Thursday, July 30, 2020   
MSU Extension urges Mississippians to not plant 'mystery' seeds
Mississippians are urged not to open or plant packets of unknown seeds that are appearing unsolicited in mailboxes, seemingly shipped from China. Packets of seeds began appearing in the mail nationwide in late July. Packages are sometimes marked as jewelry or other items, never seeds or any agricultural product. The people receiving the seeds did not order them. Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson urged state residents who receive the seeds to report them immediately. "We are working closely with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on this issue," Gipson said in a statement. "If you have received these seeds, please call the Bureau of Plant Industry, and we will send an inspector to your location to pick up the seeds from you. Please don't plant the seeds." Seeds can also be dropped off at county offices of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Gary Bachman, horticulturist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said all plant material entering the United States legitimately is required to go through APHIS inspections because of the danger of introducing unknown or new species of plants.
New website helps Mississippians pursue dream careers
Many middle and high school students dream of pursuing careers that require credentials of value beyond high school, but determining the pathway to a dream career can be a daunting task, especially to first-generation college students. Determining what degree is needed to enter the chosen career field, finding out which community colleges and universities offer the degree, understanding how to apply and, once accepted, how to pay for college can be overwhelming for students. A new, streamlined website aims to provide this information 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. 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.
Atmos, PSC to unveil new pipeline expansion project
Atmos Energy and the Mississippi Public Service Commission are set to unveil a new gas pipeline as part of an ongoing natural gas expansion project. A short ceremony celebrating the expansion will be held at 11 a.m. at the Mississippi Horse Park. Among those scheduled to make remarks are Mississippi State University President Dr. Mark Keenum, Public Service Commission Chairman Dane Maxwell, Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley and representatives of Atmos Energy.
Starkville Fire Department asking for prayers for firefighter battling COVID-19
The Starkville Fire Department announced Tuesday one of its firefighters was admitted to the hospital for medical complications from the coronavirus. The unnamed firefighter is the third person to test positive at the fire station since the beginning of the pandemic. Employees disinfect the station and its trucks twice daily. The fire chief encourages everyone to wear masks and gloves. Training is also virtual. However, social distancing is not always easy to do when responding to emergency calls, Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough said. He said his crew is doing their best to stay safe, but he and his team will not let the pandemic stop them from doing their jobs. "Our motto is service before self," Yarbrough said. "So we will put others before we put ourselves."
Thanks to COVID-19 cash, faster internet coming for parts of rural Mississippi
Fast internet is finally set to arrive in several of the most rural parts of Mississippi. The Public Service Commission this week awarded $66 million in grants for areas that have few or no high-speed internet options. The bulk of the federal grant money went to rural electric cooperatives, which now will also serve as the primary internet providers in their regions. Rural Mississippians can thank the coronavirus pandemic for the sudden infusion of federal CARES Act funds that should -- by the end of this year -- create thousands more high-speed internet connections. Mississippi has long suffered from among the most limited coverage and slowest internet speeds of any state in the country. State lawmakers last month passed Senate Bill 3046, which authorized $75 million to be spent on the internet grants. The goal: rapidly improve connectivity to help people study from home, work from home, and use telemedicine services.
Multiple Northeast Mississippi electric cooperatives receive grants to service broadband
State officials on Tuesday announced that $65 million in grant money for broadband internet services will be injected into the state, with the bulk of those funds going to north Mississippi. Former state Sen. Sally Doty, the newly appointed executive director of the Public Utilities Staff, announced that 13 electric cooperatives in north Mississippi were awarded money to provide underserved areas and customers with high speed internet. "This is such a tremendous effort by these co-ops because the CARES Act requires that the money be expended and projects have immediate and substantial impact by the end of this year -- the end of 2020 –--which is really not that far away," Doty said. Brandon Presley, the public service commissioner for the northern district, told the Daily Journal that the grant program will propel rural American forward because it specifically targets customers that would often be the last helped in normal circumstances. "This is a major step forward that we couldn't have dreamed of six months ago, and this grant program is one of the most, I think, progressive programs in the nation," Presley said.
Amazon buys 69 acres in Madison County
Amazon on Monday purchased approximately 69 acres at the Madison County Mega Site signaling the global giant is prepping to locate some sort of facility here. Madison County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Joseph Deason said on Monday, "No comment." Owen Torres, a spokesperson for Amazon, released a statement to the Journal that said: "Amazon is a dynamic business and we are constantly exploring new locations and weighing a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to best serve customers, however, we have a policy of not commenting on our future roadmap. This land purchase in Madison County, MS provides us with the flexibility to quickly respond to our future network needs. Stay tuned for more information." On Wednesday, construction crews and heavy equipment operators were in full force at the Mega Site doing dirt work and clearing trees. The Madison County Mega Site is located at Highway 22 and Nissan Parkway.
Purple Parrot Cafe closing after 32 years: Robert St. John plans new concept in its place
Robert St. John opened his first restaurant Dec. 27, 1987, in an old dress shop at 3810 Hardy St. when he was 26 years old. "I wanted to do fine dining," St. John said. "I wanted to own my own restaurant so I could wear shorts and a T-shirt every day and be my own boss." Thirty-two years and 17 restaurants later, St. John's Purple Parrot Cafe, still in that original location, represented the legacy of fine dining in the Hattiesburg community. It received a Four Diamond rating from AAA over the past decade. But St. John announced July 22 that the Purple Parrot would close its doors. Since then, the staff has been giving the restaurant a final sendoff, taking reservations for dinner service through Friday for the first time since Mississippi's shutdown order began in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to close was more to do with a change of pace than the pandemic, St. John said. He had mulled over a new business concept for two years, and after the pandemic hit, decided he would pursue that concept at the Purple Parrot Cafe's location.
Philadelphia native missing Fair while working to battle coronavirus
Philadelphia native Ab DeWeese Jr., would normally be here for the Neshoba County Fair this week, but the very thing that cancelled Mississippi's Giant Houseparty for only the second time since World War II has thrust him into developing equipment that disinfects masks needed to combat the COVD-19 pandemic. DeWeese is going to miss the Fair, but he's comfortable with the Fair Board's decision to cancel. "I love the Fair and will miss it this year," he said. "My kids miss it too. I'm proud of NCF leadership for making the tough call to cancel the Fair. It's the right decision. The Fair is about gathering with loved ones, especially grandparents and older aunts and uncles. It's about cramming 30 people into a small cabin. It's about being close and being together."Unfortunately, those wonderful aspects of the Fair conflict with the reality we find ourselves living through right now, he said. "Cover your face with a mask; wash your hands; stay apart and don't congregate. If we all do these things we can go to the Fair next year. If we can't temporarily do these things, we will miss more than one Fair."
Mississippi leads country in recent positivity rate of COVID-19 tests
On multiple occasions this month, state and national leadership have either downplayed or neglected the positivity rate of COVID-19 testing. Yet in Mississippi, that rate continues to grow, as the increase of new cases outpaces the increase of new tests. Known as the "test positivity rate," that measure over a seven-day average is now higher in Mississippi than in any other state. During a press conference last week, Gov. Tate Reeves questioned the significance of the test positivity rate, saying, "I can go into virtually any community right now, and significantly reduce our test positivity rate by going and testing randomly throughout that community." Since July 1, when Mississippi's positivity rate was 13 percent over a seven-day average, that number has doubled, peaking at 27 percent on Sunday. Because daily new test totals vary greatly -- just this week ranging from 3,000 one day to 10,000 another day in Mississippi -- public health experts look toward seven-day averages for easier-to-read trends.
Mississippi schools to submit annual plans amid uncertainty
Mississippi school districts have just days to submit plans for this academic year to the state, but as the deadline nears and new cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, those plans keep changing. School districts are due to submit their plans to the Mississippi Department of Education by Friday, but there's still uncertainty about what schooling during the pandemic will look like, just weeks from the start of the academic year. Districts have been reframing plans almost weekly as they receive updates from the state department of health. "It would be a lot easier if we had less coronavirus in the community," Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi's health officer, said during a Tuesday media briefing. Gov. Tate Reeves has resisted implementing any new executive orders about how schools should be run in the state, saying he would prefer to give Mississippi's almost 140 school boards local control. If it can be done safely, he said, he would like students to return to the classroom in some form, especially for younger children who require more hands-on learning.
'An issue of life or death': Gov. Tate Reeves weighs statewide mandate on school reopening
Gov. Tate Reeves, the only official who can issue a statewide mandate that postpones school or forces virtual learning, finds himself in a tough political position as schools across the state are just days from resuming in-person instruction. As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing in Mississippi, many parents and teachers are rallying across the state and asking Reeves to postpone the start of school. They say already cash-strapped school districts can't handle the demands of virus preparation and warn that students, teachers and staff will suffer. Meanwhile, many parents are worried about how they'll keep their jobs or handle childcare if their kids don't start school on time. Parents and teachers alike express deep concern over students' wellbeing if they miss school and in-person interaction in a rural state where many districts lack the ability to provide adequate distance learning. For now, Reeves is holding off on any statewide edicts about public school operations as most schools are set to return to the classroom the first full week of August.
Some state senators calling for flag referendum
Some lawmakers in the Magnolia State are calling for a referendum to have a vote on the changing of the state flag. The state flag is still a talker in Mississippi. The commission is now in place to come up with a new flag design, but there is some possibility of a referendum. Some lawmakers say they work for their constituents, and Mississippians should have the right to vote on what flag flies above the state. The referendum is a grassroots effort in which volunteers and signatures are needed to move the process along. State Senator Chris McDaniel represents parts of Jones and Forrest counties and is very passionate about the topic. He says the decision to change the flag should be up to the residents of Mississippi. State Senator Joey Fillingane also represents the Pine Belt. According to him, Mississippians are enraged the choice to change the flag wasn't up to them. "People are angry," said Fillingane. "It's not just that they are concerned or interested. They are mad. They are mad that this decision was taken from them in their opinion... If you are so arrogant as to try and take the people's voice away from them on this issue, the people will have the final say. They'll have the final say at the ballot box in 2023 for sure and they're also very likely going to have a say with this ballot initiative on the ballot in either 2022 or 2023."
USDA lawsuit filed by chicken processing plant workers in six states including Mississippi
Unions representing workers at 10 chicken processing plants in six states are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to challenge a policy that allows companies to increase production speeds that the unions say puts workers at risk. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and local unions representing plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Missouri joined with nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen to file the lawsuit in federal court in Washington. The lawsuit alleges that the waivers first allowed in 2018 violate the Administrative Procedure Act, endanger worker health and put them at risk during the coronavirus pandemic by making adequate distancing nearly impossible.
President Trump raises idea of delaying election
President Trump on Thursday suggested delaying the 2020 elections, something he does not have the power to do unilaterally, as he levied fresh attacks against mail-in voting. Trump, who is badly trailing presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in national polls, framed the suggestion as a question and argued that with more mail-in ballots there would be more fraud. There is no evidence to support the idea that either absentee or mail-in ballots contribute to voter fraud. The tweet marked the first time Trump has raised the idea of delaying the November elections, an idea he previously rejected amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. But the president has for weeks railed against the expansion of mail-in voting, which more and more states are embracing as an alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic.
U.S. suffered worst quarterly contraction on record as virus ravages economy
The U.S. economy crashed in historic fashion this year -- shrinking at a nearly 33 percent annualized pace in the second quarter -- as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged businesses and sent joblessness soaring. The question now for President Donald Trump, trailing in the polls and facing a daunting reelection effort, is just how much conditions can snap back in the months leading up to Election Day. At least for the moment, the spike in Covid-19 cases, the potential for fresh trouble this fall and a bitter fight over how to pump more federal money into the ailing economy suggest the sharp bounce-back Trump is counting on may not show up in a way he envisions. And the potential for another leg of the downturn hangs over a president who once counted the economy as by far his strongest selling point to voters. "A lot of these higher infection rates are coming in swing states," said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. For Trump, she said, "it really depends on the strength of the labor market. And if we don't have more fiscal support very quickly it's going to be a really big hit."
Lawmakers blast Trump plans to withdraw troops from Germany
The U.S. will begin pulling 12,000 troops, thousands more than previously disclosed, out of Germany within the next few weeks as part of a troop reduction effort that has been widely criticized by lawmakers, including members of President Donald Trump's own party. The move, announced Wednesday by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, comes as the Pentagon looks to deter Russian aggression on Europe's eastern border and make good on Trump's threats to punish Germany for a perceived lack of military spending. In Congress, opposition to the planned reduction of troops has been fierce on both sides of the aisle, and Wednesday's announcement provoked a volley of harsh statements from lawmakers in both chambers. "The plan outlined by the Administration today to remove thousands of U.S. troops from Germany is a grave error. It is a slap in the face at a friend and ally when we should instead be drawing closer in our mutual commitment to deter Russian and Chinese aggression," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said in a statement Wednesday. "It is a gift to Russia coming at a time when we just have learned of its support for the Taliban and reports of bounties on killing American troops. The move may temporarily play well in domestic politics, but its consequences will be lasting and harmful to American interests," he said.
Civil rights icon John Lewis will be buried Thursday in Atlanta with three former presidents in attendance
Three former U.S. presidents will be attending a private funeral for civil rights hero John Lewis today. Former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will attend, sources confirmed to USA TODAY. So will Barack Obama, who is expected to deliver a eulogy, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. The funeral is set for 11 a.m. at Ebenezer Baptist Church's Horizon Sanctuary. The funeral services will mark the end of a series of events that have honored Lewis in Atlanta, Washington. D.C., and Alabama in the last week. Lewis passed away July 17 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. The late congressman lay in state at the Georgia State Capitol rotunda on Wednesday with special ceremonies hosted by lawmakers and his fraternity Phi Beta Sigma. Attendees at Thursday's funeral will be required to wear masks.
Dr. Fauci: Wear goggles or eye shields to prevent spread of COVID-19; flu vaccine a must
Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested Wednesday that Americans should consider wearing goggles or a face shield in order to prevent spreading or catching COVID-19. "If you have goggles or an eye shield, you should use it," the nation's top infectious disease expert told ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton during an Instagram Live conversation on ABC News. When asked if we're going to get to a point where eye protection is recommended, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases responded, "It might, if you really want perfect protection of the mucosal surfaces." He noted that goggles and eye or face shields are "not universally recommended" at this time, "but if you really want to be complete, you should probably use it if you can." As the summer transitions into the fall, Fauci also discussed the oncoming flu season. Fauci said he hopes wearing masks will help limit the spread of influenza as well. "Go out there and get your flu shot when the flu vaccine becomes available," he urged.
UMMC cares for pregnant women with COVID-19, before and after birth
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 63 COVID-positive moms have given birth at Wiser.
Health Care Heroes: University Dentists
University Dentists is the faculty practice at UMMC's School of Dentistry. Routine cleanings and elective procedures are back, after the interruption caused by the pandemic, but emergency dental service never stopped at UMMC. This might be one of the safest places in Mississippi. At a well-fortified spot in the center of the UMMC Campus, dentists are getting people to open up. Dr. Alexa Lampkin practices General Dentistry. She explains, "We're definitely wearing our N-95 masks. Sometimes we can wear a level 3 mask, if it is just a regular exam checkup or consultation, a full faces shield, a gown, as well was bonnets for our hair and shoe coverings if we are doing restorative dentistry which creates aerosols" So, if you've been putting off that trip to the dentist, it's a good idea to put a little medical care where your mouth is. Patient Terrance Shirley says, They have done a wonderful job. I have total confidence in them. Even during this pandemic."
USM's $12.1 million library renovation: What's in store for students
When the University of Southern Mississippi's libraries open Monday, students and faculty will see extensive changes at the Joseph Cook Anderson Library. Most of the $12.1 million in renovations are finished, though the final completion date is January. So far, the university has completed most of the lobby area, replaced the roof and made mechanical upgrades. Additionally, on the first floor, students will see upgrades to Library Services, iTech Help Desk, Access Services, the Collaboration Zone, and the front half of the learning commons, an open area with computers and study areas. On the second floor, students will be able to access advancement services. The nearly two-year project was funded by state bond funds, and $1.7 million in donations funded the Bower Academic Center inside the facility. "This is a landmark project for Southern Miss," Chris Crenshaw, USM senior associate vice president for facilities planning and management, said in a release. "Its completion will allow us to maximize our ability to provide academic resources that assist students in their journey to graduation."
DSU's Wallace Johnson elected director of Mississippi Association of Colleges and Employers
Delta State University alumna and staffer Nakikke Wallace Johnson has been elected the four-year college director of the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Employers (MACE). Wallace Johnson, director of career services at Delta State, will represent all four-year college and university members on the MACE board. A triple DSU alumna -- B.S. in social sciences in 2005, B.S. in interdisciplinary studies in 2007, and M.Ed. in secondary education and teaching in 2007 -- she also will serve on the MACE nominating committee, audit committee, and programming committee. "I find it a privilege and honor to serve as MACE's four-year college director," said Wallace Johnson. "In this new virtual job market, it is essential that we provide DSU students and alumni responsive, cutting-edge career education and development." The mission of MACE "is to build a greater understanding and cooperation between colleges/universities and employers in their combined placement efforts, to foster professional development, and to promote high standards of ethical practices," according to its Facebook page.
Northeast Mississippi Community College begins dorm move-in, prepares for classes starting Monday
Students began moving into Northeast Mississippi Community College's five residence halls on Wednesday ahead of the college's Aug. 3 reopening, nearly five months since students last met for in-person classes. Instead of the traditional single day for move-in where all students move into residence halls at the same time, college officials created a three-day plan to limit the number of people moving in at once. Students living on the first floor of each residence hall moved in on Wednesday, while students on the second and third floors will move in on Thursday and Friday respectively. Once students return and begin classes on Monday, they will receive a three-question survey each morning at 6 a.m. asking three questions: have you been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19, experienced COVID-19 symptoms or been diagnosed with COVID-19. The screening survey will be optional for general population students, but mandatory for student athletes and anyone living in the college's residence halls, according to Ray Scott, Vice President of Student Services.
Pearl River Community College announces plans to return during COVID-19 pandemic
Pearl River Community College has announced its plans to welcome students back in a safe way for the fall semester to its Hattiesburg, Poplarville and Waveland locations. The first day of classes will be Aug. 17. PRCC has put in place many safety precautions and protocols in agreement with local and state regulations. "We look forward to welcoming our faculty and students back to our campuses this fall," PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood, said. "The COVID-19 pandemic has created a variety of challenges, however our plan provides students a variety of options for instructional delivery while maintaining the safest environment possible." Employees and students on campus will be given a PRCC face mask as individuals will be required to wear masks in all buildings and confined spaces if anyone is there. Students and employees are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings and be considerate of others while moving around the campuses.
U. of Alabama joint spring and summer in-person graduations will go on
The University of Alabama will hold joint spring and summer commencement exercises over three days beginning this Friday at Coleman Coliseum. In a news release, UA said extensive precautions will be taken to meet physical distancing guidelines and health and safety standards. Nine different ceremonies will take place throughout the weekend, where nearly 4,000 graduates are expected to receive degrees. The full commencement schedule is listed below. The ceremonies are ticketed events, and each graduate may invite up to four guests. Masks are required for everyone attending the event, and graduates will be required to wear masks throughout the ceremony, including when crossing the stage. There will be sanitizing stations throughout the coliseum, and the venue will be cleaned between all ceremonies. Family groups will be able to sit together.
U. of Kentucky moves chunk of classes online, leading to criticism, apology
After selecting classes weeks in advance and sinking money into dorms and apartment leases, many University of Kentucky students learned recently that a large portion of their classes will be taught online. Students, who were aware of the university's big-picture reopening plans, weren't told how their specific classes would be conducted until about two weeks ago when they checked their online class registration portals. Students found that many courses were listed as online-only and hybrid, meaning a mixture of digital work and time in class. Nearly two-thirds of all University of Kentucky classes this fall will have at least some in-person instruction, President Eli Capilouto said in a video statement Friday that followed criticism. Most students will get both online and in-person instruction, with first-year students guaranteed to have some in-person instruction. Capilouto apologized in the video for any breakdown in communication over how classes would be delivered.
Ex-U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville professor faces fraud counts over NASA, USAF grants
A federal grand jury has indicted a former University of Arkansas, Fayetteville professor on 42 counts of wire fraud after prosecutors said he concealed ties to China while applying for NASA and U.S. Air Force research grants. Simon Ang "knowingly made materially fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions" on a 2016 NASA grant application, states an indictment announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice. The fraud led to wire transfers to UA accounts, court documents state. Ang, 63, also faces two counts of making a false statement in applying for a passport. He is said in the indictment to also be known by the name Hong Sizhong, but failed to disclose any aliases in a 2019 passport application. Wide-ranging efforts by the FBI have examined ties between China and U.S. researchers, with arrests this year of professors at Harvard and the University of Tennessee accused of fraud or making fraudulent statements while hiding ties to China. The indictment alleges that Ang failed to disclose participation in Chinese "talents plans," described as "a Chinese government national strategy" that involves the recruitment of experts from around the world.
How #BlackLivesMatter is reshaping the U. of Florida
Racial inequality has long been a source of contention at the University of Florida. Amid national Black Lives Matter protests, faculty within the university say they're trying to make a difference. Over the past two months, many departments held town halls to better understand the experiences and grievances of the UF community. Some administrators said they've been invested in increasing diversity and combating racism for years, but the recent protests following the death of George Floyd have prompted them to reevaluate their approach. Others said the focus on COVID-19 has prevented them from addressing the issue at all. Enrollment of Hispanic and Asian students at UF has risen since 2015, according to UF's enrollment data. During the same time, the Black student population decreased. Many departments are trying to figure out why. University-wide racial diversity among faculty is low, too. In Fall 2019, 67 percent of the university's faculty was white.
Federal visa policy won't apply to international students under latest plan
Federal policy that would prohibit international students with F-1 visas from remaining in the U.S. while attending online-only university classes this fall will not apply to the University of Missouri, the university has said. The directive by the Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program will not apply to MU international students because the university is planning for in-person and "blended" hybrid courses. The question of how those students will be impacted by a potential pivot to entirely online classes "has come up," MU spokesman Christian Basi said. Only a very few classes would move completely online. If such a move impacted an international student, "we would work with them to see what changes we could make so they are in compliance," Basi said in an email. "Right now, we're focused on making sure our international students have the proper paperwork and resources they need to start classes in August," he said. In an email message to the campus community, Interim MU Chancellor Mun Choi and Provost Latha Ramchand criticized the directive for its lack of input from higher education leaders, affirmed campus support for international students and provided resources for those students during the pandemic.
As college professors worry about campus reopenings, Congress debates need for workplace protections
With hundreds of thousands of students returning in a couple of weeks to campuses in the University of North Carolina system, amid record high coronavirus hospitalizations, about 150 North Carolina State University faculty and staff members were so concerned they marched to present demands to campus administrators, accompanied by a van with a sign that said, "NCSU Mobile Morgue." And Gary Shipman, a lawyer and former University of North Carolina at Wilmington trustee, said concern is so high that he's been approached by professors and workers at most of the system's campuses about going to court to keep in-person classes from resuming, unless more is done to keep them safe. North Carolina is not alone. On several campuses around the country, professors and other workers on campuses, including custodians who have to clean potentially coronavirus-contaminated areas, have been submitting petitions over whether enough is being done to keep them safe, and questioning the wisdom of reopening campuses at all. Against this backdrop of worry, Democrats and Republicans in Congress remained divided over proposals that reflect the tension over pushing colleges, as well as the rest of the nation's economy, to reopen, while also doing it safely. It's one of a number of major divisions so saddling negotiations over passing another coronavirus relief package.
Will COVID depress the census count for college towns?
The evacuations of college campuses this spring could not have come at a worse time. The U.S. Census Bureau had been coordinating with college administrators and local government officials across the country to get an accurate count of students in their communities. Colleges had planned outreach efforts as the official decennial count got underway on March 12. All of that planning and preparation came to a complete halt as colleges started sending students home or telling them not to return to their campuses after spring break. The massive and hurried effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus has had some unintended consequences. Many college towns are already reporting lower census response rates this year than during the last decennial Census in 2010. Undercounting college students and other residents has serious implications. Millions of dollars in federal funding for college towns and cities over the coming decade and apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives -- all of which are calculated based on population rates -- are at stake.
The New College Drop-Off
The poignant annual tradition of college drop-off -- parents driving the new, nervous college student to school, bringing along brothers and sisters to see their sibling's new home, setting up the tiny dorm room together, sharing one last meal with the entire family, then waving goodbye as the almost-adult runs off with a big pack of possible new best friends -- has become the latest family milestone rendered almost unrecognizable by the coronavirus pandemic. The drop-off has always been a momentous trip, fraught with strong emotions felt by parents and children alike. Now pile on the additional stress of Covid-19. Families need to navigate how to best get to campus while minimizing their exposure to the virus, all while trying to adhere to changing and often confusing school and state health, safety and travel rules. Parents are discovering that, regardless of what guidelines are posted, policies are changing with new data and little notice almost daily.
Covid-19 Prompted Purdue University to Shut Its M.B.A. Program. More Closures Are Expected.
Several U.S. business schools have closed their struggling full-time M.B.A. programs in recent months, and the coronavirus outbreak may endanger more. Purdue University's Krannert School of Management in Indiana said last month that it would stop admitting students to its two-year resident M.B.A. program for the 2021 academic year, making it one of the most high-profile schools yet to close its program. The news followed announcements by the University of Missouri's Trulaske College of Business and the University of St. Thomas's Opus College of Business in Minnesota, both of which said they wouldn't admit a new M.B.A. class this fall. The pandemic accelerated Purdue's decision to shut down its traditional M.B.A. and focus on other graduate and undergraduate degrees, said Tim Newton, a spokesman for the Krannert school. "I don't think we'll be the last school to pause our M.B.A. program," he said. "Within the next five or 10 years, there will only be a pretty select group of residential M.B.A. programs left. A lot of schools outside of the top 20 or 30 will struggle to keep afloat."

Former Mississippi State pitcher Ben Bracewell preparing for major league chance with Oakland Athletics
Ben Bracewell's meandering professional career is finally reaching the majors. After five years in the Oakland Athletics' minor league system following a standout career at Mississippi State, Bracewell received a call-up to the A's 60-man player pool late last week. Having just arrived in San Jose -- the site of Oakland's reserve team -- the former Bulldog caught up with The Dispatch Wednesday night to discuss his recent call-up and how he's stayed ready for his major league moment.
Mask requirement among COVID-19 guidelines released by MHSAA for fall competition
The Mississippi High School Activities Association announced guidelines Tuesday for fall sports competition as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent protocols across all sports include the requirement of wearing a mask to gain entry and maintaining social distancing when possible for all attendees. For teams and players, dressing rooms should be large enough to social distance, benches should include team personnel only, and any student who tests positive for the coronavirus must provide proof of a negative test by their medical provider before returning. Handshakes, high-fives, fist bumps and hugs are also banned, as well as the sharing of personal items. Personnel should wear gloves and masks, establish a plan for proper food preparation, restrict pedestrian flow in common areas and use for digital ticket sales. Congregation in parking lots before and after events is discouraged, and only school staff, certified coaches, athletic trainers and student-athletes should be present at practices. Masks are not required for student-athletes engaged in competition.
What will SEC football schedule 2020 look like? The key factors in decision
All eyes are on the Southeastern Conference now. With the Atlantic Coast Conference making its big move Wednesday announcing an 11-game football schedule, three of the Power 5 conferences have now established their 2020 plans. The SEC should be the next domino to fall. The league's 14 presidents and chancellors are meeting remotely today to discuss football scheduling options. There is traction behind a 10-game conference-only schedule, as Sports Illustrated reported Wednesday, though nothing can be finalized until the presidents vote. The league's presidents don't have to make any big decisions on Thursday; in fact, the conclusion could be to kick the decision back a week to weigh more information. However, there was a growing sense around the league that some decision should come by the end of the week. If the SEC moves to a 10-game conference-only approach, the schools already have a good sense of the additional conference opponents they'll have to face, according to sources.
Sources: SEC Moving Closer to Conference-Only Schedule for 2020
For years, SEC fans have clamored for fewer games against lower-level squads and more big-time matchups with opponents of their own teams' stature. It took a pandemic, but they may get their wish. The SEC is moving closer to an agreement on a conference-only schedule of 10 games, multiple sources told Sports Illustrated. During a virtual meeting on Wednesday, a majority of athletic directors approved the idea of an SEC-only, 10-game schedule. However, the schedule must be ratified by league presidents. SEC presidents are expected to meet virtually Thursday to seriously discuss the matter. It is unclear if they will vote then or delay a decision until next week. The NCAA Board of Governors is scheduled to meet Tuesday in what could be a momentous event for the 2020–21 college athletic season. Officials there could postpone or cancel fall championships, eliminating year-ending championships for sports such as FCS football, volleyball and soccer, or moving those to the spring.
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork: SEC could make 'intermediate-type decision' on football season this week
Athletic directors from the Southeastern Conference met Tuesday and will meet again Wednesday and Friday to discuss items including the fall football season, Texas A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork said on the Studio 12 podcast with Andrew Monaco and Will Johnson on Wednesday. Bjork added the league's presidents and chancellors will also meet this week. "I describe it as a check-in point for where we are," Bjork said of this week's meetings. "There might be an intermediate-type decision, 'Hey we're not making a decision on the entire season, but here's what we know today and we're going to make this decision.' That could happen this week because conversations are evolving." There are a "limited" number of active COVID-19 cases among all A&M student-athletes on campus now, Bjork said on Studio 12. A&M has yet to release an exact number of cases among its student-athletes.
Alabama AD Greg Byrne's letter to fans, supporters foreshadows financial peril
Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne wrote a letter to Crimson Tide supporters detailing some of the challenges the department faces with the coronavirus threatening fall sports. Byrne spelled out some of the cost saving measures taken while updating the situation with football ticket holders and donations associated with the seats. "Under normal operations, a large percentage of our annual budget comes directly from ticket sales and TIDE PRIDE memberships," Byrne wrote. "In the event we have to adopt a modified seating model at Bryant-Denny Stadium, this number will be impacted significantly. While we don't yet know the effects on individual ticketholders, we do know that we will need your continued and generous support." Alabama made $36.1 million of its $164.1 million total athletics revenue in football ticket sales, according to the 2019 budget it filed with the NCAA. Annual athletics contributions hover in the $30 million range while football media rights netted $23.6 million.
LSU will use mobile ticketing for football season; still planning details for stadium capacity
The LSU athletic department will use mobile ticketing for the 2020 football season, the school announced Wednesday, in a move that is aimed to create contactless transactions at Tiger Stadium and reduce risk of transmitting coronavirus. The news also shows that LSU is still planning to play football with fans inside Tiger Stadium during a pandemic that has recently hit a surge in Louisiana. The Southeastern Conference has still yet to make a decision on the fate of the league's football season, although commissioner Greg Sankey has pegged late July as the timeline for the decision. The details on just how many fans will be allowed in Tiger Stadium are still being worked out. "We continue to prepare for multiple scenarios with seating and capacity," LSU senior associate athletic director Robert Munson said in a statement. "Digital tickets certainly gives us some flexibility in that planning process."
Arkansas football program records zero positives in testing
The University of Arkansas football program will have good news on covid-19 testing to provide in updates with the SEC this week. Sources told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the UA got back zero positive results Wednesday after conducting tests on about 200 personnel, which included the entire football team, the coaching staff and auxiliary personnel on Tuesday. A UA spokesperson said the school could not confirm the testing numbers, just as the athletic department was not revealing total numbers of positive tests earlier during the crisis. Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek provided a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "Our student-athletes, coaches and staff have been incredible in adapting to a dynamically changing environment for college athletics, in which they are screened daily, tested frequently, wear masks and meet, practice and train in a different manner," Yurachek said. "And one where the choices that they make in their personal lives can have a dramatic impact on them and on their team."
College football tailgates, frat parties are 'major risk factors' for COVID-19 spread this fall, experts warn
It's not just the action on the field that poses health risks as the college football world mulls how to put on a season. Game days, often packed with frat parties and tailgates, are worrying health officials who say such events could spark outbreaks of COVID-19. Concerns abound about whether young people, who have been a catalyst for the surge in coronavirus cases this summer, will abide by social distancing guidelines as they return to campus in the fall. And when it comes to college football Saturdays, not much about the normal game day tailgating scene is social distancing-friendly. Are fraternity brothers and sorority sisters going to put parties on hold in the name of containing the spread? "Absolutely not," predicts Zulema Avila, a rising junior at Louisiana State University who is worried about the student body returning to campus in the fall. "Even if they don't allow spectators inside the (stadium), there's still going to be tailgates, there's still going to be apartment parties and Greek life parties," Avila, a member of the Delta Zeta sorority, told USA TODAY. Avila said she doesn't plan on partaking in the festivities this fall, but she's concerned about how fellow LSU students will navigate the tailgate scene, particularly after several months of not seeing their friends.

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