Wednesday, August 5, 2020   
Starkville school district, MSU cut ribbon on Partnership Middle School
Representatives of the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District and Mississippi State University officially opened the Partnership Middle School Tuesday morning. The school, which is a collaboration between the school district and university, is located near the north entrance to MSU's campus in Starkville across from the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park. The school will house the Starkville school district's 6th and 7th-grade students and serve as a lab for the MSU College of Education. The school has dozens of classrooms, pod learning centers, a band wing, an art room, a gym and safe rooms on the multi-story building.
Ribbon cutting held at Partnership School
The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District and Mississippi State University cut the ribbon on the Partnership Middle School Tuesday. After more than three years of construction, numerous delays and more than $32 million, the Partnership Middle School has officially opened and is scheduled to take on its first students this fall. Due to social distancing guidelines the ribbon-cutting ceremony was live streamed for the general public with limited guests.
Living 'Cowbell Well': New MSU wellness, safety initiative to be front and center this fall
As students begin arriving at Mississippi State this week, they'll be greeted with a modified campus lifestyle that includes maroon facemasks, physical distancing, sanitizing stations and an introduction to Cowbell Well, the university's health and safety initiative. Through Cowbell Well, which familiarizes all Bulldogs with seven wellness behaviors that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19, students can do their part to protect and maintain MSU's special campus experience. "We're doing our part as a university to communicate these messages so that all of us at Mississippi State continue to take care of each other every minute of every day---that's just what we do. While we can take these seven steps to certainly help us personally be safe, as Bulldogs it's our nature to do the right thing in thinking of others and being mindful of those around us," said Regina Hyatt, vice president of Student Affairs.
21 new RV parking spaces coming to Starkville
Starkville aldermen unanimously approved an expansion of Moreland Storage's recreational vehicle park Tuesday evening. The project will add 21 RV parking spaces to the existing eight at the storage facility on Louisville Street in southwest Starkville. The northward expansion has been planned for years, and the 21 spaces have already been booked, owner Kim Moreland told The Dispatch. "There's just a demand for it," she said. "Being a college town, we have a lot of traffic on ballgame weekends." Mayor Lynn Spruill agreed after Tuesday's meeting that more RV parking in the city is necessary, and Ward 5 Alderman Hamp Beatty said it is not a bad idea to expand a business during the current economic downturn due to the pandemic. "I'm hopeful that the investment will pay off for (Moreland Storage) as we start to see sports again in Starkville," Beatty told The Dispatch, referring to the planned return of Mississippi State football and other athletics this fall.
Mississippi gets statewide mask mandate, some school delays
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday that he's setting a statewide order for people to wear masks in public amid a recent surge in cases of the new coronavirus. The Republican also delayed the start of the school year for upper grades in eight counties that are hard-hit by COVID-19. Reeves also said he will sign an order mandating that all adults and students wear masks in schools, unless there's a medical reason that prevents them from doing so. He is delaying the start of school for grades 7-12 in eight counties with more than 200 cases and 500 cases per 100,000 residents. The counties are Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington. "We must pump the brakes in the hardest hit areas," Reeves said. Reeves said he firmly believes that his decision gives local schools "options to do what is best for kids."
Gov. Tate Reeves orders statewide mask mandate
Gov. Tate Reeves announced a new executive order Tuesday that requires every Mississippian to wear a mask at public gatherings and when shopping for the next two weeks. The announcement comes as coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge and more than 1 in 5 COVID-19 tests in Mississippi are coming back positive, a staggering rate that indicates rampant infection. Reeves said wearing a mask is irritating, but important to stop the spread of coronavirus. "I hate it more than anybody watching today," Reeves said at a press conference. Asked about the timing of the mandate, Reeves said he is issuing the executive order because people are already following it. "The reason we issued the mask mandate statewide today is because I believe that a large number of Mississippians are actually participating in slowing down the spread of the virus," Reeves said. "They are doing exactly what they've asked them to do, and I'm proud of that."
'Hard times call for hard truths.' Governor picks middle ground on school reopenings
Gov. Tate Reeves listened to advice from the state health officer and medical community in issuing executive orders for reopening of schools, but stopped short of delaying the start of school as they had suggested because of the high spread of COVID-19 in Mississippi. "There are some who have presented the choice before us as chaos vs. a blanket mandate," Reeves said in his Tuesday afternoon news conference, where he pulled off a mask before speaking. "In my view, that is simply not the case." He said children would be harmed as much or more from being kept out of school indefinitely rather than returning with the restrictions he is ordering, including a statewide mask mandate for all schoolchildren and teachers. Reeves followed public health advice with a statewide mask mandate, including for school personnel and teachers in his executive order. But he delayed the start of school only in eight counties with the highest case counts over the last two weeks. "These are hard times and hard times call for hard truth," Reeves said. "We will not and cannot prevent people from contracting COVID-19 whether children are in school or out of school."
Gov. Tate Reeves delays start of school only in hot spots, orders statewide mask mandate
Going against the advice of the state's top health officer and other Mississippi medical experts, Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday announced admittedly "piecemeal" orders that allow most schools to reopen now even as the state sees record numbers of COVID-19 cases. "I believe in my heart we have got to get our kids back in school," Reeves said, and reiterated a recent theme: "I believe it's better, whenever possible, to allow local leaders to determine plans for their schools." Reeves is issuing an executive order to "pump the brakes" for grades seven through 12 in eight COVID-19 "hot spot" counties. The schools in Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington counties are affected by the executive order, which pushes their start date to Aug. 17.
Choctaw Indians bear brunt of virus outbreak in Mississippi
When Sharon Taylor died of coronavirus, her family -- standing apart, wearing masks -- sang her favorite hymns at her graveside, next to a tiny headstone for her stillborn daughter, buried 26 years ago. Fresh flowers marked row after row of new graves. Holy Rosary is one of the only cemeteries in this Choctaw Indian family's community, and it's running out of space -- a sign of the virus's massive toll on the Choctaw people. As confirmed coronavirus cases skyrocket in Mississippi, the state's only federally recognized American Indian tribe has been devastated. COVID-19 has ripped through Choctaw families, many of whom live together in multi-generational homes. Almost 10% of the tribe's roughly 11,000 members have tested positive for the virus. More than 75 have died. The once-flourishing Choctaw economy is stagnant, as the tribal government put in place tighter restrictions than those imposed by the state. The tribe has long been a target of hate, members say, and the virus has only made things worse. On social media, people blame Choctaws for high case numbers. Choctaw employees have been harassed at their jobs; others are called names in stores.
Curfew issued for city of Jackson; documentation required for essential workers if stopped by police
The city of Jackson will be under a curfew beginning Thursday. Residents who are not considered essential employees will be prohibited from driving or walking in the city from midnight to 5 a.m. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba's order also requires essential businesses or operations to provide its employees documentation or verification of their essential status in case they are stopped by Jackson police. Lumumba made the announcement Wednesday morning. The curfew is the latest measure taken by the mayor to stem the recent spike in coronavirus cases. Lumumba on Tuesday ordered all bars to shut down indoor service. He was among the first mayors in the state to order a citywide face covering mandate on June 30. The curfew will be in place for five days, or until Aug. 11. It will be reconsidered at that time, the mayor said.
Sen. Chuck Younger proud of hemp, flag bills passed through Legislature
One of the bills Sen. Chuck Younger is proud to have gotten through the Mississippi Legislature this year is the Hemp Cultivation Act, allowing for the legalization of hemp processing in the state. The Lowndes County Republican who has represented District 17 in the state Senate since 2014 said it was a "rough bill" to get passed. "Everybody thinks of marijuana when they think of hemp," Younger said told Columbus Rotarians Tuesday at Lion Hills Center. "But the CBD oil has turned out to be a big help with children with autism. It's been a pain reliever for other things too. Of course they have the cream too now that you can rub on if you have a hurt knee or a shoulder." Unlike marijuana, Younger said, hemp is 3 percent or less THC, the substance in marijuana that causes a high. He said some would-be entrepreneurs had already approached him about wanting to start a processing plant -- one possibly in Monroe County -- prompting him to support the bill this year. It was one of several bills Younger brought up during his speech to Columbus Rotary Club. Younger spent about 40 minutes chatting and answering questions, giving information on everything from a bill allowing military spouses to more quickly receive professional licenses in the state to "probably the biggest controversy we had," the vote to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.
Michigan man, accused of threatening former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, indicted
Harold Joseph Collins, 49, of Detroit, has been indicted by a Hinds County grand jury for cyberstalking for allegedly making telephone threats against then-Gov. Phil 2019. Collins was indicted last month by a Hinds County grand jury on one count of cyberstalking. He faces a maximum two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The indictment says between Jan. 16-19, 2019, Collins, using electronic communications, threatened, terrified and/or harassed Bryant. Collins was initially charged with five counts of cyberstalking, but he was indicted on one count. He is being held in the Hinds County Detention Center. The U.S. Marshals Service and Detroit Police Department helped with the investigation, a release said when Collins was charged in 2019.
President Trump's political insertion worries former TVA board member
President Donald Trump's decision to wedge his political might into the inner workings of the Tennessee Valley Authority Monday concerned a now-former board member and caught the attention of others who fear the actions could have unintended consequences. By Tuesday morning, TVA's website displaying the members of the board of directors had two fewer faces after Trump announced he had removed Chairman James "Skip" Thompson and board member Richard Howorth. The TVA board of directors has always been political --- each of the nine members are appointed by the president and must be Senate-approved. When Howorth, the last remaining member appointed by President Barack Obama, first began working on the board in 2011, the board was nearly split between parties. Then it became entirely Democratic members and now is all Republican, he said. Still, he told Knox News, the substance has never been political and he's afraid Trump's actions could change it. "In all that time, never has the board directors gone to a political direction at all. There's never even been a discussion or statement that has been political. And I've worked with some wonderful people, all of whom ... I'm getting a little emotional here ... all of whom are striving to do the best thing, the right thing."
President Trump spares only Texas and Florida in cutting funds for National Guard
When President Donald Trump directed late Monday that states now pick up some of the tab for the nationwide deployment of the National Guard to respond to the coronavirus, he carved out two big exceptions: Texas and Florida. While all other states and territories will have to shell out millions to cover 25 percent of their National Guard costs starting later this month, Texas and Florida will be fully covered. The two key states, which voted for Trump in 2016 and are hotly contested this year, are struggling to contain the coronavirus surges. But other states are worse off by several metrics -- including total Covid-19 cases and the percentage of people testing positive. An estimated 25,000 Guard troops are on duty across the country running testing sites, contact tracing positive virus cases, building hospitals and carrying out a host of other logistical tasks, including delivering supplies to nursing homes and food banks. Mississippi and Alabama have a higher percentage of people testing positive than in Florida, while Texas is the 9th highest.
USM lab provides 24-hour COVID-19 test results for students
A 24-hour turnaround time for results of COVID-19 testing will be available to students, faculty and staff as they return to campus at the University of Southern Mississippi, officials say. Classes start Aug. 17 with staggered move-in days beginning this week. COVID-19 testing will be done through the Moffit Health Center on the Hattiesburg campus. Currently, the center provides two types of COVID-19 testing -- a swab test to determine an active COVID-19 infection or an antibody blood test to determine a previous infection or exposure to the disease. The 24-hour turnaround is possible through the initiative of Mohamed Elsari, professor and director of USM's Molecular and Cellular Biosciences. He and his team are able to process up to 100 tests per day, if necessary. Elsari started transitioning university research resources to process COVID-19 tests back in mid-March. At the start of the pandemic, Elsari knew he could use lab equipment housed at The Accelerator, USM's 60,000-square-foot research facility, to process COVID-19 tests. Elsari's quick-turnaround test processing for Hattiesburg Clinic by the Accelerator Lab started because the clinic needed Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) that is required for coronavirus testing.
USM's McCain Library receives donation of political memorabilia
The University of Southern Mississippi is adding to its archives with the help of a generous donor. Dr. John Pendergrass is an ophthalmologist by trade, but he's been collecting political memorabilia for 45 years. Recently, he decided to donate it to the McCain Library and Archives at Southern Miss. "I needed a good home for it," Pendergrass said. "I'm not getting any younger, and I wanted a place that would take good care of it." The university is thankful for the gift. "It's really a visual chronicle of Mississippi political history from the 1890′s forward," said Lorraine Stuart, curator of the historical manuscripts. Pendergrass says he got into the hobby because of his love for history. Most of the items are from the early 1900s, but there are some items from as far back as the Civil War. "Sometimes I feel like I'm giving away my own children, you know," Pendergrass said. "I've grown so fond of many of these items over the years." Currently, the library is categorizing the items to be stored and they will be displayed on certain occasions.
Northeast Mississippi Community College nursing class quarantined after student tests positive for COVID-19
A Northeast Mississippi Community College nursing lecture class has been quarantined due to a student testing positive for COVID-19. A student attended a nursing class on Monday morning and "developed symptoms similar to those associated with COVID-19" during a lunch break, according to Tony Finch, NEMCC's Vice President of Public Information. That student later tested positive for COVID-19. That entire class, including two instructors, is in quarantine based on NEMCC's protocol and CDC guidelines. Instruction will continue online-only for those students for the remainder of this week and the next.
A Summer Camp Covid-19 Outbreak Offers Back-to-School Lessons
As policymakers, school administrators, and public health officials in the US fiercely debate whether it's safe to reopen schools at the end of the summer, one of the biggest stumbling blocks has been a lack of reliable information about how easily children and young people can spread the virus that causes Covid-19. But that data is starting to trickle in. A few super-spreading events involving kids have been documented so far: a private school in Chile, a childcare center in Australia, and now, several summer camps in the US. At one, in Georgia, more than 250 children and young adults tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to a recent report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency's analysis shows that, contrary to some early studies, children of all ages can get infected, pass the virus on to others, and, the authors write, "might play an important role in transmission." Public health experts say the outbreak, coupled with newly published research on coronavirus spread among children, has a lot to teach decisionmakers about how to proceed with school reopening plans as cases continue to surge uncontrollably throughout many parts of the country.
U. of Alabama trustees to vote on building name change, athletics contracts Wednesday
The University of Alabama board of trustees will meet Wednesday in a special meeting to address a number of issues, it announced Tuesday morning. The final item on the agenda is the result of a committee of trustees selected to review the names of buildings on the three UA campuses. The resolution calls for "amending the name of Nott Hall on the Tuscaloosa campus. The home of the Honors College was named after Dr. Josiah C. Nott, a slave owner known for argument that African Americans were inferior to whites. The trustees on June 8 removed three plaques in front of Gorgas Library dedicated to Confederate soldiers. Other Wednesday agenda items include approving employment contracts for UA athletics employees.
COVID-19 testing smooth, but U. of Kentucky students worry about virus spread by parties, bars
Although more than 3,000 were tested for COVID-19 in the first two days of the University of Kentucky's ambitious program to screen every student arriving on campus, the so far smooth operation was sharply criticized by some students. On the first day of testing, the UK-hired Wild Health medical staff tested close to 1,800 students on Monday, UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said. At five different sites around campus, the university expected to test 1,700 more on Tuesday. The walk-up and drive-through testing site at the Kroger Field parking lot had the most traffic with more than 1,000 every day. The goal is for students to spend less than 15 minutes on the lot. During that time, students living off campus get a wellness kit -- complete with masks, wipes and hand sanitizer -- and a COVID-19 test. Results get turned around within 24 to 48 hours. Several students interviewed feared a possible outbreak at an off-campus party or bar during the school year after the intitial round of testing had been completed. The university has spent north of $5 million in preparation for a semester where a large variety of PPE, plexiglass walls, hand sanitizer and tests had to be purchased.
Louisiana universities release more coronavirus rules; students, staff will report symptoms daily
LSU students who show up on the Baton Rouge campus later this month will have to walk on the right when going to class, said an email sent Tuesday to students and faculty as Louisiana higher education officials start releasing further details on what to expect for the fall semester. Students start arriving at campuses as soon as Wednesday, and will continue to do so throughout the month depending on which college they attend. "This fall will look decidedly different from previous falls," University of Louisiana System President Jim Henderson told the heads of the nine state and regional colleges that educate about 91,500. "This is our new normal." Louisiana schools, like those across the country, have been spending the last few months in the complex and costly task of preparing their facilities for the return students. The 31,000 or so LSU students, along with faculty and staff, will be required to check in daily with a symptom checklist via text or online throughout the fall semester, school officials announced Tuesday.
More than a third of U. of Florida housing contracts canceled amid pandemic
Vivek Kondapavuluru thought living in a dorm his freshman year would help him make new friends and better integrate into the campus community. Those hopes disappeared when he looked in his housing portal and saw that he didn't have a roommate anymore, Kondapavuluru said. The 18-year-old UF business administration freshman is one of the thousands of students whose roommate canceled their housing contract. "Up until that point, I still had an idea in my head that this year would be normal, and I would have the normal freshman experience that my older friends talked about," he said. More than one third of UF on-campus housing contracts for the upcoming academic year have been canceled, according to records obtained by The Alligator. The original deadline to cancel contracts without penalty was May 1, according to the UF Housing and Residence Education website, but the deadline was extended to July 17 to allow students to adjust their plans. UF Student Affairs Spokesperson Sara Tanner wrote in an email to The Alligator that almost half of the contract cancellations occurred during that period.
U. of Tennessee approves Title IX changes and new investigation process for complaints
The University of Tennessee has adopted new Title IX language and investigation processes for the student codes of conduct. These new changes outline a Title IX grievance process for investigating Title IX allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking. These changes were approved at a special called Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday morning after new Title IX regulations were announced by the Department of Education earlier this year. New regulations are required to be in place at universities by Aug. 14. The new Title IX regulations require universities to hold hearings to investigate claims and determine if the accused party is responsible. The regulations also require an advisor to be assigned, and witnesses can be cross-examined. "As we worked through the regulations, and the subsequent decision points, we tested ourselves against three prongs," said Ashley Blamey, Title IX coordinator. "One, for compliance. Two, campus and community expectation. And three, the experience of the parties involved with these cases."
Texas A&M lands grant for next-generation supercomputer to aid in research
Texas A&M researchers in a wide variety of fields will gain access to a next-generation supercomputer in late 2020 or early 2021 after receiving a $3.09 million grant from the National Science Foundation, officials said Tuesday. The university, following a rigorous application process for an NSF Major Research Instrumentation grant, will purchase FASTER (Fostering Accelerated Scientific Transformations, Education and Research), which an A&M press release described as "a composable high performance data-analysis and computing instrument." In a Tuesday Zoom interview, Honggao Liu, director of High Performance Research Computing at A&M, and senior associate vice president for research Costas N. Georghiades said that access to large-scale, cutting-edge computing technology is a necessity for researchers across disparate fields. A&M Vice President for Research Mark A. Barteau described the addition of the FASTER supercomputer as an important addition to Texas A&M's "already impressive capabilities in high performance research computing."
Public Colleges Face Gut Punch From States' Covid Deficits
America's public colleges and universities are facing one of their toughest financial challenges ever as the economic collapse hammers state tax collections and tens of thousands of students opt to wait out the pandemic or study online. With the recession ravaging the finances of millions of American families, as well as students balking at the risk of heading back to campus and fewer arriving from overseas, public college administrators say they expect enrollment to plummet this fall. Traditional revenue sources such as housing and dining -- even collegiate sports like football, a cash cow -- have all been upended, while the colleges take on staggering costs to conform campuses to social distancing and provide new technology for virtual classrooms. At the same time, states are being forced to slash subsidies for higher education as record budget deficits mount and the prospect for massive federal help dims. That's adding to the financial pressure colleges were already contending with due to rising tuition costs and stagnant enrollment. "As states continue to feel immense financial pressures, we worry greatly the burden may be disproportionately felt by public higher education," said Craig Lindwarm, vice president for government affairs at the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.
House Republican lawmakers examining foreign gifts to Harvard, Yale and others
The top Republicans on three House committees, including one that has been investigating foreign influence on U.S. higher education, asked Harvard and Yale Universities and four other institutions that have received tens of millions of dollars from China and other countries for records of any contracts, agreements or gifts with those nations. However, Terry Hartle, the senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, quickly called it an "unwarranted partisan fishing expedition aimed solely at schools in blue states in an election year." Money American colleges and universities get from foreign sources has been under scrutiny, with the Education Department announcing investigations into Harvard and Yale in February on whether they have complied with a federal law requiring disclosure of certain foreign gifts and contracts. The department previously launched investigations into six other universities -- Cornell, Georgetown, Rutgers and Texas A&M Universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Maryland -- in relation to their disclosure of foreign funding.
Bill would spend $1 billion on diversifying medical schools to close racial health gap
Black doctors make up less than 6 percent of the physicians in America, and a recently introduced bill seeks to help encourage more young doctors of color through a $1 billion grant to several medical schools. The Expanding Medical Education Act, introduced in the Senate last week by Tim Kaine, D-Va., was drafted to offer a pathway to "tackle the lack of representation of rural students, underserved students, and students of color in the physician pipeline," it says. The goal would be to reduce mistrust in doctors and health care institutions among marginalized communities, thus narrowing the gap in health care. The legislation would encourage recruiting, enrolling and retaining Black students in medical schools and help fund programs for schools that mostly serve students from marginalized backgrounds. Medical school enrollment was up by 31 percent last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. But Blacks made up about 7 percent of medical college students in 2017 and Hispanics made up 6 percent. Enrollment in rural medical programs is also on the decline, which is a concern since the existing doctors in more remote areas are aging and retiring, and not being replaced fast enough.
Public housing residents celebrate students heading off to college despite COVID-19: 'It really means a lot and it motivates me'
College freshmen are facing unprecedented adjustments this year due to COVID-19. But for 18-year-old Anicia Miller, who's lived in public housing all her life, the overjoyed feeling she gets thinking about school still hasn't subsided, despite plans to stay remote for the upcoming semester. Miller was one of 150 soon-to-be college students celebrated Tuesday morning in a send-off for Chicago public housing residents. The event marked the 10th rendition of the Chicago Housing Authority and its nonprofit Springboard to Success' annual celebration, which underwent major adjustments this year because of COVID-19. Students were given dorm room supplies meant to assist them in school, such as Chromebook laptops, and laundry and toiletry supplies. Families picked up their packages from a distance in a drive-thru celebration. Along with Harvard, the students celebrated at the occasion plan to attend schools including various University of Illinois institutions, Boston University, the University of Alabama and historically Black colleges and universities, said Tracey Scott, the CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority.
Covid Surge Threatens M.B.A. Programs' Already Limited Back-to-School Plans
Business schools spent months scrambling to provide fall M.B.A. classes with at least some of the on-campus experience that students say makes the pricey degree worth it. Weeks before classes start, some of those plans are already falling apart. Last week, two of the country's highest-profile business schools -- the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business-- joined the list of M.B.A. programs and universities shelving plans for a hybrid of online and in-person classes and shifting to a nearly all-virtual model, at least temporarily. At universities, M.B.A. programs have faced particular pressure to offer at least some in-person learning. Many students and schools alike say much of the value of the traditional, two-year degree -- which can cost more than $200,000 with living expenses at some programs -- comes from in-person activities, such as networking with classmates, overseas trips and career fairs.
Naval Academy's 'Plebe Summer' looks a bit different this year
As the national debate rages over how to safely reopen schools this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, one institution has forged ahead before most others: the United States Naval Academy. Each year, the Naval Academy takes in roughly 1,200 students for a seven-week physical and mental training regimen known as Plebe Summer. The goal, according to the academy, is to turn civilians into midshipmen. This summer, that process looks a little different. And has involved a lot of hand sanitizer. For plebes, or freshmen, the changes began immediately. Incoming plebes were issued a face mask and tested for the virus and immediately began a 14-day quarantine period. Each morning, they underwent a temperature check and a screening for possible symptoms of the virus. And, for the duration of the summer, all midshipmen are required to stay on the Naval Academy campus in Annapolis, Maryland. Academy officials say they hope that by keeping the students on campus, they will be able to contain the spread of the virus and inhibit its spread into the freshman class before the fall semester even begins.
Dueling medical marijuana initiatives: All voter initiatives face a hard road in Mississippi
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Mississippi voters will face the question of legalized medical marijuana use on a broader scale on the November ballot. Medical marijuana is already legal in Mississippi in the narrowest of senses. Legal, yes. Available? Not really. Former Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed Mississippi's very narrow current medical marijuana bill into law in 2014 with help from some of the state's most conservative lawmakers. Harper Grace's Law was supposed to allow patients to obtain treatment with cannabis oil at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Clinical trials have been conducted with a limited number of patients with good results. UMMC announced in July 2019 a one-year extension of the clinical trial of a new marijuana-derived drug to treat seizures in children. State voters will be offered two versions of a medical marijuana amendment on Mississippi's Nov. 3, 2020, general election ballot. Initiative 65 was sponsored by the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign and was placed on the ballot through the state's voter initiative process.

Mississippi State AD John Cohen sounds off on football season, construction and more in final installment of Virtual Road Dawgs Tour
As Mississippi State Athletic Director John Cohen peered across a room filled with fellow Southeastern Conference officials, a tear surfaced on commissioner Greg Sankey's face. Gathered in Nashville for the SEC's men's basketball tournament in early March, it was then that Cohen, Sankey and their fellow SEC leadership watched the hotel empty and the sports world come to a staunch pause in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "He knew, we all knew, that some of these seniors were never going to get their basketball postseason back again," Cohen said. "It's kind of an abrupt end to a career in which, again, these kids, these parents, our coaching staffs have so much invested. It was a real shame." Now months on from his brief spell in Music City, Cohen continues to oversee the safe return to play for MSU's fall sports, and more specifically, football. Plans to return to the gridiron have begun to come into focus in recent days. Last week, the SEC announced it would go to a 10-game, conference only schedule that is set to begin on Sept. 26. The conference also disclosed on Tuesday that it would allow practices to begin on Aug. 17. Speaking on the subject during Tuesday night's final installment of the Virtual Road Dawgs Tour, Cohen preached patience for those looking for answers regarding stadium capacity, tailgating and other football-related endeavors.
Governor says best way to ensure college football season is wearing masks
Count the governor of Mississippi among the many people in this state who want to see football this fall. Governor Tate Reeves issued a statewide mask mandate for public gatherings and in retail stores on Tuesday afternoon. When explaining his rationale, Reeves mentioned sports as one of the driving motivations behind his decision. "I know that I want to see college football in the fall," Reeves said in a press briefing. "The best way for that to occur is for us all to recognize that wearing a mask -- as irritating as it can be, and I promise you I hate it more than anybody watching today -- it is critical." Later in his press briefing, Reeves was asked about the regulations that will be put on attendance for high school and college sporting events this fall. Reeves said he hasn't written an executive order regarding high school football yet but has had "extensive conversations" with leaders from Mississippi universities that have led to him taking steps toward limiting the number of people who will be in attendance at sporting events.
EMCC and Mississippi State athletics team up to help with contact tracing
Contact tracing at a small business, with say, 10 or 12 employees, could be a daunting task. Even more so at a manufacturing plant where tens of thousands of people come and go every day. East Mississippi Community College's Communiversity and the athletic engineering program at Mississippi State are trying to help businesses tackle that problem with technology usually designed to measure the performance of a bulldog athlete. Normally, Men's Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach Collin Crane uses sports wearable technology to make sure his athletes are at their peak performance. Evolving technology takes on a new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. When Coach Crane's team tests players mobility normally they'd have the player lay on the table. That's when the trainers would examine the players by physically stretching them out. With the help of Xbox Kinect, they can map the athlete s entire body and diagnose the issue from a distance. MSU athletic engineers gather all the data. Reuben Burch is the head of the athletic engineering program at MSU. He and his team of students are spearheading the effort to use sports wearable technology in the industrial setting, like at a factory or warehouse.
Mississippi State learns first date football practice will be allowed
Mississippi State now knows the date fall football practice will be allowed. The Southeastern Conference announced on Tuesday that August 17 is now when all league schools are permitted to begin. It bears noting that August 17 is also the first day of classes for Mississippi State University. An MSU athletics spokesman was immediately unsure if that might impact when the Bulldogs will start their practices. But what is clear is that on August 17, they'll be within the rules to do so. Beginning August 17 and until the opening game, schools are allowed 25 practices with a limit of 20 hours per week of practice time. A five-day acclimatization period is required, with two days in helmets only, two days in shells and the fifth day in full pads. The SEC previously announced the league will play an adjusted 10-game, league-only schedule in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The season is slated to begin on September 26, though no official schedule has been released as of yet.
SEC announces revised training camp plan
The SEC has modified its schedule for preseason football training camp. The league announced last week that its members would play 10 games against only SEC opponents, as conferences scramble to reorganize amid the threat of COVID-19. Original football schedules -- prepared well before the pandemic struck -- called for most games to begin on Sept. 5, with those teams eligible to begin training camp on Aug. 7. Now, SEC teams will begin camp on Aug. 17 and will begin games on Sept. 26. The revised schedule was announced on Tuesday afternoon. The new plan provides players with more days off than required by the NCAA and with fewer practices than permitted by NCAA rules, according to the SEC news release. The SEC has not yet released its updated schedule of games. It's expected that the league office will announce sometime this week the two additional conference games for each team.
Alabama could owe over $3.5 million for canceled football games
The move to a 10-game, SEC-only schedule could have the University of Alabama obligated to pay out more than $3.5 million to schools that were originally contracted to play the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa in the 2020 season. UA had scheduled home games against Georgia State on Sept. 12, Kent State on Sept. 26 and UT Martin on Nov. 14. "Details regarding the non-conference home games that were on our 2020 football schedule are being worked through," UA Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said in a statement to The Tuscaloosa News. UA signed contracts worth $1.3 million for the Georgia State game, $1.75 million for the Kent State game and $500,000 for the UT Martin game, according to documents obtained by The Tuscaloosa News through an open records request. UA's contracts with all three schools includes a clause that states, "In the event of ... prohibitory or governmental authority, including that of the Southeastern Conference or the National Collegiate Athletic Association, making it impossible or impractical to play the game, both parties shall be relieved of any and all obligations of this agreement." The contracts also have breach clauses that could result in payouts.
City might offer game-day festivities if Auburn University doesn't
Auburn City Manager Jim Buston told downtown merchants Tuesday that the city may host festivities on home football dates if Auburn University bans tailgating and fans in the stands due to COVID-19. The university hasn't told the city yet if it will allow fans into Jordan-Hare Stadium for games, or if fans will be allowed to tailgate outside the stadium, Buston said. The Tigers are slated to play an all-SEC schedule this fall, provided that the conference goes through with fall sports. "It's something we're still working on," Buston said. Merchants on the Zoom conference link offered several suggestions, including showing the games on a screen at Toomer's Corner, more sidewalk seating for bars and restaurants and the like. "Auburn-Opelika Tourism supports anything we can do to get people into downtown," said Robyn Bridges, the tourism group's vice president.
LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux, dean of SEC coaches, announces retirement after 43 years
D-D Breaux, who nurtured LSU's gymnastics program from an unsteady beginning to a perennial championship contender that performed in front of sellout crowds, announced her retirement Tuesday, ending the longest coaching tenure in any sport in Southeastern Conference history. The school announced Breaux's decision Tuesday morning after she broke the news Monday afternoon to the LSU team. Breaux, who was co-head coach this season with former longtime assistant Jay Clark, will move into an emeritus-type role with the athletic department while Clark continues to run the program on his own. "I just think this whole last year, ending the way it did with COVID-19 and dealing with it this summer, it will take someone with a younger spirit to bring this team through it," said Breaux, who has coached the Tigers for 43 years. Gov. John Bel Edwards was among those who praised Breaux for her "standard of excellence" and her "unparalleled" career. He and his wife Donna were fixtures at LSU home meets.
Big Ten announces schedule of 10 conference games to start Sept. 5
Big Ten teams will play 10 conference games and begin the season on Sept. 5 should teams be able to safely compete, the conference said Wednesday. The announcement sets the parameters for a regular season that eliminates all non-conference play and adds in an additional off week to provide the highest degree of scheduling flexibility in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. "Developing consistent medical protocols and testing procedures for the health and safety of our student-athletes and our athletic programs is critical," said Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. "Our Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and local, state, and national experts have provided guidelines throughout our decision-making process with our student athletes' health and safety as our first and foremost concern." Within the past week, two Big Ten programs, Rutgers and Northwestern, have chosen to postpone team workouts amid outbreaks among athletes and coaches. Michigan State's team was placed in quarantine after an outbreak last month.
UConn becomes first FBS team to cancel football season due to coronavirus
UConn, which last month officially left the American Athletic Conference, announced Wednesday that it is suspending its football program for the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic. UConn, which went 2-10 in its final season in the AAC, is the first FBS program to suspend its football team because of the pandemic. The Huskies were expected to play as an independent this season. "After receiving guidance from state and public health officials and consulting with football student-athletes, we've decided that we will not compete on the gridiron this season," UConn athletics director David Benedict said in a news release. "The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk." The university said members of the football team will remain enrolled in classes, either virtually or in person, and would have access to facilities and support services to ensure they remain on track academically.
Pac-12 players threaten to boycott football games
The National Collegiate Athletic Association and its Division I conferences have become the most recent focal point of the movement against racial injustice at American colleges and universities. A growing chorus of Black athletes has in recent days leveled charges that the college sports system is exploiting their talent and labor during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has disproportionately damaged the physical health and economic well-being of people of color, and it has infected many college athletes across the country as they return to campuses ahead of other students to prepare for the fall sports season. These issues are weighing on the consciousness of athletes who say their institutions are treating them as second-class students for entertainment purposes and to raise revenue. As a result, the athletes have started to organize in ways scholars say is unseen in the history of college sports. This week, athletes in the Pac-12, a "Power Five" Division I conference that encompasses universities in the Pacific Northwest and Western parts of the country, began the first "coordinated" and "systematic" approach to college athlete activism seen in recent years, said Yannick Kluch, lead faculty consultant at the Center for Sports Communication and Social Impact at Rowan University.

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