Thursday, August 13, 2020   
Mississippi State University-led coalition receives $3.3 million grant to research drone use during emergencies
A Mississippi State-led alliance with the goal of continuing the safe and successful integration of drones into the nation's airspace is gaining $3.3 million in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration. Mississippi State is the lead university for the FAA's Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, or ASSURE. The coalition includes 25 renowned research universities and more than 100 additional government and industry partners. Additionally, MSU's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory recently was designated as the FAA's UAS Safety Research Facility, placing the research center at the helm of studying and developing safety and certification standards as UAS become increasingly integrated in the U.S. airspace. "Mississippi State is extremely proud to be leading an amazing group of researchers from across the U.S. and around the world, safely integrating this exciting new technology into our everyday lives," said ASSURE Executive Director Steve "Lux" Luxion.
Medieval DNA suggests Columbus didn't trigger syphilis epidemic in Europe
In the late 1400s, a terrifying disease erupted in Europe, leaving victims with bursting boils and rotting flesh. The syphilis epidemic raged across the continent, killing up to 5 million people. For centuries, historians, and archaeologists have debated the origin of the disease, with some blaming Christopher Columbus and his crew for bringing it back from the Americas. Now, using DNA of the pathogen extracted from the remains of nine Europeans, researchers have found evidence that the epidemic was homegrown: Diverse syphilis strains were circulating in Europe, perhaps decades before Columbus's voyages. Now, a team of scientists has examined nine skeletons with suspected syphilis from five archaeological sites in Finland, Estonia, and the Netherlands. The researchers ground the bones into powder and analyzed it for signs of Treponemal DNA, which is notoriously difficult to recover because the bacterium is present only in small amounts and decomposes quickly. Molly Zuckerman, a bioarchaeologist at Mississippi State University who studies ancient Treponemal disease, praises the researchers' feat of extracting Treponemal DNA, but notes that the sample date ranges are wide and can't fully disprove the Columbus hypothesis. "This paper does not provide that kind of golden prize of evidence of syphilis in the pre-Columbian period in the Old World."
Water park sues Oktibbeha County for not maintaining lake dam
Starkville water park Wet N Wild has sued Oktibbeha County for breach of contact, alleging county officials' failure to maintain the Oktibbeha Lake dam's levee violated its lease with the park. Starkville attorney Charles Winfield filed the suit on behalf of Wet N Wild in the county circuit court Tuesday. The company is asking for a jury trial to award what they claim is more than $1 million in damages and for a court order to direct county employees to repair damage to the levee and share control of the levee and spillways with Wet N Wild. Wet N Wild and its members Richard and Mary Stansbury have leased about 550 acres of 16th Section Land, including property around the lake, from Oktibbeha County and Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District in order to the build the park and recreational facility, according to the complaint. As part of the agreements, the county was responsible for the upkeep of the levee and the spillway but would share control of the spillway operation. Board of supervisors attorney Rob Roberson told The Dispatch he had not had a chance to look at the complaint yet, but that he has instructed County Administrator Emily Garrard to send it on to the county's insurance company and has plans to meet with Winfield later this week. "We set up a time to meet sometime this week for breakfast," Roberson said. "We're just going to talk. But past that, I haven't gotten past the first paragraph (of the complaint)."
No Fair! COVID-19 Disrupts Tradition and County Revenue
Percy L. Lewis III was especially looking forward to this year's Neshoba County Fair, an annual Mississippi event where he races his horses and carries forward a family tradition. At 42, Lewis has been riding horses since he was 5 or 6 years old. Growing up, Lewis, his brother and a childhood friend would race on a local dirt road. As adults, they decided they wanted to race on a track. It seemed like as soon as they did, Lewis' friend was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. "We was talking about it but then, after, he passed away," Lewis said. "I just went on. I did it for him." This would have been Lewis' third year racing on the Neshoba County Fair track near Philadelphia, Mississippi. But the fair known as Mississippi's giant house party, like hundreds of others, is canceled this year. For organizations whose business models are built on gathering large groups of people, the pandemic has wiped out their ability to carry on while keeping fairgoers, volunteers and staff safe. The Neshoba County Fair draws about 75,000 people to rural central Mississippi over eight days. Many fairgoers stay in hundreds of campers and two-story cabins that can sleep up to 60 guests. "There was simply no way we could require masks and keep everybody at a 6-foot distance," said fair manager Doug Johnson.
Mississippi sees jump in virus cases after improving numbers
Mississippi reported one of its highest single-day increases in coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, after a few days of improving numbers. The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,081 new confirmed cases and 45 deaths on Wednesday, one of the top five single-day death tolls in the state since the start of the pandemic. The state reported 48 deaths on July 30, 52 deaths on July 31 and 51 on Aug. 5. The increase comes after a few days of decreasing numbers of new cases and deaths, which Gov. Tate Reeves said made him feel cautiously optimistic. Before Wednesday, the state reported 644 new cases and 33 deaths on Tuesday, 476 cases and 16 deaths on Monday and 527 cases and 22 deaths on Sunday. The governor has said not to get discouraged by numbers and that the new cases and deaths that Mississippians are seeing reported now represent individuals who were exposed weeks ago.
Mississippi reports 3rd-largest daily increase in deaths as COVID-19 numbers see bump
After seeing COVID-19 numbers take a dip in recent days, there was a significant increase in Wednesday's figures released by the Mississippi State Department of Health. The state reported 1,081 new cases of the coronavirus and 45 deaths -- the third largest daily death total reported this year. Four of those deaths were reported in the southernmost six counties -- two in George, one in Jackson and one in Hancock counties. The Hancock County death and one in George County took place between July 26-Aug. 6 and were later confirmed through death certificate reports. There have been 69,374 cases of the coronavirus and 1,989 deaths in Mississippi this year. The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases dipped to 847.14 on Wednesday -- the lowest figure since July 15. Jackson County led South Mississippi's new cases Wednesday with 77 new cases.
Mississippi's COVID-19 cases fall in last week, but positivity rate remains high
This past week Mississippi's state health department has reported the lowest daily case totals of COVID-19 in about a month, but the state's test positivity rate remains one of the highest in the nation. The seven-day rolling average for new cases reached 847 on Wednesday, its lowest point since July 15. However, as testing numbers mirrored a similar decrease since the start of August, Mississippi's weekly positivity rate -- the number of new cases divided by the number of new tests, over a week's span -- has remained roughly the same over the last two weeks, at around 20%. "We know we had another very good day of numbers today, at least relative to where we had been for the last four or five weeks," Gov. Tate Reeves said in a Tuesday press conference, after the state health department announced 644 new cases that day. "We can celebrate that fact, but we must also realize that the trends will only continue if we do the right things."
Health care workers feel the strain as the conditions of COVID-19 patients worsen
Medical experts say they are the last line of defense in this COVID-19 battle. As the weeks and months wear on hospitals continue to be strained. Officials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center are seeing worse conditions than before, meanwhile there continues to be a shortage of nurses. Five months into this global pandemic doctors, nurses and health care providers continue to endure grueling hours of physically demanding care. Medical experts say the battle is far from over. A majority of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the Jackson-metro area are here at UMMC. "A lot of the patients that we are having to hospitalize really are requiring ICU care," said UMMC Emergency Medicine Chairman Dr. Alan Jones. "Not as many of the patients that require a little bit of oxygen or a day or two in the hospital." Health care providers at the hospital have also been diagnosed with the virus, putting a strain on the system as they quarantine and recover. "We've had a number both physicians and nurses that have had COVID and that we know of, but that transmission has been in the community," said Jones.
State health officer, experts discuss health disparities
Coronavirus continues to reveal striking health disparities as a result of systemic healthcare issues, according to State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs and a panel of experts, Wednesday. The Mississippi Center for Justice, a homegrown public interest law firm that advocates for racial and economic justice, and AARP Mississippi hosted a livestream Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 and the implications of health disparities. The discussion was moderated by MCJ Director of Health Law Linda Dixon and featured Dobbs, Faculty Director for Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation Robert Greenwald, AARP State Director Kimberly L. Campbell and MS NAACP Executive Director Corey Wiggins as panelists. Among topics was the disproportionate impact on Mississippians of Black, Hispanic and Native American descent and the current spread of COVID-19 among younger age groups potentially impacting elderly and vulnerable populations.
Covid-19 death toll rivals fatality rate during 1918 flu epidemic, researchers say
The increase in deaths in New York City during the early months of the covid-19 pandemic rivals the death toll there at the peak of the 1918 flu pandemic, according to an analysis published Thursday. The comparison, published online in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, found that the number of deaths from all causes was roughly equal during the two peak months of the flu epidemic and the first 61 days of the current outbreak. The H1N1 flu pandemic eventually killed 50 million people a century ago, about 675,000 of them in the United States. The current pandemic has claimed at least 746,000 lives worldwide, about 162,000 of them in the United States, according to a tally kept by The Washington Post. "For anyone who doesn't understand the magnitude of what we're living through, this pandemic is comparable in its effect on mortality to what everyone agrees is the previous worst pandemic," said Jeremy S. Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who led the team that conducted the data review.
Mike Espy campaign poll shows he's within 5 points of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith
An internal poll released by Democrat Mike Espy's U.S. Senate campaign shows he's within five points of incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, to whom he lost by eight points in a 2018 special election. Espy is challenging Hyde-Smith in the November general election. The telephone poll of 600 likely Mississippi voters from July 30 to Aug. 9 reports Hyde-Smith leading with 47%, Espy with 42% and about 3% supporting a third party. The survey is Espy's best showing in released polling to date, and he discussed it on a national MSNBC show on Thursday morning. "The ground is shifting here in Mississippi," Espy said on MSNBC Thursday morning. "We recently saw it with the taking down of the Confederate flag. Most Mississippians now want to turn the page and move us toward progress... We're closing the gap." The poll, which shows a margin of error of 4.1%, was conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, a pollster for high profile Democrats around the nation like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, and 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Over half of Mississippi renters could face eviction without help from Congress
More than half of Mississippi's roughly 352,000 renter households are at risk of eviction if Congress doesn't extend protections for families struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers estimated. More than a third of all Mississippians missed last month's rent or mortgage payment or believed they wouldn't be able to pay the next on time, Census survey results show, making Mississippi the third most vulnerable state in the nation for housing. By Thursday, Congress remained locked in stalemate over issuing more COVID-19 relief to states after crucial protections expired at the end of July, thrusting many families into greater economic uncertainty. The state is doling out millions in rental assistance to people impacted by the virus, but the program's current funding is a small fraction of what's needed to keep people housed during this recession.
President Trump‌ ‌says‌ ‌he opposes‌ ‌USPS‌ ‌funding‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌effort‌ ‌to‌ ‌block ‌mail-in‌ ‌voting‌
President Donald Trump said Thursday that he opposes funding for the United States Postal Service and election security grants in an effort to stymie mail-in voting for the upcoming presidential election. "[Democrats] want three and a half billion dollars for something that will turn out to be fraudulent, that's election money, basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes, okay, universal mail-in ballots," Trump told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo, in response to a question on talks on the next coronavirus relief package. "They want 25 billion dollars -- billion -- for the Post Office." Trump's pronouncement marks the latest escalation from the president in his war on mail-in voting. He has, without evidence, claimed that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud and will lead to a "rigged" election. Election security experts agree that cases of electoral fraud are exceedingly rare in the United States. Most acknowledge that mail-in voting has a slightly higher risk of fraud, but it isn't widespread.
Election officials 'prepare for the worst' as congressional aid talks stall
With the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats seemingly deadlocked on legislation to help the unemployed and businesses reeling from the pandemic, election officials around the country are watching anxiously because there is bipartisan agreement that voting in November is going to be more complicated and expensive. Election Assistance Commission Chairman Ben Hovland said election costs could be "unprecedented" due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and high turnout for the presidential election. And those costs come as states are seeing tax revenues plummet. Hovland said every election official he has talked to, regardless of political party, has said additional funding is needed to prepare for a surge in voting by mail and the extra staff and protective equipment needed to make polling places safe. Grants intended to improve election security may be used instead to pay for pandemic-related costs, he said. The need for more funding than the $400 million Congress allocated in March is also frequently discussed during the National Association of Secretaries of State's weekly conference calls. Hovland and other experts and advocates warned that further delay or a failure to provide any additional funds could exacerbate problems that plagued some recent primaries, including long lines at polling places and long waits for results.
The W prepares for students to return to campus Monday
For some colleges in our area, classes start back as soon as Monday. However, getting the campus ready for students is a little more challenging this year. It takes hundreds of faculty members, thousands of pounds of sanitizer, and about a million dollars to pull it off. A typical day for Jason Trufant starts at 5 a.m. His official title is Director of Athletics for The W. Lately, he's known as the COVID Response Coordinator -- a title he takes pride in. "Our first priority is your health and safety. That hasn't changed from what it used to be prior to COVID, that's always been the focus," said Trufant. One of Trufant's many duties includes ordering cleaning supplies for each building on campus. "Supplies are ordered daily. So, we'll wake up one day and we'll get to campus and we'll say well we're going to need more of this. For example, on Monday we added 150 spray bottles and 50 gallons of additional cleaner," said Trufant. Trufant doesn't do all this alone. "We have an incident response team, we have a COVID response team. We have our entire ABM cleaning staff involved in this," said Trufant.
MUW students move on campus
MUW students move on campus for the upcoming school year. New York native and incoming freshman Daijanae Mike and her mom unloaded their truck and moved Mike into her new home away from home. Despite coronavirus concerns, she says she's ready. "Honestly, I'm just ready to start my classes," said Daijanae. A campus usually crawling with new and returning students is now only allowing a few students to move in at a time. "Due to COVID, we've extended over four days," said Housing Director Andrew Moneymaker. Moneymaker said students move in by appointment this year, this to ensure social distancing and contactless check-in. He said move-in day this year is bittersweet. In efforts to keep students safe, welcome activities like playing music and handing out snow cones were canceled. "It's way different than it has been in the past but, we've had a lot of good attitudes from students and parents," said Moneymaker.
U. of Mississippi working on identifying on- and off-campus quarantine housing
Students have begun trickling back into Oxford throughout August and beginning on Saturday, freshman can begin moving into their on-campus housing. With the COVID-19 pandemic still a threat, the University has begun looking into solutions for students who might test positive for COVID-19 throughout the year while also keeping the rest of their residence hall safe. According to Rod Guajardo, Associate Director of Strategic Communications for Ole Miss, the school has a few options in play that include using other on-campus housing as well as possible off-campus locations. "The safety and well being of students, faculty and staff is our top priority as we navigate a return to campus for the fall 2020 semester, Guajardo told the EAGLE in a statement. "The Department of Student Housing has identified several spaces to isolate students who test positive for COVID-19. Housing will coordinate with University Health Services if a student living in on-campus housing will need to move to an isolation housing location. Additionally, Student Housing is identifying off-campus properties for quarantine housing purposes."
Sarah Lee named school director at USM
An award-winning educator with a rich diversity of experience in both the private sector and in academia has been named director of the University of Southern Mississippi School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering. Dr. Sarah Lee takes on her new post Aug. 12, coming to USM from Mississippi State University where since 2011 she has served on the faculty and in leadership roles, most recently as assistant department head in the MSU Department of Computer Science and Engineering. She was selected as an Inspiring Woman in STEM by Insight into Diversity Magazine in 2015, and in 2019 was recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal's Top in Tech award program. Lee has also worked to create awareness and programs encouraging more women to enter computing majors and careers.
Wicker, Hyde-Smith, & Palazzo Celebrate $7.6M for Mississippi Oyster Hatchery at Southern Miss
U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Representative Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., today celebrated the award of $7,624,559 to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to support construction of an oyster hatchery and research center operated by the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Lab (GCRL) at the Cedar Point campus in Ocean Springs. The funds are being made available as part of the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), which provides funding for Gulf Coast states affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. "The scientists at USM's Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center have been hard at work restoring the natural bounty of Mississippi's oyster beds," Wicker said. "This long-awaited release of RESTORE Act funds will support the oyster hatchery and aquaculture center, which is critical to ensuring the return of a healthy and sustainable oyster population and the expansion of the aquaculture industry along the Mississippi Gulf Coast."
Delta State University hires COVID-19 coordinator
Delta State University has named veteran education administrator Robin Douglas as its first COVID-19 coordinator. She has more than 25 years of experience in executive and teaching positions in collegiate and secondary school settings and was a campus leader in the response to COVID-19 at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Douglas will report directly to Delta State President William N. LaForge. "Delta State University has done a thorough and mindful job in protecting and informing students, faculty, staff, and the community about the coronavirus pandemic since it erupted worldwide," said Douglas, who spent seven years at NWCC, most recently as district dean of career, technical, and workforce education. Her responsibilities also included directing the COVID-19 response team for her unit, from switching to virtual/hybrid learning to designing safety protocols to securing grant funding. Douglas earned a B.S. in technology teacher education and an M.S. in technology from Mississippi State University.
Hundreds of Northeast Mississippi Community College students quarantined after 9 positive COVID-19 cases
Hundreds of Northeast Mississippi Community College students are quarantined after nine positive COVID-19 cases on campus since in-person classes resumed on Aug. 3. NEMCC President Dr. Ricky G. Ford shared the update during Wednesday's episode of the college's Tiger Talk podcast, saying that "around 300" NEMCC students are currently quarantined due to potential exposure to the virus. With 3,034 students currently enrolled at NEMCC, that's around 10% of the total student population in quarantine. There are also "about 25 to 28" of the college's approximately 300 employees in quarantine, according to Ford. The college is requiring students and faculty to wear masks in classrooms and continues to encourage social distancing and hand washing. But there has been some confusion among students about quarantine protocols. "We've had students that are on quarantine that have come to class and said 'Well I didn't think I was quarantined from all my classes, just that one class,'" Ford said on the podcast.
Business brief: Keith Gaskin named MSMS Foundation Executive Director
The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science Foundation Board of Directors has named Keith Gaskin as the next executive director of the MSMS Foundation. Gaskin began his role with the organization on Aug. 3. With 25 years of major gift fundraising experience, Gaskin has held leadership roles in advancement at Mississippi State University, The University of Alabama, and most recently the West Virginia University at Parkersburg among others. During his career Gaskin has primarily focused his efforts in donor prospect building, developing long-range fundraising goals, cultivating and stewarding donors and closing principal gifts during comprehensive fundraising campaigns. Gaskin holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, a master's degree and Ph.D. from Mississippi State University. He was named an Institutional Advancement Summer Fellow at Vanderbilt University, Peabody College of Education and has also completed leadership programs at Harvard and Rhodes College. The MSMS Foundation is a 501 c3 that was established in 1989 to provide support for The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science outside of state funding.
Alabama Extension offices to help state agriculture department with mystery seed testing
Different mailboxes across the country have been receiving random bags of seeds from China since late July. As of July 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had identified the species of around 14 of the seeds being sent. Closer to home, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System has partnered with the state department of agriculture and industries (ADAI) to assist in state efforts to collect seed packages from residents. The seed's packaging will indicate that it contains jewelry, which allows it to bypass further inspection. The state department of agriculture and industries has been collecting packages of seeds on their own prior to their partnership with Extension. Field inspectors with the ADAI will test the seeds to see if they're an invasive species or contain unknown compounds. Alabama Extension director, Gary Lemme, said state residents can drop off seed packets they've received at their county's Extension Alabama office.
An online Bid Day? This is the plan for LSU Greek Life recruitment amid coronavirus
Bid Day is normally one of the liveliest days on LSU's campus each fall semester, when hundreds of new sorority members run down West Lakeshore Drive to their new homes on Sorority Row. But recruitment for sororities and fraternities will look very different this year as the university works to halt the spread of the coronavirus. The LSU Panhellenic Council, which oversees sororities, and Interfraternity Council, which governs fraternities, will conduct most of their fall recruitment virtually via Zoom meetings, with the final day of IFC recruitment to be hosted in-person at individual fraternity houses. It has not been decided yet what exactly Bid Day will look like. It could be done virtually at first, with a big in-person event later, when the coronavirus is better contained. There are about 714 potential fraternity members and about 1,440 potential sorority members, said Associate Dean of Students and Director of Greek Life Angela Guillory. That's why fraternities are having a final round in-person -- since there are far fewer applicants, they will be better able to follow CDC guidelines on social distancing.
UGA reopening continues as campus prepares for students' return
The University of Georgia began reopening this week as the school's fall semester approaches. UGA classes are scheduled to begin in Thursday, Aug. 20. Parking lots empty all summer began filling up Monday, when most faculty and other staff were scheduled to come back to campus buildings. A few could be seen on the UGA campus wearing face masks, mandatory on the campus this fall. Students will begin moving into UGA residence halls Friday. There may not be as many students on campus as usual, however, making social distancing easier. If the experience of some other universities is an indication, many will take their courses online. UGA students will return to a markedly different campus, with classrooms reconfigured for social distancing, many now outfitted with cameras so instructors can record class presentations and clear acrylic shields to intended separate instructors from their classes.
U. of Arkansas to publish campus's covid-19 numbers
The number of covid-19 cases on the state's largest university campus will be published and regularly updated, said a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville spokesman. "We hope to begin that reporting next week," UA spokesman Mark Rushing said in an email Wednesday. The plan is to use the university's Coronavirus Update online site to provide updates on testing numbers for campus and on positive cases, Rushing said. Official move-in at UA residence halls began Tuesday, though some resident assistants moved in last week. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, 1,497 students had moved in, UA spokesman Christopher Spencer said, with more expected to arrive later this week. Rushing declined to answer when asked about the number of active covid-19 cases among students, referring instead to plans to begin reporting case totals next week.
Resident assistants raise issues about U. of Missouri move-in rules
Residential Life officials at the University of Missouri are trying to quell unrest in the ranks of resident assistants while assuring parents and students that they are safe as they arrive on campus. In a news conference held Wednesday afternoon, hours after the first students began taking up residence, Tyler Page, MU residential life director, said he would meet with resident assistants via Zoom later in the day. "We don't want to to do anything that puts students and staff at risk," Page said during a Zoom meeting with reporters. In an email to the assistants sent Tuesday evening, Page wrote that he wants to hear their issues. "I understand there is growing concern regarding participation in Welcome Week activities," he wrote, inviting them to the Zoom meeting. Resident assistants are displeased with some of the things expected of them, including leading groups of students on tours during Welcome Week. Several contacted by the Tribune declined to give statements on the record about their concerns, citing fear of retribution. The RAs claim that the university isn't being consistent with health and safety guidelines, said Bill Stackman, MU student affairs vice chancellor.
Title IX Rule Set to Take Effect After Judge Denies Request From States to Halt It
A controversial rule on how schools must respond to claims of sexual assault and harassment appears set to take effect Friday after a judge in a multi-state lawsuit refused to halt it. The rule, one of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' biggest policy shifts, details obligations for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. In a Wednesday order, District of Columbia Circuit Court Judge Carl John Nichols denied a request by 17 states and Washington, D.C., to pause the rule while he hears arguments over their lawsuit, which seeks to strike it down entirely. "Although Plaintiffs have raised serious arguments about certain aspects of the Rule, they have not established a likelihood of success on their claims, nor have they established that they are likely to suffer substantial irreparable harm pending further litigation," Nichols' order said. DeVos announced the Title IX rule in May after retracting guidance previously issued by the Obama administration and holding meetings with survivors, education, and student groups.
Modeling showed potential for deaths at Georgia Tech without masks and other mitigation
In mid-July, Joshua S. Weitz presented a fall risk assessment to the Georgia Institute of Technology's Academic Restart Committee. Weitz, a professor of biological sciences at Georgia Tech and founding director of the quantitative biosciences Ph.D. program there, recommended several strategies for mitigating COVID-19's spread: enforce mask-wearing requirements, test those on campus for the virus, reduce gathering sizes whenever possible and make online teaching the default until infection risks decline. The ramifications of failing to mitigate the virus's spread were stark. Should campus reopen at full capacity and half of everyone on it be infected, Georgia Tech could expect about 75 fatalities. Older faculty and staff members would suffer the most losses. That scenario will not come to pass. It was based on what could be expected to happen if those on campus don't wear masks, if social distancing precautions aren't in place and if on-campus activities resume as normal. Georgia Tech has in fact put many of those mitigating strategies in place. But the potential death toll is an important reminder of the high stakes as Georgia Tech brings students back to campus this week. Those stakes are at play at other universities across the state and country that are pursuing plans to resume in-person instruction this fall.
Pandemic drives increased interest in open educational resources
Initiatives to raise awareness of open educational resources -- free and openly licensed teaching and learning materials -- are having a measurable impact on the number of faculty members using OER in their classrooms. Many colleges, systems, states and multi-state regional compacts have launched OER programs in recent years -- creating policies that promote the use of the resources, launching publicity campaigns to increase understanding of how to find and use them, and dedicating funding to help instructors work OER into their lessons or develop their own openly licensed materials. These efforts to promote OER are working, according to new survey data published today by Bay View Analytics in partnership with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's Cooperative for Educational Technologies. The survey found that faculty members who are aware of one or more OER initiatives are much more likely to be adopters of OER. This is true regardless of the instructors' type of institution, the level of course they teach, or where they are located in the U.S.
Can Military Academies Serve As A Road Map For Reopening Colleges?
In Annapolis, Md., young men and women in crisp white uniforms and white masks are doing what students here have been doing for 175 years -- taking their first steps to becoming officers in the U.S. Navy. These exercises are a part of the traditional "plebe summer," an intensive crash course that prepares first-year students for the transition to military life. They learn how to salute and march as a unit, along with lots of new lingo: floors are called "decks," toilets are "heads," and the students are "midshipmen." Unlike civilian colleges, the U.S. military academies have a mandate -- they owe about 1,000 young officers to the armed forces every spring. When the academies were forced to send students home in March, they immediately began planning to bring students back. "The attitude is 'We do not have a choice. We must make this work,' " explained Andrew Phillips, academic dean of the United States Naval Academy. And it's not just Annapolis. At the Army's West Point campus in New York state, and the Air Force Academy outside Colorado Springs, educators and students are, for the most part, settling back in to their daily routines.
As universities reopen, no one has more uncertainty than this year's freshman class
There's the adventure of going off to college for the first time, that big, nerve-wracking step toward adulthood that some students have been preparing for their entire high school careers. And then there's going off to college for the first time in 2020. That is, if this year's freshman class of students are even going off somewhere at all. Universities know life and academics will be different for all students, especially freshmen. Some say they are factoring in extra attention to counseling and students' mental health. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the school wants to ramp up its counseling services and make students more aware of them, says Danita Brown Young, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. "I think all our students, particularly our new students and first-generation students, are going to need additional support this fall," she said. The university will be operating with a hybrid online and in-person class schedule. "How do you connect with your instructor even if you're not face-to-face?" she said. "Not everyone is equally successful with online learning."
HBCUs hail Kamala Harris as 'one of our own.'
When Kamala Harris stood before Howard University's graduating class last year to give the commencement address, she told the students she'd been where they sat when she graduated from the university three decades earlier. "You are now official members of what I call the role model club," she said. In being selected as the running mate to Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, the California senator became the first Black candidate for vice president. But on Wednesday, Harris's selection was also being seen as a leap forward for historically Black colleges from Alabama to Louisiana to Washington, D.C. "It's something that's never been done. You would think that in 2020, it would have happened already. But it hasn't. It's a pivotal moment in the evolution of HBCUs when one of our own is finally breaking through the barriers that exist," said Grambling State University President Rick Gallot. Certainly, President Obama's election was historic, but this had a different flair. "He was an Ivy League grad," Gallot said of Obama, a graduate of Harvard and Columbia Universities. "There was a sense that you can be Black but you have to be an Ivy League grad to make it at that level."

Ole Miss, MSU ADs weigh in as SEC prepares for unusual 2020 season
While the Big Ten and the Pac-12 made the decision to postpone their fall football seasons Tuesday, the SEC is pressing on for the time being. This morning, Ole Miss AD Keith Carter and Mississippi State AD John Cohen spoke about where the league goes from here and how they're preparing for a season that's sure to be unlike any other. Tuesday afternoon, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey took to Twitter to put college football fans in the south at ease, for now at least, by saying that they'll continue to take a deliberate approach with a return to play in mind. As the player-led #WeWantToPlay movement continues, Cohen said that universities will continue to do everything in their power to safely move forward. "The kids just want to play, and I think everyone wants them to play. We have to be super responsible, we have to make really tough decisions, but I think in terms of wanting to play, I think all of CFB -- the fans, the players, the coaches -- they all want to play. We just have to create the path of a safe environment. It's not going to be perfect, it's not going to be 100%, but we just want to put everything we can into creating as safe an environment as we can," Cohen said.
C-USA's plan remains unchanged following Wednesday meeting
It appears that Southern Miss remains on track for an on-time start to the 2020 football season following a C-USA Board of Directors meeting Wednesday night. After the meeting, the conference released a short statement explaining that they remain focused on the protocols in place ahead of the upcoming season. While the statement doesn't specifically say that the conference is in the clear, following cancellations by the MAC, Big Ten & Pac-12, it's more about what the statement doesn't say at this point. Old Dominion, a C-USA member, has opted out of the season. Myocarditis, the condition mentioned in the statement, is a heart condition that has been identified as a possible lingering effect of COVID-19. The Golden Eagles are currently set to open their season at home against South Alabama on September 3rd. USM has seven home games set for 2020 following the recent release of their revised schedule.
Mississippi College has Fall sports and basketball delayed until 2021
Wednesday the Gulf South Conference, the parent conference of Mississippi College, announced that will postpone football, volleyball, soccer and the basketball season until at least New Year's Day. Cross Country and Golf will be the only sports allowed to play this Fall. The GSC board of governors sighted the NCAA's cancellation of Division II championships, the health and safety of student athletes and time needed to enact all of the proper protocols for return to play as the reason for the postponements. Mississippi College AD and head basketball coach Mike Jones released this statement. In part we he said, "we are extremely disappointed for our student athletes coaches an staff who will not be able to compete this Fall." "However, we do understand that the health, safety and well-being of each and every one of those men and women is the most important thing and we respect the decision of the GSC Board of Governors."
East Mississippi Community College won't play fall football, but others will try
With national powerhouse East Mississippi Community College deciding not to play football this fall, most state rival teams appear prepared to move forward with practice next week. Itawamba Community College, Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Mississippi all still have plans to play this fall. EMCC, the winner of five national championships since 2011, announced on Tuesday that it will not be participating in the state's shortened football season, which is slated to begin Oct. 1. While players at the school will remain under scholarship, they would also have the ability to transfer elsewhere for a chance to play this fall. That could be a boon to the teams in the state which intend to play. "While we hated to learn this afternoon that East Mississippi has suspended its football season this fall, I was glad to hear that its institution is releasing its players in the event they would like to transfer," ICC president Dr. Jay Allen said in a statement. "I'm sure our coaches are working to determine if we have a place for any players who would like to take advantage of this opportunity to play at ICC this fall."
Football has been EMCC's 'livelihood,' but Lions must adjust to a new way of life for now
Each fall, when East Mississippi Community College plays its first football game of the season, women's basketball coach and athletic director Sharon Thompson witnesses the school's campus in Scooba come alive. The scent of popcorn permeates the air. Students and fans converge on Sullivan-Windham Field to congregate, talk and -- almost always -- take in a Lions victory. It's something Thompson looks forward to every year, an omnipresent sign of fall. It's also a staple of the school's culture, a hallmark of the EMCC experience. "This has been our livelihood," Thompson said. This year's edition of that livelihood was set to start Aug. 27 -- just two weeks from today -- with a road game at East Central Community College. But now, it won't happen at all. Tuesday, EMCC elected not to play in the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges' fall season, which was scheduled to start Oct. 1, because of the safety challenges presented by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Here's why the Lions won't be taking the field this fall, what the fallout of their decision will be and what the path is to a safe return.
Rites of fall: Losing college football stings across America
Michigan's Big House will be sitting empty when the leaves start to change this fall. Southern Cal's famed white horse, Traveler, won't be galloping triumphantly after a Trojans touchdown. No one at Ole Miss knows for sure if partying fans will be belting out a well-lubricated "Hotty Toddy" in The Grove. From Ann Arbor to Los Angeles to Oxford, that most American of pursuits -- college football -- has either given up hope of getting in a traditional season or is flinging what amounts to a Hail Mary pass in a desperate attempt to hang on in the age of Covid-19. For all the ills of big-time college athletics, it might the closest thing to a national religion. "Since the virus hit, we've all lost a sense of our normal lives," said Charles Reagan Wilson, professor emeritus at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi -- better known to college football fans as Ole Miss. "College football could be the balm for our spirit because it's such a part of our familiar autumn life," he added. "I think to not have it would up the ante on that sense of abnormality we're all living through."
Some Conferences Postponed Football. Not So Fast in the South.
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 called off their football seasons before they started. The South's premier college football conferences called a play for time. Never was it more publicly clear than this week, five months after the N.C.A.A. and its conferences canceled basketball tournaments in response to the coronavirus crisis, that college sports leaders are sharply divided over the prospect of athletic competitions during a pandemic. By midday on Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences had all publicly broken with the Big Ten and Pac-12 and reinforced their ambitions to play beginning next month. The Big Ten and the Pac-12 concluded on Tuesday that it was simply too dangerous to try to play sports this fall. "Reasonable people can disagree on it, and the Pac-12 and the Big Ten are seeing much of the same information that we're seeing," Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, said after his league released its football schedule on Wednesday morning. "But our board believes in our scientists and has come to a conclusion that's different, and so have the leadership of the SEC and the A.C.C."
College football is disappearing. MAGA world is blaming the left.
The college football season is crumbling --- leaving another void in the American cultural landscape that MAGA world is blaming on the Trump-hating left. President Donald Trump latched on to the issue in recent days as two major college conferences postponed their football seasons. He tweeted about it on Monday -- "Play College Football!" -- and called into a sports radio show on Tuesday to insist, misleadingly, that college athletes were unlikely to be harmed in the long term. Then, as often happens when the president prioritizes an issue, a cadre of conservative pundits and congressional allies lined up behind him to make the case. Some arguments are cultural: A crucial, romantic part of American identity can't disappear; college athletes deserve to play because of the work they've put in; the rigors of college sports are a safer setting than normal college life. But the undercurrent is also political: Don't let the left win. Not mentioned: the rising coronavirus caseloads in numerous college football hotbeds. But the political gains of protecting a beloved sport -- especially one that's at the cultural, economic and political heart of many states -- are also powerful, said Ryan Bender, an associate professor of finance at Indiana University, who has published numerous papers on the socioeconomics of college football.
The Zoom Call That Set College Football Ablaze
Late Sunday night, an unlikely bunch of college kids flipped open their phones and laptops for a video call. One of the squares belonged to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Ohio State's Justin Fields occupied another. It was a collection of the most important and influential college football players in the country, and they weren't discussing the finer points of spread offenses. They were trying to reckon with issues that they felt their sports' administrators had failed to address over many months of this pandemic, leading up to the precipice of a football season crumbling before their eyes. The result was a united message that would send a sport already on the brink into a tizzy that would envelop coaches, advocates and politicians all the way up to President Trump. Whether they realized it or not, the players' new supporters were promoting a movement that was effectively organizing to represent players and their interests against the administrators who run college sports. It also gave the players a voice just as decisions were being made.
'Let 'em play': President Trump says he spoke with LSU's Ed Orgeron about playing football in the fall
President Donald Trump said during a White House news briefing Wednesday afternoon that LSU coach Ed Orgeron spoke to him on the phone about playing college football this fall. Trump did not say when the call occurred or the details within it, but the conversation focused on a mutual interest in continuing to play while college football's conferences weigh postponing fall sports because of concerns with the coronavirus pandemic. An LSU official later clarified that Trump initially called Orgeron, who returned his call. Orgeron and Trump have developed an association in the past year. Trump attended two LSU football games in 2019 and called Orgeron after the Tigers beat Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. The two met when LSU visited the White House in January after winning the national championship.
President Trump has talked to Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence about saving 2020 college football season
President Donald Trump spoke briefly with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Tuesday about moving forward with the football season. A Clemson University spokesperson confirmed after Wednesday's practice that Lawrence "spoke with the President briefly midday yesterday." "It's my understanding that they did, but I don't know anything about those conversations," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He didn't share any details about any conversation with me." Swinney left that to Trump. "I'll tell you who wants to do it are the players and the coaches," Trump said during a Wednesday media conference. "I spoke with Trevor Lawrence -- the great quarterback -- and he's very smart. He understood it very well. He said, 'Hey, I'm a lot safer on the field than I am being out there.' He got it. He got it very quickly." Lawrence, a junior who is a Heisman Trophy favorite, has helped spearhead the #WeWantToPlay movement among fellow college players.
Greg Sankey's patient approach gives SEC hope
Greg Sankey's patient approach isn't always popular. The Southeastern Conference commissioner prefers a methodical and thorough style in weighing every option, sometimes to the frustration of coaches and administrators who crave decisive actions for clarity. Case in point: All the recent back-and-forth about the SEC's scheduling model and what two new opponents each school would get. There were internal consternation and restlessness around the conference over the wait. But after the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled their fall seasons on Tuesday, you aren't hearing much grumbling within the SEC about Sankey's approach now. SEC school administrators were perplexed and disappointed with the timing of the move only six days after the Big Ten released its conference schedule and wondered why it had to decide by Aug. 11. It was reminiscent of the reaction after the Big Ten moved to a conference-only approach on July 9. Put it this way: For those two moves alone, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren won't be getting many Christmas cards from SEC schools this winter based on all the sentiments shared the last 48 hours.
Georgia Gov. Kemp on college football: 'I want to see it played' if safety ensured
To play or not to play. That's a question that politicians are weighing in on when it comes to the college football season. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who reopened businesses ahead of many states and has clashed with mayors about mask mandates, took to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon to express his desire to have football played if it can be done safely during the pandemic. "Across the South, college football is a sacred tradition, and I want to see it played this year if we can ensure the safety of players, coaches and staff," Kemp wrote. "Based on recent discussions with university leaders and sports officials, I am confident that they are putting the health and well-being of our student athletes first." The Athens native and Georgia Bulldog fan said in May that he spoke to UGA president Jere Morehead and Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart as well as officials with the Falcons, Braves and Augusta National about the return of pro and college sports.
Tommy Tuberville: 'NCAA's hiding under the table,' says 'the heck with the Big Ten'
Kids should transfer, schools should play whoever they want, and "the NCAA's hiding under the table." Tommy Tuberville, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate and former Auburn coach, didn't hold back Wednesday on the state of college football a day after the Big Ten and Pac-12 both announced they would not be playing football this fall. "We saw this coming," said Tuberville, who joined Lee Shirvanian and me on "The Opening Kickoff" on WNSP-FM 105.5. "I don't know what they are thinking." The biggest problem, Tuberville said, is there no leader as conferences make their individual decisions. "The NCAA's hiding under the table in Indianapolis saying, 'Please don't ask us what to do,'" Tuberville said. "'We don't have want a lawsuit because we're making all this money up here.' That's the reason we're in the situation we're in. The NCAA should've said, 'You're either in or you're out. Here's the rules on your players. Here's how we're going to play it.' But we have nobody running the show."
'Bill of rights' for college athletes unveiled by senators, includes path to payment for endorsements
On Thursday, a group of U.S. Senators released a draft of new potential legislation that would support college athletes' health care options, education, and earning potential while playing for their school's team, USA Today reports. Helmed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) the bill aims to expand the rights and opportunities for NCAA athletes, primarily through new "revenue-sharing agreements" that the legislation proposes will be made available to student athletes between the NCAA, conferences, and schools. It would also change the rule forcing athletes to sit out a season if they change schools or withdraw following signing a National Letter of Intent. Also included is better financial support to encourage college athletes to complete their undergraduate degree with "lifetime" scholarships, as well as supporting graduate degree ambitions. Additionally, the proposed legislation outlined specific COVID-19 related protections for athletes, including increased financial aid for medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses due to coronavirus-related injuries or illnesses.
Saints to play their opener without fans, but crowds are possible later in the season
The Saints are going to have to figure out a way to win without the help of their raucous fans for at least one game this fall. The team's season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be played in an empty Mercedes-Benz Superdome, team officials announced Wednesday, citing the widespread nature of coronavirus in the region. The guidance the Saints have received from government officials suggests fans will also likely not be present for the Saints' Week 3 game against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 27, but no official determination has yet been made. Team officials met Tuesday with a team of health and safety experts, as well as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, to go over what a safe return to the Superdome would look like. The dome is a state building overseen by a board appointed by Edwards. The decision that emerged from the meeting was trends weren't improving quickly enough for fans to be at the first game of the season.
Saints list rookie Tommy Stevens as a tight end, not a quarterback
Tommy Stevens was a college quarterback, first at Penn State and then at Mississippi State, but his NFL future is at tight end. The Saints made that official when they put out a training camp roster that listed Stevens at quarterback and revealed he has been assigned the jersey No. 85. Stevens is 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds and the kind of athlete who could conceivably play tight end at the NFL level. The Saints have also shown with Taysom Hill that they know how to use a player's talents creatively, so Stevens may play multiple roles in New Orleans. Given that the Saints have Drew Brees and Jameis Winston in addition to Hill, it was always a long shot that Stevens would make the roster as a seventh-round rookie quarterback. Now it's official that if he's going to make the Saints, it will be as a tight end.
2020 Masters Tournament to be held without patrons
The 2020 Masters Tournament will go on, but without patrons. Augusta National Golf Club made the announcement Wednesday, confirming what Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis predicted last week. The tournament is scheduled for Nov. 9-15. ANGC announced the postponement of the tournament in March, along with cancellations of the 2020 Augusta National Women's Amateur and Drive, Chip & Putt finals. "Since our initial announcement to postpone the 2020 Masters, we have remained committed to a rescheduled Tournament in November while continually examining how best to host a global sporting event amid this pandemic," club and tournament chairman Fred Ridley said in a the release. "As we have considered the issues facing us, the health and safety of everyone associated with the Masters always has been our first and most important priority." According to the club, all 2020 ticket holders will be guaranteed the same tickets for the 2021 Masters.
Qualifying medalist Wilson Furr advances in US Amateur
Qualifying medalist Wilson Furr advanced to the second round of match play in the U.S. Amateur on Wednesday, beating China's Aaron Du 6 and 4 at breezy Bandon Dunes in Oregon. Furr, the 22-year-old rising Alabama senior from Jackson, Mississippi, will face Vanderbilt's Harrison Ott. "The hardest part was that we teed off at 2:25, so I just had to sit around and do nothing all day," Furr said. "So, that was a little tricky, but we managed it well and played solid all day." Ott beat Mississippi State's Ford Clegg 5 and 4. John Augenstein, the Vanderbilt player who was the runner-up last year at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, was eliminated. Former Georgia Tech star Andy Ogletree, the winner last year, failed to advance to match play.
Chad Ramey ties for second place at WinCo Portland Open
Fulton's Chad Ramey played one of the field's best rounds Sunday at the Winco Portland Open to climb his way into a top 5 finish. Ramey briefly held a share of the lead on the back nine, but Lee Hodges regained his lead and held on to win. Ramey's 9-under par, 71-70-68-88 -- 275 moved him up to seventh place in The 25 rankings. The 25 rankings will determine who gets PGA Tour cards. Traditionally, this happens at the end of the season, but this year The 25 won't issue cards until partway through next season because of the high number of tournaments canceled by the pandemic. Across the country and over 2,300 miles away, fellow pro golfer and Itawamba Agricultural High School alum and Mississippi State University product Ally McDonald tied for 25th at the Marathon LPGA Classic in Sylvania, Ohio, with a four-day score of 5-under-par. McDonald shot 66-75-67-71 -- 279 . She is 31st in the Race to CME Globe, 64th in the Rolex Rankings and sits 39th on the official money list.

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