Thursday, August 6, 2020   
MSU rents two Starkville hotels to quarantine students with COVID-19
Mississippi State University has rented two Starkville hotels for the entire fall semester in order for students who live in residence halls on campus to quarantine if they test positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. In a newsletter sent Tuesday night to MSU faculty, Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw said it was "more cost-efficient" for the university to rent the Comfort Suites on Russell Street and the Hampton Inn on Blackjack Road than to set aside residence halls. The two hotels have a combined total of 155 rooms. "These are ideal facilities for this purpose, since they have independent rooms with dedicated bathrooms for each person," Shaw said. The rental of the hotels is the latest development in MSU's plan to bring students back to campus this month. Safety measures include requiring protective face coverings, monitoring students' temperatures and enforcing social distancing in classrooms. Students will begin moving into residence halls on Friday. Each student will receive a bag of personal protective equipment upon arrival, including disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and a face mask.
IMMS doctors work to save an endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtle
Kemp's Ridley sea turtles make their home in the Gulf of Mexico with the vast majority of this endangered species living in the Mississippi Sound. A team of experts at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies worked to save one of these rare turtles and possibly generations to come. It was all hands-on deck at the IMMS in Gulfport as they worked to find just exactly where the hook was embedded and what should be done about it. Veterinarian Dr. Debra Moore said, "It's important to get this hook out because, as you can imagine, for a turtle, with a hook in there, that's a major problem and obstacle for food passage. We had a specialist come down from Mississippi State University who is an Internal Medicine Specialist. He is helping us to retrieve the hook." MSU Veterinarian Dr. John Thomason said, "The most minimally invasive way to do that is through the endoscope. We are trying to do that so we can release the turtle back into the Gulf."
Starkville Utilities warns of scam artists
Starkville Utilities is urging customers, especially the elderly and handicapped, to be aware of people posing as utility employees with the apparent motive to rob or swindle them. Last week an individual posing as a Starkville Utilities representative attempted to collect payment for an electric bill at a customer's house. The utility is also aware of situations where customers receive calls from individuals threatening to disconnect their electric service unless payment information is provided over the telephone. "We see this sort of thing every year about this time," said Terry Kemp, general manager for Starkville Utilities. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen scammers become more creative and aggressive. The only way to protect yourself is to be vigilant, stay informed and guard your personal information."
New workforce initiative to help Mississippi workers, employers
A new program announced by Gov. Tate Reeves, dubbed the ReSkill Mississippi initiative, or ReSkillMS, is designed to help ease the economic burden and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 on the state's workforce. Mississippians who lost their jobs or had severe cutbacks and went on unemployment due to COVID-19 now have the opportunity to receive skills training at Mississippi community colleges to change jobs into high demand careers. ReSkillMS was created as a result of the Governor's Commission on Economic Recovery's recommendation that significant dollars from the CARES Act recovery funds be used for workforce training to help lift the economic burden on our workforce from COVID-19. The State Workforce Investment Board, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and Mississippi's four local workforce areas collaborated to develop the program to allow Mississippians out-of-work or those working reduced hours to "re-skill" in order to fill high-demand, high-paying jobs across the state. "This program can have a major difference in the lives of Mississippians and in building a stronger economy in our state for the demands of tomorrow's world," said SWIB Chairman Patrick Sullivan.
Gov. Tate Reeves launches 'ReSkill' program for workers impacted by pandemic
Governor Tate Reeves is discussing the latest on the state's COVID-19 response. Tuesday, Reeves pushed back the start of schools in certain hot spots, while also issuing a statewide mask mandate. Wednesday, Reeves announced the launch of workforce training for workplaces impacted by COVID-19. The ReSkill Mississippi Initiative is designed to help the economic issues brought on by the pandemic. Mississippians who lost their jobs will have the opportunity to go through skills training at Mississippi community colleges. The program will use $55 million from the CARES Act. "ReSkill Mississippi is an effort to utilize CARES Act funds to not only get Mississippians back to work, but to get them skills training that will help them work in even better jobs than they may have had before COVID-19," Reeves said.
State starts job training program for workers who lost jobs due to COVID-19
With COVID-19 cases still surging in Mississippi, help may be on the way for workers who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday during his press briefing the launch of the ReSkill Mississippi initiative to train unemployed workers at community colleges for skilled jobs. Reeves said the future in the state is for skilled workers and those workers could end up with higher paying jobs. Reeves said ReSkillMS was created as a result of the Governor's Commission on Economic Recovery's recommendation. Individuals and employers interested in the program should go to to fill out a survey. If individuals have not heard from anyone within seven days of submitting an application, they can email to follow up.
Schools begin to reopen as Mississippi becomes first in test positivity rate
As schools across Mississippi begin reopening this week, the state now has the highest test positivity rate in the nation with a weekly average of 25.8%, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That means more than one-fourth of all people who are tested in the state are positive for COVID-19. Mississippi also has the fifth highest recorded case count per 100,000 residents in the country behind Louisiana, Arizona, Florida and New York, according to CNN's COVID-19 tracking data. The state currently has 2,131 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. Reeves said during a press conference on Tuesday that 51 of the state's 144 districts plan to reopen. Reeves advised, however, that school districts should strongly consider amending their own plans, particularly for grades 7-12, to reopen eight to 12 days from Tuesday to "give us the time hopefully for the number of cases to decline." Corinth School District, the first in the state to reopen on July 27, has already confirmed positive COVID-19 cases at each of its three campuses in the first week and a half of classes.
Mississippi schools not required to disclose COVID outbreaks
A Mississippi school district that has seen a handful of coronavirus cases among students since reopening for in-person classes last week is doing a good job of being transparent with the public, the governor and the state's top health official said Wednesday. The Corinth School District has reported six cases since July 27. More than 100 students are quarantined, according to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. He described the district as a "model" of how school districts should respond to the pandemic. The district has been posting daily updates on its Facebook page after receiving positive test results. However, Dobbs and Reeves said during a news conference that the state has no requirement for districts to release information to the public when schools have outbreaks. "I commend Corinth and their leadership for doing that. They aren't trying to hide anything. They're being very transparent," Reeves said.
Mississippi physicians release school reopening recommendations
The Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Mississippi State Medical Association are voicing their concerns for the health of students, teachers and staff as schools prepare to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Anita Henderson, a Hattiesburg Clinic pediatrician and president-elect of the Mississippi AAP, is one of the Mississippi doctors behind a set of recommendations for schools to open safely. The first suggestion: delay reopening until after Sept. 1. "The reason we came out with those recommendations right now is we are seeing extremely high cases of coronavirus in the community, and we are also seeing no access to hospital beds and ICU beds," Henderson said. Henderson said testing is another reason for the suggested delay. "We are having trouble with testing, having the turn around time being four to seven days in some situation," Henderson said. "So, lack of rapid testing along with high cases in the community right now makes us feel that opening school right now is unsafe."
UMMC ICU beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients, hospital leader says
A University of Mississippi Medical Center leader said Wednesday that the intensive care unit at the hospital is overflowing because of COVID-19. UMMC Vice Chancellor Dr. LouAnn Woodward said presently the hospital is at -14 for ICU beds, meaning that they were 14 COVID-19 patients who need to be in the ICU but are being treated as ICU patients in other parts of the hospital. She said the hospital is in line to lose somewhere between $60 million and $100 million for the fiscal year. Those latest numbers should be out in the next couple of weeks. Woodward said she is concerned about the physical and mental strain on hospital staff and the fact that there are no others critical care experts that can be brought in because of the demand across the country.
What does Mississippi's COVID-19 spike mean for Memphis?
Mississippi is now one of the country's COVID-19 hot spots, with one of the highest rates of cases per capita in the nation. As cases and positivity rates in Mississippi continue to increase, Shelby County medical experts say the effects will cross the border and impact Memphis-area hospitals. Statewide, Mississippi averaged a 23.3% positivity rate and 1.7 tests per 1,000 people over the past week, the highest in the country, according to hospital trade publication Becker's Hospital Review. As cases continue to spike across Mississippi, the impacts of a steeply rising case rate -- including increasing hospitalizations and more deaths -- will likely be felt across the Mid-South as Shelby County continues to see steadily climbing new COVID-19 cases. David Sweat, chief of epidemiology for the Shelby County Health Department, said he monitors what happens in the jurisdictions surrounding Shelby County, but all the health department can do is try to coordinate with those counties.
Mississippi House leaders sue governor over partial vetoes
The two top leaders of the Mississippi House are suing Gov. Tate Reeves over his partial veto of some state budget bills, setting up another conflict among some of the state's top Republicans. House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White, who are both in the GOP, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Hinds County Chancery Court. The lawsuit says the Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled in multiple cases that the state constitution prohibits a governor from vetoing a portion of a budget bill. Reeves lashed out at legislators for filing a lawsuit. "There's a small group in the House that only wants to pick fights with me -- some liberal Republicans who've joined forces with liberal House Dems," Reeves wrote Wednesday on Twitter. On July 8, Reeves vetoed parts of two bills to fund state government programs for the year that began July 1.
Gov. Tate Reeves says GOP lawmakers are suing him because he vetoed 'payoffs for friends'
House Speaker Philip Gunn and Pro Tem Jason White filed a lawsuit in Hinds County Chancery Court Wednesday afternoon challenging the constitutionality of partial vetoes issued by Gov. Tate Reeves of two bills lawmakers passed earlier this year. The lawsuit filed by Gunn and White -- the two most powerful leaders in the House -- regarded bills they championed and passed earlier this year that funded the state's public education operations and provided federal coronavirus relief money to health care providers. Reeves blasted the lawsuit on social media on Wednesday and addressed it at a press conference. In a Facebook post, he said he had vetoed "payoffs for friends of favored House members." He called the lawsuit a "power grab by some members of the House" and said much of his vetoing was to protect taxpayers from "pet projects stuck in a bill by a legislator" and "earmarks." Reeves accused the Republican-led House of letting "liberal Republicans" and Democrats run the show. He said he's already heard from some Republican lawmakers opposed to the leadership's lawsuit.
House Republican leaders file suit against Gov. Reeves over partial vetoes
State Reps. Philip Gunn and Jason White, two Republican leaders in the Mississippi House of Representatives, filed a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday evening claiming that the first-term Republican governor unconstitutionally vetoed portions of budget bills for various statewide agencies. Last month, Gov. Tate Reeves partially vetoed the Mississippi Department of Education's budget because legislators removed funds for an education performance program. The state's constitution does allow the governor to use a line-item veto for appropriation bills, but state courts have previously ruled that there are limits to how the governor can use the line-item veto power. The lawsuit, which was filed in Hinds County Chancery Court, draws upon these previous rulings of the Mississippi Supreme Court, in which the state's highest court ruled in favor of the Legislature.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves: Doctrine shielding police from lawsuits is wrong
A federal judge in Mississippi has issued a sharply worded ruling that calls on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the principle of qualified immunity, which protects law enforcement officers from being sued for some of their actions. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that Clarence Jamison, a Black resident of Neeses, South Carolina, filed against a white Mississippi police officer, Nick McClendon. The lawsuit said McClendon used Jamison's race as a "motivating factor" for pulling McClendon over in traffic and searching his car. In dismissing the case, Reeves cited court precedents on qualified immunity, but he wrote that the principle has shielded officers who violate people's constitutional rights. "The Constitution says everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law --- even at the hands of law enforcement," Reeves wrote. "Over the decades, however, judges have invented a legal doctrine to protect law enforcement officers from having to face any consequences for wrongdoing. The doctrine is called 'qualified immunity.' In real life it operates like absolute immunity."
Wicker, Hyde-Smith, Palazzo Announce $30M in Aid for U.S. Shrimp Industry
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has authorized the purchase of up to $30 million in U.S.-produced shrimp for distribution to community food and nutrition programs nationwide. The announcement comes after the Mississippi lawmakers sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that he use his authority to purchase and distribute Gulf seafood to those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. Recently-enacted legislation, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, includes additional support for USDA programs that provide food to distressed communities. "For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced they will be purchasing U.S.-produced shrimp to distribute to communities in need," Wicker said. The Section 32 shrimp purchase is the latest significant action of importance to Mississippi. In May, the USDA agreed to purchase $30 million in farm-raised catfish products for distribution to food banks and community support programs.
Support Grows for Doubling AmeriCorps
Top Democratic and Republican senators are endorsing a proposal that would double the number of AmeriCorps positions nationally. Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri who chairs the education appropriations subcommittee, and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second highest-ranking Democrat, endorsed the proposal Wednesday. The bipartisan proposal is being pushed by Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, and Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi. The senators said in a press release they are trying to get the bill included in the coronavirus relief package Congress is struggling to pass this week. Under the proposal, the number of AmeriCorps positions would double to 150,000 the first year and grow to 250,000 the third year.
More Farmers Declare Bankruptcy Despite Record Levels of Federal Aid
More U.S. farmers are filing for bankruptcy, as federal payments projected to reach record levels this year fall short of compensating for the coronavirus pandemic and a yearslong slump in the agricultural economy. About 580 farmers filed for chapter 12 bankruptcy protection in the 12-month period ended June 30, according to federal data. That was 8% more than a year earlier, though bankruptcies slowed slightly in the first half of 2020 partly because of an infusion of federal aid and hurdles to filing during the pandemic, according to agricultural economists and attorneys. The pandemic has pressured prices for many commodities, squeezing farmers who raise crops and livestock, and prolonging a six-year downturn in the Farm Belt. The Trump administration is expected to dole out a record $33 billion in payments to farmers this year, according to the University of Missouri's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute. The funds, including those intended to help farmers hurt by trade conflicts and the coronavirus, would push government payments to 36% of farm income, the highest share in nearly two decades, the institute said.
Democrats, White House negotiators search for virus relief deal as President Trump threatens to take unilateral steps
Trump administration negotiators and top congressional Democrats are up against a self-imposed deadline to make a deal on a new coronavirus relief bill, with a potentially critical meeting set for Thursday evening that could determine whether an agreement is possible. Pressure for a deal is only increasing as some 30 million jobless workers remain without emergency unemployment benefits that expired last week. A moratorium on evictions also recently expired. Meanwhile, a new report on jobless claims on Thursday found that 1.2 million Americans filed jobless claims last week, the 20th straight week more than 1 million people have sought aid. Despite the weak economic conditions and the continued spread of the pandemic, a compromise looks distant after days of negotiating. Although Democrats suggested they were making progress, albeit slowly, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows declared Wednesday evening that the two sides remained "trillions of dollars apart" and renewed his threat that President Trump would take executive actions on a handful of issues absent an agreement.
Experts held 'war games' on the Trump vs. Biden election. Their finding? Brace for a mess
They met virtually on Zoom, four days over two weeks in June, to hold simulations known in the military and intelligence communities as "war games." There were 67 players -- many of them high-profile critics of President Donald Trump -- including law professors, retired military officers, former senior U.S. officials, political strategists and attorneys. Instead of mapping out a geopolitical conflict, the group peered ahead to the Nov. 3 election, now less than 90 days away, and explored how the race between Trump and Joe Biden could turn into a post-election crisis. John Podesta, a former top aide to President Barack Obama and President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, played Biden. Two outspoken Republican critics of Trump, David Frum and Bill Kristol, portrayed the president. After gaming out various scenarios, the group said its conclusions were "alarming:" In an election taking place amid a pandemic, a recession and rising political polarization, the group found a substantial risk of legal battles, a contested outcome, violent street clashes and even a constitutional impasse.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: It's 'entirely conceivable' we could be 'way down' on level of cases by November
Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said early Thursday that he believes coronavirus cases could be "way down" by the time the elections come in the first week of November. "It's up to us. It's really in our hands. I really do believe based on the data we see in other countries and in the United States, in states and cities and counties that have done it correctly, that if we pay attention to the fundamental tenets of infection control and diminution of transmission, we could be way down in November. It is entirely conceivable," Fauci said on CNN's "New Day." "It isn't inevitable that we need to be way up there as we get towards [the] election. And I feel that very strongly, if we do things correctly, and we start right now to do that. Everyone, all states, cities, have to pull together to do that." Concerns over the pandemic are also looming large ahead of the November elections, with 58 percent of registered voters saying in a Politico-Morning Consult poll released Wednesday that they are "very" or "somewhat" concerned about voting in person, while only 38 percent said they are "not that concerned" or "not concerned at all."
As More Lawmakers Test Positive, Congress Gets A Tough Reminder Of Coronavirus Risk
Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva is nervous. Last week, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee tested positive for COVID-19 in the latest outbreak on Capitol Hill. "You get scared, your family gets scared," he said from his Washington, D.C., home, where he is now quarantining. "If you're not afraid of this disease, there's something fundamentally wrong." In a matter of one week, three members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus illness: Grijalva, Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert and Illinois Republican Rep. Rodney Davis. Gohmert and Davis also said they are asymptomatic. The latest outbreak is a reminder of the risks for Capitol Hill, as members continue to meet in an attempt to negotiate a new wave of aid to address the coronavirus. Unlike regular, widespread testing programs at workplaces from the White House to the NBA, Congress is going without. So far, Congress has seen about 100 cases among its members and workers, including more than a dozen lawmakers.
Ole Miss student completes summer internship online
College students across the world have had to change their summer plans due to COVID-19. This is especially true for James Hirsch, who spent his summer interning online. Hirsch, a junior at Ole Miss, interned for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Washington D.C. as part of their Leadership and the American Presidency program. He is one of the first students in Public Policy Leadership and in the Lott Leadership Institute to be a part of this internship. "This summer was the first time a Lott/PPL student has attended the Ronald Reagan Institute and Foundation Leadership and the American Presidency program," Hirsch said. "I'm proud to be the co-inaugural nominee from the Lott Institute." Like many students this year, Hirsch has had to face a lot of changes due to COVID. One of those changes included having to do school work online and adjusting to life off campus. "Although I terribly missed being on campus this spring, and recognize many students had trouble accessing support systems and succeeding in an online environment, I found my adjustment to online classes rather smooth," Hirsch said.
USM students start staggered move-ins for on-campus living during pandemic
About 2,900 of the14,000 students enrolled at The University of Southern Mississippi's Hattiesburg campus began moving into dorms Wednesday and will continue through Aug. 17. Fraternity and sorority members moved onto campus this past weekend. As classes begin Aug. 17, only about 25% of the university's courses will be held in a traditional face-to-face format, USM Media Relations Specialist Margaret Ann Macloud said. The university staggered move-in dates to spread out the number of students moving in said Sirena Cantrell, associate vice president and dean of students at USM. "We are social distancing," Cantrell said. "We are asking people to wear masks, and we are on a schedule and we only have so many students coming at a time with their family members to try to keep people rotating in and out." The university implemented staggered move-ins and other measures, such as moving courses online as part of its response to coronavirus.
New York forces local student to spend 14 days in quarantine with mom before entering college
In any other year, Alex Dale would have been exploring his new-found freedom on an unfamiliar college campus with a new set of friends. But 2020 has been anything but usual and -- at least for the first 14 days -- has been anything but free for the Cathedral graduate. Dale hasn't had the traditional experience of moving into a college dorm amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In preparation for his first semester at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, Alex and his mom, Lisa Jordan Dale, have been going through a 14-day quarantine that started as soon as they crossed the state line on Thursday, Lisa said. "The reality of it is it's very confining," she said. "We rented a house on a lake instead of a hotel room ... so we have a beautiful view but we received emails from the state of New York that gave us our rules to follow." Mississippi, which is now one of the top growing states for COVID-19 cases in the nation, has been designated a hot spot and any travelers to New York from hot spots are given strict rules to follow. Not completing intake forms before entering the state is punishable with a $2,000 fine and violating quarantine rules is punishable with a $10,000 fine and up to 15 days in jail, Lisa said.
U. of Alabama strips racist's name from campus building
Nott Hall is no more. When students return to the University of Alabama, the building once named for a doctor who felt African Americans were an inferior race, will be known as "Honors Hall." The UA System board of trustees on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve the first of the recommendations to change the names of campus buildings named long ago. The resolution came from a working group appointed in June to examine the names of buildings. Honors Hall, which houses the Honors College, is not the permanent name of the structure that originally opened in 1923. It is located on the east side of the Quad of the UA campus. Trustee John England read the resolution in the special meeting called for Wednesday afternoon. "Our group found that Josiah Nott, who supported slavery, misused medical evidence to argue that non-white races were inferior and that my ancestors, like scores of others, were destined for destruction," said England, who is Black. "Of course," he continued, "I'm still here."
Alabama plans for 450 beds to isolate COVID-positive students
As students begin to return to the University of Alabama campus, the school moved to empty dorm rooms to isolate those infected with the coronavirus. The UA board of trustees voted Wednesday to spend $1.2 million renting 252 apartment beds in the Lofts at City Center to free up space on campus. The plan is to isolate students who live on campus in apartment-style dorms at Bryce Lawn and The Highlands. This leaves 450 beds for those on-campus students who test positive after arriving. "We felt Bryce Lawn and the Highlands were best-suited to isolate students that were positive with COVID because of the apartment-style spaces with refrigerators and cooking spaces," said Matthew M. Fajack, vice president for the division of finance and operations. "And that they are on campus so it will be easier to deliver them meals and provide other services including medical services to those students."
U. of Kentucky funds institute for Black studies, pledges $10M to research
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto announced Wednesday the funding of an institute devoted to researching race and racism, while simultaneously committing the university to a multimillion-dollar investment in research on racial disparity and inequity. The university is committing $10 million over five years to research into racial disparities in a wide range of fields, from history to health, according to the announcement Wednesday. The UNITed In racial Equity Research Initiative --- also called UNITE --- will focus first on research into social and racial injustice; health disparities that may be caused by race; and the "promotion of health equity across races, ethnicities and genders," the university said. Additionally, Capilouto, with the university's African American and Africana Studies Program, announced that the university will put $250,000 into the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies. Support for the institute was among 10 demands that AAAS faculty sent to Capilouto in late June.
U. of Kentucky account, student organization clash on Twitter over reopening plans
As the University of Kentucky concluded its second day of COVID-19 testing for returning students, UK's official Twitter account engaged in a Twitter exchange with a newly-formed group that caught the attention of many and drew backlash against the university from some community members. Around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16, student-led organization Movement for Black Lives UKY posted a Twitter thread questioning UK's reopening plan, in particular the COVID testing strategy. In the thread, the student group alleged that UK is not taking the safety of the entire campus as seriously as they should, since they aren't requiring testing for faculty and staff, reducing class sizes or addressing deeper issues. In several Tweets, they added that UK seemed more focused on money than their students. UK's official Twitter responded to MBL's thread an hour later, defending their COVID testing plan. Movement for Black Lives UKY said in a statement that the way UK presented itself publicly on Twitter Tuesday afternoon resembles the attitude they've come to expect from the institution behind closed doors.
UGA president, university system chancellor defend reopening plans criticized by faculty
University of Georgia President Jere Morehead and University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley defended UGA and university system re-opening plans in letters to UGA faculty groups Tuesday. The faculty senates of the Mary Frances Early College of Education and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences last week adopted resolutions questioning those plans and saying some aspects could even be life-threatening. UGA has spent millions of dollars on safety measures, including more than 2,000 Plexiglas barriers being installed on campus, buying 60,000 digital thermometers and 150,000 face coverings, Morehead noted. UGA plans to conduct 24,000 COVID-19 tests on volunteer students, faculty and staff by Thanksgiving, he said, averaging 300 a day. Morehead's letter also said that the two faculty senates are not the proper bodies "for providing formal input on institutional matters." That authority "clearly rests with the University Council," Morehead wrote.
Nasal swabs for coronavirus testing can be a pain. LSU researchers are working on an alternative
Rebecca Christofferson knows testing for the coronavirus with a nasal swab is uncomfortable. But mass testing is essential for Louisiana and the U.S. to overcome the virus. So Christofferson and fellow LSU researcher Stephania Cormier decided to try and find a better way. They've come up with a saliva-based coronavirus test they hope could help track the spread. "When the data started coming out about saliva, Steph was really just like, 'We could do this,'" Christofferson said. "We started looking at the necessary components that we needed to get together to develop our own version of this test." Christofferson is an assistant professor at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Pathobiological Sciences, and Cormier is a respiratory immunologist and Wiener Chair Professor in the LSU Department of Biological Sciences and the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center Christofferson said Cormier got the idea for the saliva test after seeing studies from Rutgers University and Yale University showing that saliva-based testing could be just as accurate as the uncomfortable nasal swabs.
U. of Florida departments make plans for faculty sickness, social distancing in Fall
University faculty and staff across the nation have died as a result of COVID-19: a law professor from Howard University, a custodian from the University of Texas at Austin and others. While no employees from the University of Florida have died, Alachua County's COVID-19 death rate continues to grow. The Alligator reached out to 97 UF departments and 16 colleges to find out their plans should a university employee die of COVID-19 and how they will adapt if staff gets sick. UF will not change its operations or course of action if a student or member of faculty dies of COVID-19, according to UF Spokesperson Steve Orlando. John Arthington, the chair of the animal sciences department, said if a professor in the department gets sick, another professor will take over their course. They will use a buddy system to pair with each other based on how well they can cover each other's class material. If multiple faculty members get sick, fewer and fewer professors will be responsible for more and more work. The department chairs said they plan to dip into their pools of adjunct faculty or doctoral students if faculty get overwhelmed.
U. of Missouri makes SAT and ACT optional for 2021
Following the lead of the Kansas City campus, the University of Missouri announced Wednesday that standardized entrance exams will be optional for applicants to its campuses for the fall 2021 semester. In January, UMKC announced it would no longer require SAT or ACT scores as part of an undergraduate application. The decision Wednesday does not apply to students who wish to be admitted this fall. "We recognize COVID-19 and the limited accessibility and availability of standardized tests nationwide present stress and challenges for applicants," UM System President Mun Choi said in a news release. "This temporary policy will eliminate a hurdle created by the pandemic. Applications will still be thoroughly reviewed and must meet our institutional standards for academic excellence." Students may still choose to submit ACT or SAT scores, and the admissions requirements and review process for those applicants will remain unchanged, the release stated. Those who do not submit scores will have their applications judged based GPA, class rank, academic course load, rigor of coursework, extracurricular and leadership activities, letters of recommendation and personal essays.
'Nothing Feels Tangible': Virtual Is New Reality For Grads Starting New Jobs
Across the board, from entry-level jobs to paid internships, the prospects for new college graduates have plummeted during the pandemic. Job postings for entry-level positions that are popular with new college graduates fell by 73%, compared with before COVID-19 hit, according to Julia Pollak, a labor economist with the job site ZipRecruiter. Openings for internships are especially scarce. The internships popular among college students and new graduates are down 83%, Pollak says. Still, Pollak says, even among the wreckage in the job market it's not entirely hopeless: "Even in a crisis there are companies hiring; 18 million postings since COVID struck ... 3 million people are being hired each month or roundabout." But for those members of the class of 2020 who have landed jobs it has often been a strange journey. The now familiar Zoom and Skype interviews are just one dimension to the virtual experience. Some job candidates record themselves on video, answering questions and send their responses to the prospective employer.
Its Local Health Department Urged a Virtual Fall. UNC Is Reopening Anyway.
he Orange County, N.C., health department asked the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last week to move the campus online for the fall semester, but the university has declined to take the health department's recommendations, moving forward with in-person operations. "If students begin to move back on campus next week, we could quickly become a hot spot for new cases, as thousands of students from all across the country/world merge onto the UNC campus," wrote Quintana Stewart, Orange County's health director, in a memo to UNC's chancellor, provost, and vice chancellor, dated July 29. Stewart's major recommendations were for the university to restrict on-campus housing only to those students who need it most, so that everyone can have a single room, and for the university to hold all classes online for the fall. Barring a move to a virtual fall, Stewart recommended the university teach online-only for the first five weeks of the semester to give the department and university additional time to monitor the coronavirus's spread after students' return. The UNC system has said it would move as one regarding whether campuses are open for in-person instruction; across the system, campuses are welcoming students back.
Liberty University president apologizes for unzipped pants photo: 'I'm gonna try to be a good boy'
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said on Wednesday that he had apologized for posting a photo of him in unzipped pants and arm around a woman -- but also defended the incident as a vacation "costume party" that was "just in good fun." The now-deleted photo showed Falwell, a leading evangelical supporter of President Donald Trump, with his pants unzipped and his underwear showing beneath, while he had one arm around a woman whose shorts also appeared to be unbuttoned and his other holding a glass with a dark-colored liquid. The photo appeared to be on board a yacht. The posting -- which was quickly withdrawn -- drew a sharp backlash and charges of hypocrisy because the evangelical university that he leads prohibits students from having sexual relations outside of a "biblically-ordained" marriage and consuming media with lewd lyrics, sexual content and nudity. The university's policy also counsels "appropriateness" and "modesty" in how students must dress. The photo of Falwell appeared to be a parody of the comedy TV show "Trailer Park Boys."

What Mike Leach's first-year offenses at Washington State and Texas Tech forecast for Mississippi State in 2020
Following the Southeastern Conference's official announcement Tuesday, we're now officially 11 days from the opening of fall camp despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And while it remains to be seen whether medical issues force the season to be postponed or canceled for the umpteenth time this summer, we're at least hypothetically nearing a first look at coach Mike Leach's inaugural offense in Starkville. Entering a year in which spring practices were washed out due to COVID-19 concerns, the lack of on-field practice time shouldn't cause as many install issues as might be consistent with first-year coaching staffs and their new programs. For one, Leach's offense has long been lauded for its simplicity. Earlier this spring, former Washington State quarterback Connor Neville -- who transferred to East Mississippi Community College after the 2018 season and will next head to Northern Illinois -- explained how the system is built to develop players who might not be as highly recruited or as talented as what Leach will boast in Starkville. "He knows how to use the not super-hyped guys and the two-stars and whatnot and create a positive environment and make a great team out of those guys," Neville told The Dispatch.
Analysis: With Robert Woodard II turning pro, what's the roster outlook for Mississippi State men's basketball?
The final domino fell regarding the Mississippi State men's basketball team's roster outlook on Monday. Columbus native Robert Woodard II decided to stay in the NBA draft, leaving the Bulldogs with the tall task of replacing their top four scorers from a season ago. Nine players in total departed a 20-win MSU team from a year ago that never got to finish its season, whether it be to turn pro or transfer, but coach Ben Howland and his staff have completed a lengthy roster reconstruction in preparation for the upcoming season. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play the toughest nonconference schedule they've ever had in the Ben Howland era, with matchups against Dayton, Clemson, Minnesota and others looming. Of course, your daily disclaimer of COVID-19 potentially screwing that up applies here, too. While supremely talented, the 2019-2020 Bulldogs didn't use many players in their rotation, going nine men deep at their deepest points then trimming that to seven or eight by midseason. It remains to be seen how many players Howland plans on giving significant minutes to this upcoming year.
As most delay or cancel football, Mississippi private schools will play ball soon
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Mississippi currently has the highest COVID-19 positivity rate in the U.S., but the state's private high schools plan to play organized football on August 13, a week from Thursday. The Mid-South Association of Independent Schools (MAIS), the governing body of Mississippi private schools, will open its regular season on Thursday, August 20, but several private school teams around the state are scheduled to be involved in football jamborees with multiple teams August 13 and 14. Said Shane Blanton, MAIS executive director in a phone conversation Wednesday morning: "We're excited to get started. We think we have a very good plan. We're trying our best to do what's right for our children." Mississippi's public high schools have delayed the start of the football season until Sept. 4. The Southeastern Conference has delayed its start until Sept. 26. The Southwestern Athletic Conference has postponed football season until the spring.
Southern Miss football returns to practice amid COVID-19 restrictions
It's not the football that's different. It's the hydration station. Southern Miss began its fall football camp on Wednesday morning, becoming one of the first Division I colleges in the southeast to return to full-speed practice after a spring and summer that was drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you ask senior quarterback Jack Abraham, everything felt pretty normal from sideline to sideline. Coming off the field is when the differences started to feel a little more noticeable. "Nothing about the actual football side of things is different," Abraham told reporters on an after-practice Zoom call Wednesday. "We can't go up to the water cow and just douse ourselves in water. We've got little pumps and we have to individually go up there and get our own water. There's obviously different little safety precautions. But we just want to go out there and play ball." Such is the landscape of major college football in a coronavirus-infected world. Players are subject to coronavirus testing and are required to wear masks and socially distance when they're off the field. They can't share water nozzles like they're accustomed to. But practices in the sticky heat of a mid-morning in August in Hattiesburg must go on.
College Football Playoff delays final rankings; semifinals still scheduled for Jan. 1
The College Football Playoff will release its final rankings this season Dec. 20, executive director Bill Hancock announced Wednesday, delaying selections until the completion of conference championship games. The selection committee intended to make its picks Dec. 6 for the New Year's Six bowl games, including the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, but conferences have rescheduled their championship games because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Southeastern Conference, for example, won't play its title game until Dec. 19 as part of a league-only, 10-game schedule. Though the selections will occur two weeks later than planned, the CFP said playoff semifinal games will still be played Jan. 1 with the national championship held Jan. 11. The Sugar Bowl hosts one of the semifinals this season. "The selection committee members understand the need to be flexible as we all navigate uncharted waters this season, and this move will allow them to evaluate all the available information," Hancock said in a statement.
New NCAA policy will allow athletes who 'opt-out' to keep scholarships
The NCAA Board of Governors on Wednesday released several new guidelines for fall sports related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Most notably, players who choose to "opt-out" of the 2020 fall season due to COVID-19 concerns will be able to keep their scholarships. A number of top-level football players, including Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons have opted out already. "The first and most important consideration is whether sports can be conducted safely for college athletes," said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and University of California system president. "Each division must examine whether it has the resources available to take the required precautions given the spread of COVID-19." In addition, the NCAA has established a COVID-19 "hotline" phone number and email address so that student-athletes can report alleged violations and abuses of "return to play" legislation. It was reported Tuesday that several Colorado State football players and staffers were concerned the team was bending or ignoring such rules.
From #WeAreUnited to COVID-19 whistleblowing, college athletes are raising their voices like rarely before
The issues have been simmering in college sports for decades -- festering cracks in the foundation of a multi-billion dollar industry. Athletes have long had concerns about their health and well-being. They've long questioned a financial model that bars them from receiving outside income. They've long shown passion for issues of racial injustice and inequality. Yet in the past few months -- and, in particular, the past week -- athletes have raised their collective voices to address these issues like rarely before, fueled by health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and a belief that unity can lead to structural change. Over the past four days alone, a group of Pac-12 football players have published a list of demands and threatened to opt out of the upcoming season if they are not met. Zachary Carter, a defensive lineman at Florida, is among dozens of players outside the Pac-12 who have been amplifying the movement on social media. He told USA TODAY Sports he is trying to inform other college football players, including those at Florida and other Southeastern Conference schools, about the Pac-12 group's core issues -- safety and health during a pandemic, racial justice and compensation for players.
Penn State announces no fans at fall sporting events, including football
Beaver Stadium will have a different feel when Penn State takes the field on Sept. 5 for its season opening game against Northwestern. In a letter from Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics, Sandy Barbour stated under the current conditions and current state orders, fall sporting events will be played without fans in general seating. Barbour said Penn State is continuing to develop a plan should the conditions and orders be revised in order to accommodate spectators at sporting events. Barbour also stated Penn State is expecting revenue losses in the "high eight figures" which would reach "nine figures in the case of no competition."
Athletes call on leaders to make right decision about fall season
It became clear ​to Randy Edsall this week that it was not feasible for the University of Connecticut football team to play during the 2020-21 academic year. Twenty-two players had missed workouts over the last month due to suspected symptoms of coronavirus infections or possible exposure to those thought to be infected, said Edsall, the head coach. The UConn football program has not confirmed that any athlete tested positive for the virus, unlike many other colleges that have reported cases in recent weeks, Edsall said on a conference call with reporters Aug. 5. But the mere suspicion that players had been exposed to COVID-19 was enough to send them into multiday quarantines. With this in mind, the athletic department announced it would cancel football this year and became the first team in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, or FBS, which includes the top teams in the nation, to make such a decision. UConn's choice is not reflective of other Division I programs. In fact, the institution currently stands alone among its peers in making such an early and unequivocal decision. But the decision to cancel may have come easier to UConn, whose football team is currently not affiliated with a conference and has lately experienced financial losses, said Nick Schlereth, a recreation and sport management professor at Coastal Carolina University who studies cash flow in collegiate athletics.

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