Tuesday, August 4, 2020   
Oktibbeha supervisors approve salary study from Stennis Institute
The Oktibbeha County supervisors will receive a proposal for changes to its employee pay plan from the Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development, a service and research organization at Mississippi State University that works with local governments to make them more efficient. The county first authorized a study of its pay plan and benefits in 2015, and District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller recently asked the Stennis Institute to do another study to make sure the county remains competitive in the job market. The institute interviews all the county's employees and keeps track of its salary rates compared to similar entities, research assistant Claudette Jones said. "The positions that are making substantially below the mean will be the positions where we're having turnover, and a lot of times those are positions that might not be real glamorous, but they're very important jobs," Jones said, citing garbage collection as an example. The city of Starkville authorized a study of its own pay plan from the Stennis Institute last year and approved a tax millage hike in September that partly served to create pay raises for some city employees, including utility linemen, police and firefighters.
Starkville Oktibbeha School District helping teachers transition to virtual learning
It'll be a school year like no other. Virtual learning becoming a major focus for school districts across the state. And in Starkville, the school district has rolled out its virtual plans for the upcoming school year. "It's hard to describe what it will look like first," said Dr. Leann Long, Director Of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning for the school district. "We definitely want our parents to be our partners." Dr. Long said a lot of planning went into making sure teachers are best equipped for virtual learning. "Our intention is to provide them support not only at the beginning but weekly throughout school," said Dr. Long. "Every week they will learn something new or add on to what they've learned so we'll scaffold their learning just as they scaffold learning for our students in the classroom." The school district's plans changed after a higher than expected number of parents requested virtual learning. Long said teachers will be providing several types of teaching to students.
Starkville to accept bid for utilities building expansion
Starkville aldermen plan to accept a bid today for a Corinth-based construction company to add about 10,000 square feet, plus some extra parking, to the Starkville Utilities Department's current electric division building. The expansion will allow the department to consolidate most of its operations under one roof by moving the water division staff from its current, aging building on North Washington Street to the electric division building at the intersection of Highways 82 and 182. Having all the water and electric division staff in one location should increase communication and efficiency within SUD as a whole, General Manager Terry Kemp said. "The intent would be to enhance our overall team effort and provide support at that one location," he said. "We'll be able to leverage resources between the two (divisions) even better than we are today." Worsham Brothers Construction bid $1,978,000 for the project. The bid is on the consent agenda for tonight's board of aldermen meeting, meaning it will likely pass unanimously without discussion.
Rose joins Wright, Chism as hopeful for District 37 House election
A total of seven candidates filed qualifying paperwork for two vacant seats in the Golden Triangle delegation to the state Legislature before the Monday deadline. The special elections for the two seats -- House District 37 and Senate District 15 -- are both scheduled for Sept. 22. The seats are respectively vacated by former Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) and former Sen. Gary Jackson (R-French Camp), both of whom retired June 30. The nonpartisan elections will not include party primaries. Vicky Rose, a Libertarian who has lived in West Point for 13 years, is running for the House District 37 seat to finish Chism's unexpired term, which lasts through 2023. The district covers parts of Lowndes, Clay and Oktibbeha counties. In District 15 -- which covers western and southern Oktibbeha County and parts of Choctaw, Webster and Montgomery counties -- a four-way race is underway among a cadre of candidates running to complete Jackson's unexpired term, which also runs through 2023. Joyce Meek Yates, former director of the Health Promotion and Wellness Program for students at Mississippi State University, announced her candidacy Thursday on Facebook.
New Federal Courthouse in Greenville Will Serve as Economic Catalyst
Construction is expected to begin this summer on a new, $40.1 million federal courthouse in downtown Greenville that is expected to provide a major economic stimulus both during construction and through its years of usage. Federal support for the project came from the late Sen. Thad Cochran, Sen. Roger Wicker, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Rep. Bennie Thompson and the federal judiciary. "On behalf of the entire United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, let me just say that we are absolutely thrilled with the design of our new Courthouse so far, and we are so excited about what this building will mean for Greenville and the surrounding areas," says Chief Judge Sharion Aycock. "So much hard work has gone into this project, and there is a lot more to be done, but this building promises to be a beautiful new landmark building and a real asset to the community."
Fondren Homewood Suites opens for business
Homewood Suites was open for business Monday morning. Fifteen of the 125 guestrooms were booked for the first day, but check-in time was not to start till 3 p.m. The six-story Hilton brand property, built by Ridgeland-based Wealth Hospitality, was the first of several hotels that had been announced in recent years for the Fondren district in Jackson. But the Homewood Suites, announced in August 2017, is the only one yet to be built. "It's truly custom-built to this area, said Victoria Hopkins, director of sales. Fondren lends itself to motif in the lodging, whether subtly as the color of Fondren Corner in the checked wing chairs in the lobby, or, less subtly, in the artwork on the walls of the halls and rooms. The area is dominated by the University of Mississippi Medical Center, St. Dominic Hospital and Baptist Hospital.
Mississippi On Track To Become No. 1 State For New Coronavirus Cases Per Capita
Mississippi is heading for a title that no state would want: It is on track to overtake Florida to become the No. 1 state for new coronavirus infections per capita, according to researchers at Harvard. The state already faces high levels of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obesity. As a result, the challenges specific to the coronavirus pandemic are "layered on top of our existing challenges," says Dr. LouAnn Woodward, who is the top executive at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. By multiple measures, the coronavirus situation in the state will continue to worsen, Woodward tells All Things Considered. Most of the state's major hospitals have had challenges with capacity, particularly ICU capacity, in recent weeks, says Woodward, who is also dean of the University of Mississippi's medical school and an emergency medicine doctor.
Gov. Tate Reeves to announce school reopening plan Tuesday
Gov. Tate Reeves says he has spent the last three days reviewing 598 pages of school district plans -- "every letter of them" -- and will have an announcement at his 2:30 p.m. news briefing Tuesday about the return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reeves posted the announcement on social media Monday night as many districts prepare to reopen this week, while others have decided to delay school starts. Reeves said the Mississippi State Department of Health is on board. "We're still finalizing the plans, but here's how I'm thinking about them: we have to balance the very real risk of more community spread and the devastating life impact of extended school closures," he wrote. Reeves indicated he will issue an executive order that covers the state's hardest-hit counties and will minimize damage in those areas. "We also need to recognize that not every district can be treated the same," he wrote on his Facebook page. "They all have different staff, resource and population considerations. Local school districts are still the best-equipped entities to manage the details of local school decisions."
More Mississippi schools begin classes as virus cases surge
Emily Thompson said she felt relief watching her son get in line to have his temperature checked before he walked into his school Monday to begin sixth grade in east Mississippi. For Thompson, the start of classes at Newton County Middle/High School means the return of structure. The Decatur pharmacist and her husband, who also works in health care, have been working full-time since the pandemic began. She said it was a "nightmare" trying to keep her son, and their two other elementary-age children on track with lessons at home. "I could not emotionally give them what they were needing," she said. This week, 44 Mississippi school districts are resuming in-person instruction for the first time since March, many with safety precautions like mandatory mask-wearing, temperature checks and daily sanitizing. Another six districts are starting this week with only remote instruction. Advocates for returning in-person classes said children need structure and many are missing educational opportunities at home. But with coronavirus cases rising in Mississippi, some are sounding the alarm that it might be too soon.
'It's time to make tough decisions': UMMC leader pushes for delayed school start for K-12
Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs, pushed Monday evening for the state to delay the start of school for K-12 students until after Labor Day. Woodward, on Twitter, said it is time for state to make the tough decisions "for the health of all Mississippians." Woodward's tweet comes after State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs shared his uneasiness in a video question-and-answer of sending K-12 students back to school this week. Mississippi is one of the states with the highest COVID-19 caseloads, deaths and testing positivity rates. The state currently ranks sixth among states in number of cases per capita at 2,035 per 100,000 population, according to The New York Times nationwide COVID-19 database of numbers reported by state health departments. The Mississippi Department of Health reported eight new coronavirus deaths and 572 new cases Monday, bringing the state total to 61,125 cases and 1,711 deaths.
'We're watching this train wreck': UMMC chief says governor should postpone school reopenings
A top public health official said on Monday that Gov. Tate Reeves should postpone the return of public schools as Mississippi becomes one of the nation's worst COVID-19 hotspots and the state's hospital capacity dwindles. Most public schools across the state plan to resume in-person activities this week. Reeves, who is the only state official with the authority to issue a blanket order to delay the start of school, is expected to announce a decision on the matter this week. Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said in an interview with Mississippi Today on Monday that reopening schools would place further strain on the state's hospitals, which are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing number of coronavirus patients. "Those of us in healthcare feel like we're watching this train wreck happen, and somehow even many of our friends are blind to it," Woodward said of the state's recent explosion of COVID-19 cases in a phone interview. "I think most people, when they're thinking about reopening school and the logistics of that, are starting to understand some of that stress and strain on our healthcare system."
State lawmaker with COVID-19 released from hospital after 18 days
State Rep. Earl Banks was released from the hospital Monday after spending 18 days undergoing treatment for the effects of COVID-19. "They showed me I had double pneumonia when I arrived here," Banks said. "I never had a fever higher than 99.4, so all that stuff they tell you about a temperature of 102, 103, or whatever, to me that is bologna." Banks is one of more than 61,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Mississippi. Over the weekend, Dr. Ashish Jha, with Harvard's Global Health Institute, said Mississippi was approaching being the worst in the nation for positive COVID-19 cases. "The more we keep heading in the wrong direction on positivity rates and hospitalizations, the more we have a chance of overwhelming the health care system," said Dr. Alan Jones, vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Jones said while UMMC is at maximum capacity for COVID-19 cases, he said the situation has not gotten worse over the past few weeks, rather remained about the same. He does believe adding further restrictions would help.
Mayor orders bars in Jackson to close indoor service again amid COVID-19 pandemic
The mayor of Jackson is ordering all bars to close to indoor guests in an effort to slow the continuing spread of coronavirus. Bars that serve food will still be allowed to offer take-out, pickup and delivery service. The executive order signed by Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba goes into effect midnight Tuesday. Bar tops and bar areas in all restaurants must also close to the public, but employees can continue to work behind bar tops and bar areas to make drinks to serve alcohol at tables, or make drinks to serve patrons that pull up in a car or appear curbside. Restaurants may continue to offer lawful sale of alcohol and in-house (indoor and outdoor) dining for food services pursuant to the limitations and applicable provisions of the order.
Public ideas for Mississippi flag: Magnolias, stars, beer
Magnolias and stars. Crosses and guitars. Beer cans and crawfish. A Gulf Coast lighthouse. Elvis Presley and Kermit the Frog. All appear on proposals the general public submitted for a new Mississippi flag. Mississippi recently retired the last state banner with the Confederate battle emblem that's widely condemned as racist. A nine-member commission will design a replacement that cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the phrase, "In God We Trust." The public submitted nearly 2,700 proposals, which were posted Monday to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website. Some of the public submissions in Mississippi achieved simplicity. Others were complicated with squiggles, lots of stripes and flourishes including ivy, eagles, ducks, mockingbirds, deer, bees and catfish. Some designs looked professional in their presentation. Others were hand-drawn with crayons or pencils.
U.S. Postal Service Is Urged to Stop Delivering Mysterious Seeds
State agriculture officials are urging the U.S. Postal Service to stop delivering the mysterious seed packages that have been arriving in mailboxes across the country, mailings that federal officials believe are coming from China. Agriculture officials from several states have pressed the federal government to halt deliveries of packages that may contain the seeds as states continue to be inundated by reports from people across the U.S. who have received them. Officials are concerned the seeds could introduce weeds, pests or diseases that could harm U.S. agriculture. The USDA has said it has no evidence the packages are anything other than a "brushing scam," in which vendors selling through online retailers like Amazon.com Inc. pay "brushers" to place orders for their products, with packages with low-value or no contents being shipped to strangers. Brushers then pose as the buyers and post fake customer reviews to boost the vendor's sales. Some state agricultural officials said they were skeptical. "It doesn't look like the type of thing that's a simple brushing scam," said Andy Gipson, Mississippi's agriculture commissioner. "Someone is expending huge sums of money to get these seeds in some cases to very remote locations throughout the United States."
President Trump fires chair of Tennessee Valley Authority board
President Trump fired two members of the Tennessee Valley Authority's board of directors on Monday, including the chair Trump himself had appointed earlier in his term, over the giant federally owned utility's decision to outsource some technology jobs. At a midday White House meeting that included a handful of TVA employees, the president issued an executive order and singled out the TVA for "unfairly replacing American workers with low-cost foreign labor." But that's not the case. The TVA contracts, which require the work be done on U.S. soil, are the same as those issued by other federal agencies and do not specify whether the contractors use U.S. workers or skilled foreigners working in the United States legally, TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said. The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, a labor union representing 2,500 workers, hailed Trump's comments. But Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) came to TVA's defense. He said the utility "does a very good job of producing large amounts of low-cost, reliable electricity."
Oxford's Richard Howorth removed from TVA board along with chair
Former Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth has been removed from the Tennessee Valley Authority board along with TVA chair Skip Thompson. President Donald Trump made the move Monday after criticizing the federal-owned utility for hiring foreign workers. Thompson, of Decatur, Ala., was appointed to the post by Trump in 2018. Trump also threatened to remove other board members if they continued to hire foreign labor. Howorth, who owns Square Books in Oxford, said he found out Monday morning about two hours before the official announcement. "On a personal level, it doesn't bother me to be perfectly honest," he said. "What I don't like is the effect it might have on TVA. My term was about up; I would have been off at the end of the year, and technically, I would have been replaced in May had they replaced me. So, I was expendable, but I'm very upset that they fired Skip Thompson because he was an exceptionally good chair and a very valuable part of the authority at TVA." In his place, Trump nominated another Oxford businessman to the TVA board. Charles William "Bill" Cook Jr., was nominated to serve a five-year term. Mississippi's two GOP U.S. Senators, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith recommended Cook for the post earlier this year.
President Trump claims right to issue executive order on vote-by-mail
President Donald Trump on Monday claimed to have the authority to issue an executive order addressing the expected influx of mail-in voting in the November election and said he hadn't ruled out doing so, in spite of the Constitution's expressly giving states the right to run their elections. "I have the right to do it," Trump insisted, adding: "We haven't got there yet, but we'll see what happens." Trump made the assertion during a coronavirus briefing at the White House when pressed by a reporter from OAN, the far-right network that has been a vocal ally of the president, and as part of a broader tirade against mail-in voting amid a push to expand the practice during the coronavirus pandemic. But his suggestion that he has the right to wade into how elections are conducted in states runs counter to Republican orthodoxy. GOP lawmakers have in the past cited local election control for their opposition to congressional attempts to expand voting rights, as well as institute more stringent security measures. And any order from the president to curb mail-in voting would surely face a flurry of challenges in court from voting rights groups.
COVID-19 outbreaks in agricultural communities raise harvest fears
In the summer months, the tiny community of Brewster, Washington, on the shores of the Columbia River becomes the heart of America's apple industry, ripe fruit weighing down branches in the surrounding orchards before they're loaded onto trains and shipped around the world. Hundreds of migrants flock to the sunny high desert each summer, where they live in riverside dormitories and camps as they harvest apples, peaches, cherries and grapes for Gebbers Farms, one of the biggest fruit growers in the Pacific Northwest. Those workers are now at the heart of a massive surge in coronavirus cases that has made Okanogan County one of the hardest hit areas in the world. In the last two weeks, almost 1 percent of the county has tested positive for the virus. As harvest season approaches in other parts of the country, residents and migrant laborers in agricultural communities are particularly at risk of widespread infection. Across the U.S., rural communities have been largely spared the worst of the pandemic, but the influx of new people who live together in tight quarters where social distancing is difficult is raising fears of viral outbreaks.
Alcorn State moves to online learning after petition
Alcorn State University is shifting their plans to begin the school year. The school originally planned to open fully in-person. The move made many students upset, with thousands signing an online petition to move to virtual learning. The school's new adjusted plan calls for three weeks of online learning to begin the fall semester on August 17. In-person learning is pushed back to September 9. Classes will be reduced in size to allow for social distancing, while other classes will be completely online.
William Carey University's College of Osteopathic Medicine hosts online orientation
William Carey University's College of Osteopathic Medicine hosted its orientation for its first-year students Monday. The orientation was held online due to COVID 19. Gov. Tate Reeves, Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker and Mississippi Department of Health officials attended virtually to honor the medical students as they go into the school year. The College of Osteopathic Medicine was authorized to expand its incoming class by 100% over the next three years, with 2020 being the first year of the expansion. This year the school has 150 students admitted and over the next year, the attendance will go to 175 and then to 200 students. The medical students picked up paperwork, white lab coats, medical equipment, t-shirts between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at a "drive-by" pickup. To accommodate growth, the university is building a new College of Health Sciences Building.
U. of Alabama chancellor says it's now on students, faculty to responsibly reenter campus
The clock's ticking on the countdown to Aug. 19. That's the date classes resume on the University of Alabama System's three campuses after months of planning. Getting every student tested for COVID-19 is part of the framework put in place by campus leaders and the infectious disease experts at UAB. Of course, bringing tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff onto campuses in Birmingham, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa requires logistics reaching well beyond the initial testing. UA System Chancellor Finis St. John sat down with AL.com on Monday afternoon to discuss a number of topics related to the reentry plan and where things stand. It followed a morning news conference where UA System leaders spelled out the testing and contact tracing technology that they hope will make these campuses a relatively safe place amid a global pandemic. "There will be bumps in the road in this process. As Dr. Vickers has said," St. John said in the interview with AL.com, referencing UAB Medical School dean Selwyn Vickers, "we know we cannot eliminate all risk, but we hope to reduce the risk as much as possible ... We know it won't be perfect, but we think it's the right plan."
U. of Alabama takes more steps for coronavirus testing
In its ongoing quest to set the "gold standard" for return-to-campus plans, the University of Alabama System has rolled earlier Stay Safe Together and Testing for Alabama programs into GuideSafe. GuideSafe outlines and enables "one of the most comprehensive re-entry programs in the country," said Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, in a Monday morning Zoom meeting. All students in Alabama must be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus; students living out of state are being mailed self-administered test kits. "We are very proud that the University of Alabama System is going to provide COVID testing for every student ... at no cost to that student," said Finis St. John, chancellor of the UA System. Testing sites will open throughout Alabama this week. Students will be contacted as to time, day and place to get tested, where they'll participate in a "very sensitive test, with high accuracy," said Dr. Ray Watts, president of UAB.
Gov. Kay Ivey seeks candidates with three Auburn University trustee seats open
There's an at-large seat and two district seats to fill on Auburn University's Board of Trustees. Gov. Kay Ivey, board president and Auburn alum, threw open nominations Monday in a letter to Auburn's employees, students and alumni. She said the nomination process is defined in the Alabama Constitution. "Members of the committee are looking for leaders who are forward-looking, service-oriented and dedicated to furthering Auburn's instruction, research and extension missions," Ivey wrote. The board oversees all facets of Auburn University's operations. Whoever fills these three seats will help choose the university's next president. President Jay Gogue returned to his old post last year -- succeeding Steven Leath -- in part to give the board time to set up another national presidential search. The selection committee includes Ivey (or her designee), Van Henley and Reginia Sanders of the Auburn Alumni Association's Board of Directors and Auburn trustees James Pratt and Clark Sahlie.
Law enforcement leaders discuss use of force and community relations with UF faculty
David Prevatt wants to know why University of Florida students don't know the officers who police them. The associate professor at UF's department of civil and coastal engineering joined a conversation with UPD Thursday afternoon in a UF Faculty Senate meeting about the department's use of force and community relations. The Senate, a faculty-led organization that advocates for academic freedom and responsibility at UF, hosted the discussions on Zoom. The goal of the event was to foster an "open dialogue" between the community and local police leaders, according to the UF Faculty Senate website. A panel of three UF faculty members and three community police leaders, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones and University Police Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick, answered questions the public submitted before the event. Prevatt said building personal connections with local officers can help mend community-police relations. As a Black man, he said he was apprehensive about police officers until he was able to connect with those in his area, including Jones. "This is a two way street," he said. "If I do not know my police officers, it is not just up to them to introduce themselves to me. I have to go across there."
Students at U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville return to classes on campus
Students returned Monday for in-person classes at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where they found a few familiar faces and some new things to get used to. Megan Rodgers, 20, said it was her first time back since March, when UA suspended face-to-face classes in response to concerns about covid-19. Face coverings and physically distanced seating are part of new campus protocols aimed at reducing the risk of transmission. "Definitely, like the vibe is different. But mostly I'm just really excited to be here and really hoping that other students like follow the guidelines so that we can all be safe," said a mask-wearing Rodgers, an international studies major. Rodgers said she recognized classmates while managing to keep her distance. "I think it was, like, weird going into classes and I saw people that I knew and not being able to hug them or dive in. Like, I'm talking to them across the room, if that makes sense," Rodgers said. The class she's taking is part of UA's August Intersession, which offers courses in a 10-day, concentrated format. Only a few dozen courses are offered that way, so the campus remains mostly deserted for now.
UGA reopening plans 'clearly inadequate' -- even life-threatening -- faculty declare
University of Georgia faculty appear to be on a collision course with UGA and University System of Georgia administrators over the university system's plans for reopening campuses for fall semester. UGA classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 20, just over two weeks from now. UGA measures to contain COVID-19 when students come back are vague and in some cases life-threatening to students, faculty and other workers, according to a resolution unanimously adopted by the elected faculty senate of Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the university's largest academic unit, and overwhelmingly endorsed by the faculty senate of the Mary Frances Early College of Education. The groups sent their resolution to UGA President Jere Morehead and USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley, asking for a response by Tuesday. The faculty representatives commended the university system for its July 7 decision to require masks on campus, but that's not enough to ensure people's safety, they said. The groups also asked for a series of open town hall meetings, and say faculty, staff and students should be included in future decision-making. Task forces appointed to prepare UGA's reopening plans were almost entirely made up of UGA administrators.
Texas A&M University sees 18% increase in summer enrollment
Texas A&M University saw an 18% increase in summer enrollment this year, with the total number of students jumping from 23,465 in 2019 to 27,689 in 2020. The numbers include undergraduate, master's and doctoral students from the flagship College Station campus, the Health Science Center and the Galveston campus. There was also an increase in the number of hours taken this summer. Joseph Pettibon, vice president for enrollment and academic services, said in a press release that he credits the rises to the $1.5 million that was added to faculty salaries so additional classes could be offered. "Because we invested in additional hiring of faculty, we were able to offer more sections of courses, particularly those in high demand," Pettibon said in the release. "We saw the enrollment increases across all of the different courses we have, but one thing we focused on was increasing specific offerings that we knew were high demand." Pettibon said most of the increase is from undergraduate students who were using online and remote summer courses to progress in their course work.
U. of Missouri engineering faculty and staff are all in on producing face shields
For almost three months, the University of Missouri's College of Engineering has been cranking out face shields, testing swabs and ethanol-based hand sanitizer in the university's pandemic-fighting efforts. And with just three weeks left before the start of the fall semester, efforts to produce 4,500 face shields for MU faculty are in high gear. The university announced in mid-June that faculty would wear face shields while students will be required to wear masks. The College of Engineering was asked to produce the face shields for the university by early to middle August. The lab was also asked to produce 2,000-3,000 powered air-purifying respiratory shields, 5,000 headbands for the simple shields and has continually 3D-printed testing swabs for MU Health Care. As two MU staff members stood over a table last week in Lafferre Hall gluing soft plastic cuffs onto the powered air-purifying respirator shields, director of international programs Cassandra Siela compared the work to doing arts and crafts. "It's been fun," she said.
College Reopening Plans Include How Many Coronavirus Cases Would Close Them Again
Colleges spent the first part of the summer deliberating how to reopen campuses and classrooms. Now, they are spending the remainder thinking through what kind of dangers it would take to close them. By setting hard triggers for a potential shutdown, schools that are planning to bring students back to campus hope to avoid the chaos that accompanied their March closures. Creating those plans means considering possibilities like student or staff deaths, increasing infection rates and full ICU facilities. There is no clear federal guideline for how to press pause, leaving colleges, along with states, cities and K-12 schools, on their own to figure out protocols. Colleges and universities have assembled large teams to think through quarantine plans and contact tracing in case of an outbreak, as well as when to shut down dining halls and classrooms and how to weigh the risks of sending students home. For the University of Kentucky, it is less about numbers than about trend lines, spokesman Jay Blanton said. "It's the combination of factors rather than one specific trigger or threshold," Mr. Blanton said.
As Safety Concerns Mount, Many Colleges Hold Fast to Reopening Plans
Sam Houston State University recently delivered an important message to its faculty: The campus cannot meet federal guidelines for their safety during the pandemic. Then, in the same memo, professors were told they must report to work in person. "Social distancing is not possible on a college campus at all times," Richard Eglsaer, provost at the Texas institution, wrote in the July 22 memo, which was obtained by The Chronicle. He added, "It will not be possible to meet CDC guidelines to the letter in all situations." Nevertheless, the university is reopening under a "hybrid" model that allows students to share a classroom with their professors at least once a week. Faculty who wish to work remotely face an uphill battle. They must be "physically unable to teach," Eglsaer wrote, and simply having a high-risk medical condition "does not qualify." The provost's memo told faculty that students are clamoring for an in-person experience, and that keeping students happy is the best way to avoid layoffs. That tug-of-war, between financial concerns and public health, is the tense backdrop of the looming fall semester across American higher education. And some faculty members and students are pushing back -- organizing protests and petitions against what they describe as reckless and dangerous reopening plans.
Michigan State tells students: Stay home for fall if you can
Less than a month before classes are set to begin at Michigan State University, President Samuel Stanley is encouraging students to stay at home for fall semester if they can as COVID-19 cases continue to spread. "If you can live safely and study successfully at home, we encourage you to consider that option for the fall semester," Stanley wrote in an email sent to students Monday. "The vast majority of first-year students this fall will have course schedules that are completely online. Living away from campus may be the best choice for you and your family, particularly if you have family members at higher health risk." The email, which outlines numerous safety measures that MSU has taken to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, comes as colleges are ramping for students to come back to campus in upcoming weeks. MSU undergraduate classes resume Sept. 2, though some graduate students, such as those in the law school, begin as soon as Aug. 17. The University of Michigan told students Monday that those planning to return for the fall semester must commit themselves for 14 days of "enhanced social distance at home" before arriving on the Ann Arbor campus. But MSU, the state's largest university, is the only public higher education institution in Michigan to suggest that students might want to stay home instead of coming to campus.
Fall's Looming Child-Care Crisis
Welcome to the fall of 2020, a semester that will test the endurance, flexibility, and finances of parents everywhere. Both K-12 and college schedules are expected to keep shifting to reflect the changing risks posed by Covid-19. Children who start out in classrooms may end up studying from home for longer than their exhausted parents had counted on. That could cause a child-care dilemma for parents whose own schedules and workplaces are in flux. As the clock ticks toward the start of the semester, dozens of faculty and staff members who responded to inquiries from The Chronicle wrote that they worry about how they'll teach their kindergartners to read, keep their teenagers from ditching their textbooks for video games, and meet the needs of college students who may be emotionally fragile this fall. The vast majority of the responses came from women.
Backlash begins against U. of Arizona's acquisition of Ashford U.
Thousands of faculty members at the University of Arizona were blindsided Monday when they learned of their institution's plans to purchase Ashford University. On social media, questions quickly arose about why Arizona professors didn't know about the deal in advance and what the arrangement would mean for the university's reputation. "I felt sickened," said Leila Hudson, a University of Arizona professor of Middle Eastern and North African studies and faculty senate member, recalling the moment she found out about the planned acquisition of Ashford on Twitter. Hudson, like many of her colleagues, had no idea the announcement was coming. She questioned why a public institution would want to associate itself with an institution such as Ashford, which she said has a reputation for preying on vulnerable students. In a three-hour Faculty Senate meeting late Monday, many professors echoed these concerns, expressing frustration and anger at what they characterized as a lack of transparency demonstrated by university leaders.

Famous Maroon Band marching on through the uncertainty
It's the soundtrack of fall Saturdays. It's the pregame show, the halftime entertainment and the sound of a big play for the Bulldogs. It's Mississippi State's Famous Maroon Band and like pretty much everything and everyone else these days, it's a group that's having to adjust on the fly because of the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Nevertheless, the group is, well...marching on. And they're dedicated to being there for the Bulldogs when this season kicks off. "If they allow us performance opportunities of any type on the field or in the stands, we will be ready to go with something for the first game," Associate Director of Bands Craig Aarhus told Cowbell Corner. "We absolutely will because that's what we do. We want to support the team. We want to be there to help be a part of the football environment even though it's going to be different obviously. But we want to be a part of that game day experience just like we usually are." The pathway for the band to do its thing has been and will be quite an unusual one.
Mississippi State forward Robert Woodard staying in 2020 NBA Draft
Robert Woodard made up his mind. The Mississippi State forward has decided to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft and forego his final two seasons in Starkville. Woodard, a Columbus native, announced his decision Monday on his Instagram account. "First, I would like to thank God for the opportunities he has given me," Woodard wrote. "To the Coaches, Teammates and HailState Family, thank you for your support the past 2 years. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many great fans. "As you know, I entered the NBA Draft with the option of maintaining my eligibility. After much consideration, I have decided to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft. "The Bulldog experience will forever run deep in my heart. Once a Bulldog, Always a Bulldog. #HAILSTATE." Woodard was one of coach Ben Howland's best defenders, both on and off the ball. He racked up 32 blocks and 35 steals during his sophomore season.
Mississippi State's Robert Woodard II stays in NBA draft
While various college players announced a return to college over the past few days, Mississippi State's Robert Woodard II chose a different path. The Columbus native announced Monday in an Instagram post he planned to forego his junior basketball season and stay in the NBA draft. "First, I would like to thank God for the opportunities he has given me," Woodard wrote in an Instagram post. "To the coaches, teammates and HailState family, thank you for your support the past two years. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many great fans. "As you know, I entered the NBA Draft with the option of maintaining my eligibility. After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Bulldog experience will forever run deep in my heart. Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog." Woodard, a 6-foot-7 forward, had a breakout campaign with the Bulldogs as a sophomore, averaging 11.4 points per game and shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc while starting all 31 games for MSU. He scored in double figures 22 times this season.
Mississippi State's Robert Woodard will stay in NBA draft
Mississippi State's Robert Woodard has decided to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports first reported Woodard's decision early Monday afternoon. Woodard made it official with a post on his Instagram account. "As you know, I entered the NBA Draft with the option of maintaining my eligibility. After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft," Woodard wrote. "The Bulldog experience will forever run deep in my heart." The deadline for making a final decision on staying in the draft pool was at 4 p.m. Central on Monday. The coronavirus-delayed draft, originally scheduled for June 25, is now set for Oct. 16. Woodard, a 6-foot-7 guard out of Columbus, played in 65 games over two years for the Bulldogs and made 32 starts.
Former UGA football staffer D.J. Looney remembered as genuine and generous
D.J. Looney's office right next to Rob Sale's was always a hub of activity. Sale is the offensive coordinator for the Louisiana football program and shared offensive line duties with Looney, but the position coach was the one who always had people coming and going and offered much for the older coach to emulate the past two and half years together. "I've learned more from him about relationships, how to treat players, the bigger picture," Sale said. "For the first five or six months, I didn't know if he was the counselor, the financial aid or the offensive line coach. Players would just go in there and talk to him. It was awesome to see and watch." Sale spoke Sunday afternoon from Lafayette, La., a day after Looney's death from a heart attack at age 31 stunned the college football world and prompted an outpouring of tributes including from current and former Georgia football players and coaches. "I definitely can't tell you I'm not going to cry on this," Sale said by phone. "I've been an emotional wreck all day." Looney worked alongside then offensive line coach Sam Pittman in 2016 as a UGA offensive graduate assistant. "Anybody that meets with D.J. clicks with D.J," said Will Windham, a Georgia defensive quality control coach in 2016-17. "He is one of the most selfless, giving, salt of the earth, would do anything for anybody. He always had a smile on his face."
LSU football experimenting with new helmet shields; they're getting 'mixed reviews'
Greg Stringfellow is in charge of a difficult project in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The LSU equipment manager is attempting to limit airflow in the football team's helmets without inhibiting a player's ability to see or breathe -- a task made even more challenging by the muggy conditions of a south Louisiana summer. Last month, the NCAA issued guidelines for players to wear helmets so long as they also wear either a mask or a face shield. LSU players have been wearing masks since returning to campus June 8 for summer workouts, and, when they started wearing helmets during walk-through practices on July 24, many started wearing neck gaiters under their helmets. Neck gaiters are made of tight fabric. They're normally used as a scarf substitute for warmth, which isn't really an issue in Baton Rouge in August. So, for Friday's two-a-day practice, Stringfellow began experimenting with face shields. "We've had mixed reviews," he said.
Vanderbilt kicker Oren Milstein opts out because of COVID-19 concerns
Vanderbilt kicker Oren Milstein, a Columbia graduate transfer, has opted out of the 2020 season while questioning the "ethics of playing college football during a pandemic," he announced on Twitter. "As my teammates and coaches are aware, I have decided to opt out of participating in the 2020 college football season. This was a very difficult decision and certainly one that I did not make without immense contemplation," Milstein wrote to begin a Twitter thread. "... I am not willing to sacrifice my health, the health of my teammates, or the health of everyone involved in facilitating college football this fall in order to play football this season." Milstein missed the 2018 season with an injury and then announced in May that he would transfer to Vanderbilt. Three months later, he has decided to halt his Commodores career before it begins amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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