist of division games. The season will conclude with a playoff. "The MACC will continue to evaluate COVID-19 and its impact on our student-athletes," the MACC said in a statement. The National Junior College Athletic Association voted earlier this month to move most of its fall sports, including football, to the spring. Region 23, which represents Mississippi and Louisiana, abstained from that vote to give Mississippi officials more time to make their own decision on whether to play games this fall. The Mississippi junior college league is widely considered the best in the nation, often producing some of the nation's top junior college prospects. It may have been difficult for some Mississippi programs to compete in the spring considering many of their top players sign with four-year programs in December and enroll in classes at their new schools in January.
Examining possible format changes SEC could make to football schedule
This is normally the time of summer when we start really focusing in on the biggest on-field questions facing SEC football teams. But it's hard to think much about those while a more important question remains unanswered: What will the 2020 college football season even look like in the face of the global pandemic still gripping the country? The SEC, of course, would love it to look as originally intended: 12 games, starting on Sept. 5. That almost certainly remains the conference's preferred choice. But that format already needs some adjustments. The conference identified late July -- this week -- as a "important check-in to see what our public health reality is." The fourteen presidents and chancellors are reportedly scheduled to meet virtually on Thursday. It's possible that a decision for how to proceed could be made then; fall camp is scheduled to begin exactly one week later on Aug. 6. While we wait, let's examine some alternate schedule formats the SEC could potentially implement if it deems the regular 12-game season cannot be played as originally planned because of the pandemic.
How turnaround times and costs of coronavirus testing could halt college football
Greg Burke has been monitoring the speed of his athletic department's coronavirus tests. The Northwestern State athletic director knows that, as of now, a sample can make the one-mile trip from campus to the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center and produce a result in one-to-two days max. He's been keeping an eye on the costs, too. The department hasn't paid for any tests. For now, the hospital has willingly absorbed whatever isn't covered by an athlete's insurance. Burke knows both scenarios aren't sustainable. If coronavirus cases continue to surge, return times will slow. Once fall sports begin, Northwestern State athletes must test weekly to safely compete, and it's unlikely insurance companies and hospitals will be as generous with the additional costs. Louisiana's athletic directors join Burke in answering perhaps the two most important logistical questions for playing fall sports in the face of the coronavirus pandemic: Can I get test results back in time to meet weekly testing requirements? and Can I afford them? These are the driving factors within safety guidelines the NCAA released last week -- especially in Louisiana, where there are recent shortages in coronavirus test supplies and 11 Division I athletic programs that are already experiencing substantial revenue losses because of COVID-19.
If college football is played, will bowls be salvaged, too?
College football leaders are in the process of piecing together plans for a regular season during the COVID-19 pandemic. If it is possible to play, everyone anticipates there will be disruptions, added expenses and loads of stress just to get through it. So how motivated will schools be to tack on a postseason game after all that? Especially one that doesn't determine a national title? "You've got to think they'll be such a heightened sensitivity to adding another opportunity that doesn't contribute to something else," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said. "I imagine the top bowls will want to try and still do it. But you've got to wonder if the schools will be willing to play. You made it through the regular season and now you're going to add another event that adds complexity and cost." There are more bowl games scheduled for the coming season than ever before in major college football: 42, not including the College Football Playoff championship. Less than five months away from bowl season, most of them don't even have a date locked in yet. If the regular season can be saved, can the postseason be salvaged, too?
MLB faces its first coronavirus crisis with Marlins outbreak less than a week into season
Less than a week in, the 2020 Major League Baseball season has already reached its first crisis point, with the Miami Marlins stuck in Philadelphia and forced to postpone their home opener in Miami on Monday night after as many as a dozen players and coaches tested positive for the coronavirus, according to reports. The outbreak potentially has far-reaching consequences beyond the Marlins. The league has made no formal indication of what it would take to halt the 2020 season, with the ultimate decision resting with Commissioner Rob Manfred. An MLB spokesperson did not immediately return a message seeking comment Monday. "This is off-the-charts bad," said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Oxford College of Emory University. "MLB should probably shut the Marlins down for two weeks, shut the Phillies down for five days and ... hope there isn't a broader problem." Unlike most other major sports leagues, MLB decided against the "bubble" model of bringing teams together, under strict quarantine rules, to one or two hub cities to stage its season --- an option the players' union rejected this spring.
Why Central Michigan 'Chippewas' nickname is OK with local tribe, NCAA
Central Michigan president Bob Davies has seen the ugly. As the vice president for university relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from 2006-09, he encountered a problem: the school's use of the nickname "Indians" coupled with a non-existent relationship with indigenous people. "That particular university saw it as a transaction," he said Monday. "It was an athletic mascot, not a partnership. It was not done out of full respect." He views the offensive nickname debate in a different light since becoming CMU's president in September 2018. The Chippewas' scenario, much different than IUP's, is based on respect for Native Americans and the local Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. That's why the university has been able to keep the "Chippewas" nickname for nearly 80 years. "The tribe is the one that determines how we use it," Davies said. "At any point in time, that can change. That's the tribe's decision, not necessarily our decision."

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