Tuesday, August 18, 2020   
Mississippi State students react to first day of classes
Video: Mississippi State University students returned to class Monday. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school is taking serious precautions to keep those doors open. WTVA reporter Rhea Thornton spoke with several students Monday who provided insight into the adjustments they're making and the adjustments the school is making.
College students head back to class at MSU-Meridian
On-campus classes have started again at Mississippi State University-Meridian as of Monday. Educators were back teaching inside classrooms with only half the normal capacity. School officials are sticking to three common safety guidelines to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19: keeping at least 6-feet apart from others, wearing face coverings at all times and practicing good hygiene. Head of campus, Dr. Terry Dale Cruse, says the school's enrollment has increased dramatically over the summer. "As we move into fall, we are very optimistic that we could have the most students that we have ever enrolled at MSU Meridian. Our numbers won't be final until our 10th day of class. So far, we have not seen a decrease in enrollment as a result of the pandemic. I think that is phenomenal when you consider the overall disruption that the pandemic has caused," said Cruse.
MCC, MSU-Meridian welcome students back to campus
Meridian Community College and Mississippi State University-Meridian students saw smaller class sizes and other measures designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus when they returned to campus Monday. Students in MCC's workforce development program started in-person classes on Monday. Students and staff at the school are required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. MSU-Meridian is also requiring that all students, staff, and visitors wear masks on campus, and classroom sizes have been reduced to half their normal capacity. Toby Bates, an associate professor of history, was glad to be back on campus, but noted some adjustments for students taking his classes online. "I've had to adjust what I bring to the classroom," he said. "I generally bring many historical artifacts to the classroom, for the students to hold."
American Academy of Floriculture to Induct Four Honorees in 2021
The Society of American Florists will honor four professionals with induction into the American Academy of Floriculture (AAF) during SAF's Annual Convention in 2021. The 2020 AAF inductees are: Debi Chedester of American Floral Endowment in Alexandria, Virginia; James DelPrince, AIFD, PFCI, of MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, Mississippi; Charles Ingrum of Dr Delphinium Designs in Dallas, Texas; and Jennifer Thomasson, AIFD, PFCI, EMC, of Jenny T Floristry in Florissant, Missouri. DelPrince is an Assistant Professor for Mississippi State University Research and Extension Center. He has been with MSU for 28 years and experienced firsthand the positive impact higher education has on providing science-based information to learners in for-credit and non-credit floriculture programs. At the MSU Extension, DelPrince stays connected to the floral industry through events that include regular interaction with retailers, growers and wholesalers.
Starkville Police Department cracking down on social gatherings after weekend crowds
In college towns across the South, the students have returned. A picture of a large crowd gathered in Starkville has gone viral. An executive order from Governor Tate Reeves prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than 20 people. Law enforcement officers are monitoring gatherings to keep safety rules enforced, even if that means issuing citations. The large overflow is leaving restaurant owners with more questions than answers. "At some point, someone has to come and help us enforce this because there's only so many of us. During the summer it was easy, but now there's an extra 20,000 people here. Without the help of the city, it's just going to get worse," said owner of The Klassroom, Tyler Klass. Starkville Police Chief Mark Ballard says this incident rose very quickly. But, after a few minutes, officers dispersed the over-crowded bar. "That was one business of several that chose to violate or not enforce the mask enforcement. For that night, we had a detail that was actually out doing other compliance checks. Once that picture was made aware to the police department we went back over took enforcement action on that business," said Ballard. Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney says deputies had reports of gatherings outside city limits too.
Oktibbeha board considering hazard pay for election workers
Oktibbeha supervisors tabled the suggestion to provide $50 maximum in hazard pay to each poll worker working the upcoming special election on Sept. 22 for two open seats in the state Legislature. Greg Fulgham, District 1 commissioner on the Oktibbeha County Election Commission, said at Monday's meeting that poll workers will be in direct contact with all voters in a precinct, therefore at risk of contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus. The commission does not have hazard pay in its budget, especially since it did not anticipate a special election, and the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act did not cover the cost either, Fulgham said. "Occasionally the Secretary of State will drop down some money, but we haven't been promised any money yet," he said. District 1 Supervisor and Board President John Montgomery said he had no problem with the suggestion but needed to look at funding options first. District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams agreed that poll workers should receive extra compensation.
Mississippi July Revenue Up $46 million Over Estimates
Mississippi looks to have weathered the pandemic's fiscal storm, at least for now. Fiscal Year 2021 started on July 1, 2020. Thus far, total revenue collections for the month of July and Fiscal Year-to-Date 2021 through July are $46,608,241 or 9.45% above the sine die revenue estimate. Fiscal YTD total revenue collections through July 2020 are $207,530,584 or 62.47% above the prior year's collections. The FY 2021 Sine Die Revenue Estimate is $5,690,700,000. Sales tax collections for the month of July were above the prior year by $7.9M. Individual income tax collections for the month of July were above the prior year by $119.5M. Corporate income tax collections for the month of July were above the prior year by 76.4M. The prior Fiscal Year that ended June 30, 2020 reported total revenue collections for FY 2020 were $5,816,924,958. When compared to the total General Fund appropriations for FY 2020 of $5,760,078,578, the General Fund will end the fiscal year with an estimated excess of $48.1 million. During the FY 2020 close-out period of July and August 2020, additional revenues may be recorded, and subsequent adjustments could be necessary.
Virus on the run in Mississippi as cases drop below 300
COVID-19 cases dropped below 300 for the first time since July 5 and Mississippi saw a substantial drop in cases for the third consecutive day. Mississippi's total of presumptive cases of COVID-19 now stands at 70,561 after the Mississippi Department of Health reported 276 newly identified cases on Monday. The trend continues to remain down as Mississippi has seen just one day with more than 1,000 cases on the last nine days. Also, last week's average of 617 cases per day was the second consecutive week that cases have been down as seen in the chart below. The verifiable single-day high for number of cases had been 1,775 on July 30 as all of the top 10 single-days high have come since July 16. Cumulatively thus far, Hinds County has the most cases with 5,917, followed by Desoto County with 3,913, Harrison with 2,804, Madison County with 2,556, Jackson with 2,482, Rankin County with 2,437 and Jones County with 2,002.
Mississippi will provide free virus testing to teachers
The state of Mississippi is expanding access to free coronavirus testing for teachers and school-based emergency telehealth coverage after more than 70 of the state's 82 counties have reported outbreaks during their first few weeks back in the classroom. The Mississippi State Department of Health has reported 245 cases of coronavirus in teachers and 199 in students since some districts began returning to school in late July. More than 2,000 students and around 600 teachers at the start of this week are in quarantine after being exposed to the virus, Mississippi's state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said. To curb the spread of the virus, Dobbs announced Monday that K-12 teachers in the state will now have access to free testing, whether or not they have symptoms or know they've been exposed. They will be able to be tested at the state's two community testing sites, as well as 16 new regional mobile testing sites to be set up early next week.
Mississippi expands COVID-19 testing for teachers, telehealth in schools
Gov. Tate Reeves announced during a press conference, Monday afternoon, initiatives expanding COVID-19 testing for Mississippi's teachers and increasing access to telehealth in schools across the state. Starting this week, K-12 teachers may receive a COVID-19 test at any time, even if they have not exhibited symptoms or come in close contact with a known case. Teachers will have three options for testing: Mississippi State Department of Health's Jackson site at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, community sites across the state or rotating testing teams at their home county health department. The testing teams will rotate every two weeks at county health departments, where teachers can drive up and get tested. The governor also announced that emergency telehealth coverage through the Mississippi Division of Medicaid will now include schools. Under the telehealth expansion, schools are approved as temporary telehealth originating site providers on the condition that services are facilitated by a telepresenter acting within his or her scope of practice and license and/or certification.
How Bars Are Fueling COVID-19 Outbreaks
From the early days of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, states have wrestled with the best course of action for the nation's imperiled bars and nightclubs. Many of these businesses find their economic prospects tied to a virus that preys on their industry's lifeblood -- social gatherings in tight quarters. Public health experts and top health officials, including the Dr. Tony Fauci, say the evidence is abundantly clear: When bars open, infections tend to follow. Some states moved quickly to shutter bars early in the pandemic for months or longer, keeping them entirely closed or open only under strict conditions. Many other states moved to reopen bars on a faster timeline -- only to shut them down again as viral case counts rebounded this summer. "We're big targets. It's just wrong," says Steve Smith, whose Nashville, Tenn., businesses include honky-tonks that serve alcohol and cater to tourists. But some legal experts say public health authorities have broad power to close down any business they deem to be particularly dangerous. The evidence that bars are a particular problem has continued to grow, says Dr. Ogechika Alozie, an infectious disease specialist in El Paso, Texas.
Mississippi flag: Final 5 choices made by commission. Now it's your turn.
The choices for Mississippi's new flag have been narrowed to the final five after commissioners discussed the merits of several design modifications during a livestreamed video meeting Tuesday. Three of the choices include a magnolia flower in the center of 21 stars and one featuring a magnolia tree. The fifth features a shield with red, white and blue with one star above it. One selection with the magnolia blossom incorporates the Mississippi River. Some of the flag designs were modified slightly to include 21 stars in a circle: 20 white stars for Mississippi's position as the 20th state and one gold star with five diamonds on its points to represent the Choctaw community. After narrowing it to five, commissioners plan to meet again Aug. 25 to watch those finalists flown from a flagpole. A formal public comment period will last from that meeting until the commission's final meeting Sept. 2, where they are expected to pick a winner. Voters will then decide whether to approve that final design in November.
Proposed effort could revive Mississippi's rebel-themed flag
Some Mississippi residents are rebelling against the Legislature's decision to retire a Confederate-themed state flag, and they are being encouraged by conservative legislators who fought the change. Organizers of a group called Let Mississippi Vote said Monday that they are starting an initiative to put the retired flag and three other flag designs on the statewide ballot. "What the legislators did, in my opinion, was 100% wrong," said the group's leader, Dan Carr. "We should give the people of Mississippi the right to vote on this flag." Getting any initiative on the ballot requires signatures from more than 106,000 voters, evenly distributed among the five congressional districts Mississippi used 20 years ago. Most initiatives fail because organizers fall short in gathering signatures. Carr, a Gulfport pastor and businessman, said Monday that legislators set a precedent by setting a flag election nearly 20 years ago, and he believes they have now silenced people's voices.
Carroll County retired Mississippi state flag but won't budge on Confederate flag
Carroll County retired the former state flag with its Confederate emblem after the Mississippi Legislature voted to do so in July, but the county still continues to fly a Confederate flag on the grounds of the courthouse in Carrollton. Supervisors' President Rickie Corley said Monday the Confederate flag is flown at the Confederate monument. He said the Confederate flag has been there for as long as he can remember. The Confederate monument, with a sculpture of a Confederate soldier atop, was dedicated Dec. 1, 1905, according to Smithsonian Institution records. Corley said the county has no plans to remove the Confederate flag. When asked why the county continues to fly the Confederate flag, when the Confederate emblem on the state flag was considered offensive to so many, Corley replied, "It's colorblind." The Winona Times newspaper reported Carroll County Supervisor Claude Fluker, the lone Black member of the five-member board, made a motion at the Aug. 3 board meeting to take down the Confederate flag, but it was met with silence. The motion died because of a lack of a second.
Mike Espy believes Kamala Harris on Dem ticket boosts his Senate chances
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy stops short -- just short -- of saying that he believes Kamala Harris will make a good vice president because she is a Howard University graduate. "I am a Bison through and through," Espy said of his alma mater's mascot. "Kamala is a personal friend, but more so than that she will be good for the country, strong, capable and competent," Espy said. And, he adds, the fact that she is an alumna of Howard, the historically Black university in Washington, D.C., does not hurt. The time at Howard for Espy, age 66, and Harris, 55, did not overlap, but their shared alma mater has played a role in their friendship in recent years, Espy said. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, selected Harris as his vice presidential running mate last week. As Harris seeks to become the first Indian American and Black vice president in the nation's history, Espy is trying to become Mississippi's first Black U.S. senator elected by popular vote. Espy says not only does he believe a Biden-Harris administration will be good for the country, but he believes it will help his Senate candidacy.
In DNC speech, Michelle Obama rips President Trump for lack of empathy, says he's 'clearly in over his head'
Former first lady Michelle Obama delivered a blistering attack on President Donald Trump in giving the keynote speech of Monday's opening night of Democrats' virtual national convention, saying he has governed by "chaos" while displaying an "utter lack of empathy." "Being president doesn't change who you are," she said. "It reveals who you are." "Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country," Obama said of her husband's successor. "He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment." The former first lady then used Trump's now infamous "it is what it is" quotation about COVID-19 deaths to assess his performance as president. The harsh criticism of Trump, while praising former Vice President Joe Biden as a "profoundly decent man," was uncharacteristic for the Chicago native who was known to admonish Democrats in her 2016 convention speech, "Our motto is: when they go low, we go high."
John Kasich's speech to Democratic convention follows years of building conservative credentials
As a House member and initially as the Republican governor of the Ohio, John Kasich was known for his ardent conservatism -- one of Speaker Newt Gingrich's loyal lieutenants, an architect of the 1997 balanced budget agreement who later fought unions and abortion in the Buckeye State. But Monday night, the lifelong Republican told the Democratic National Convention that all Americans should vote for former Vice President Joe Biden. "I know the measure of the man," said Kasich, noting that he has known the longtime Delaware politician for 30 years. "He's reasonable, faithful, respectful, and you know, no one pushes Joe around." Kasich, 68, said his attachment to his political party "holds second place to my responsibility to my country." President Donald Trump, who beat Kasich in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, called his former rival "a major loser." And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said he was in no way representative of the party. But Kasich told CQ Roll Call that his appearance should come as no surprise to people who have paid attention to his career. "I'm not in a different swim lane," he said in an interview earlier Monday. "This is who I've been all my lifetime."
Vice chancellor Larry Sparks retiring from U. of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi will have a vice-chancellor search on their hands the beginning of 2021. Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for administration and finance, will retire from the University at the end of 2020. Chancellor Glenn Boyce announced Sparks' impending retirement to the campus community on Monday. "Please join me in wishing Larry all the best in his well-earned retirement, and thank him for everything he has done to advance our university over the last 23 years," Boyce said. The Oxford native and Ole Miss alumnus joined the University in 1997, and he has served in his current role as the University's chief financial officer since 2006. Sparks served as the University's interim chancellor most of 2019 after former chancellor Jeffery Vitter stepped down in January of last year. Sparks served in the role until last fall when Boyce was hired as the new chancellor in October.
Vice Chancellor Larry Sparks to retire at the end of the year
Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for administration and finance, will retire at the end of 2020, according to a statement from the university. Sparks, who has worked at the university since 1997, also served as interim chancellor from January 2019 until the following October. He also worked as deputy assistant commissioner for finance and administration for the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). In 2019, Sparks told The Daily Mississippian that his job as vice chancellor gave him an opportunity to truly understand the university and its students. The university statement said that a search committee has been assembled and will identify his replacement. This committee includes Dr. Mark Wilder, dean of the school of accounting; Provost Noel Wilkin, Charlotte Pegues, interim vice chancellor for student affairs; Meagen Rosenthal, chair of the Faculty Senate and Jason Shirkey, chair of the Staff Council.
UM student led mental health services program reopening
The University of Mississippi's counselor education program has decided to reopen its Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment (CORE) to the public on Aug. 24. The clinic was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will reopen via telehealth and will be open to the public. This includes Ole Miss students, faculty, staff and community members. The clinic is located in the South Oxford Center of 2301 South Lamar Blvd. Telehealth appointments are available Monday through Thursday afternoons. All counseling at COPE will be done by masters and doctoral students. Services are provided by master's, specialist and doctoral students who are completing their practicum or internship experiences as well as by faculty members. Doctoral students use this facility to provide clinical supervision to master's students. The clinic provides services to children, college students and adults. They offer individual, group and family counseling. They are also known for their play therapy services, but that has been paused for the fall semester due to COVID-19.
USM adds another rapid COVID-19 testing device as fall semester begins
The University of Southern Mississippi added a new weapon in its arsenal against COVID-19 as campus ramps up for the 2020 fall semester. The university announced Monday it has receive a valuable rapid testing device called the Sofia2 analyzer. The new device will only be used with samples from symptomatic patients. The Sofia2 analyzer returns test results in about 15 minutes, according to the university. "We have done a lot of planning as a university over the last several months for a safe return to the fall semester, and having access to these testing devices plays a large part in that plan to keep students and employees safe and healthy," Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Dee Dee Anderson said. In addition to the Sofia2 analyzer, USM's Moffitt Health Center also has three Becton Dickinson BD Veritor analyzers that are used for rapid coronavirus testing. "It's so important to have multiple testing platforms so we never lose the capability to test patients," Moffitt Health Center Director Dr. Melissa Roberts said. "You don't want to put all your eggs in one basket, especially if there's a testing shortage for one of the platforms you're using."
Seven Mississippi College students test positive for coronavirus
Seven students have tested positive for the coronavirus at Mississippi College. Four of the students have returned home as they recover from the virus while others are quarantined on campus. The university will use contact tracing to alert people who were within six feet of the infected person for 15 minutes or longer since symptoms began or two days prior to a positive COVID-19 test. All MC community members are required to report to covid19@mc.edu if they test positive for COVID-19 or are self-quarantining due to suspected or known exposure to COVID-19. MC will continue to update coronavirus numbers every Monday.
Campus officials: So far, so good on Auburn University's first day back
The Auburn University campus reopened for business Monday. The first day of classes appeared to come off without any significant problems. Students, faculty and staff were wearing masks and social distancing. The main concourse wasn't busy, partly because more classes are being taught online and thus reducing foot traffic. The students who were out on foot said they think their peers understand the importance of the precautions Auburn has taken -- testing, daily screenings, mask orders -- in order to reopen classes. "I think they're doing the best they can do, and I think they're going in the right direction," sophomore Michaela Holt said. The students aren't only ones glad to see Auburn University reopened. "It's good to be back. It's good to see students here.... But it is an unusual fall, in every sort of way," said Charles Israel, the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Israel said faculty members value the one-on-one, on-campus interactions that drove Auburn students back to campus after five-plus months away.
LSU professor now senior member of inventors' academy
A professor in LSU's department of biological sciences has been selected as a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors. Mark Batzer's research interests include comparative and evolutionary genomics, mobile element biology, computational biology and forensic genomics. He spent six years on the faculty at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans and in 2001 joined the faculty at LSU in Baton Rouge. Batzer was one of 38 academic investors selected by the academy as a senior member this month. The group represents 24 universities, government agencies and non-profits. Batzer holds multiple patents in forensic DNA analyses, along with his former graduate student Dale Hedges and current staff scientist Jerilyn Walker, that have been commercialized. He and his research group have also published more than 290 original research articles.
U. of Arkansas applications up after 2-year decline; new online method added
Applications to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville increased after a two-year dip, with the university now allowing prospective first-year students to apply using what's known as the Common Application. Submitted applications for fall admission increased to 20,334 as of Aug. 15, up about 14% from the 17,913 reported by the university for fall 2019, said Suzanne McCray, UA's top admissions official. "We have had a great year for applications," McCray said in an email. The total count is still preliminary, she said. Each year the university admits thousands more students than the number who end up actually attending. However, the earlier decrease in applications coincided with a dip in enrollment at UA in fall 2019, including a decline in the size of the incoming freshman class. McCray said some uncertainty remains about this fall. Classes start on Monday, and it's still unknown how the pandemic will end up affecting final enrollment totals.
UGA begins COVID surveillance testing, will report summaries of results weekly
The University of Georgia has stopped its daily update of COVID-19 cases among members of the UGA community, but says it will resume weekly reporting beginning Wednesday. Thursday is the first day of fall semester classes. Before halting its daily reporting last week, UGA's University Health Center had been compiling numbers from two sources: voluntary reporting and test results from people who went to the University Health Center for testing. As of Aug. 10, that total was 457 cases, including many people who had not been on campus since the University System of Georgia sent students and employees home as the pandemic gathered steam in March, according to the University Health Center. That cumulative total "was never intended to serve as an accurate barometer of the current status of COVID-19 at UGA at any point in time," according to the University Health Center website.
Maskless student gatherings mar return as more Ga. colleges begin this week
Several Georgia universities reopened Monday for the fall semester amid renewed calls for schools to conduct all classes online as videos showing large groups of mostly maskless students partying in close spaces surfaced on social media. The University of North Georgia said in a statement Monday it was disappointed after a video showed what appeared to be several hundred students partying in an off-campus apartment complex near its Dahlonega campus Saturday night. No one in the video appeared to wear a face mask. Photos of large groups identified as maskless University of Georgia students surfaced online as well. UGA begins classes Thursday. The United Campus Workers of Georgia started a petition Monday demanding more online courses at North Georgia, enhanced testing measures and for any faculty to work remotely if they prefer to do so. At Georgia Tech, where classes began Monday, about three dozen students held an hourlong demonstration against the in-person return plans. They demanded more protective equipment for campus workers and that all classes be held online.
Classrooms at Texas A&M to open to thousands Wednesday
Texas A&M University will open its classrooms to thousands of students on Wednesday, equipped with an abundance of cleaning products and additional safety precautions intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. Classrooms will hold fewer students than usual to allow for social distancing, and chairs in the rooms will have color coded stickers so that students from different periods can have a clean seat, as shown in a university released video earlier this month. While the rooms will be cleaned throughout the day, they also will have a disinfectant station so smaller areas that need attention can be addressed immediately. Face covering requirements and limitations on outdoor gatherings also have been outlined by the school. Students who return to town are asked to limit any travel so that infection levels within the community can be managed more easily, Provost and Executive Vice President Carol A. Fierke told Texas A&M Today last week.
U. of Missouri limits events to 20; mandates reporting of positive COVID tests
University of Missouri Students who test positive for COVID-19 are required to reveal the private medical information within four hours to the MU Student Health Center and all of their instructors. MU employees who test positive must notify their supervisors within four hours of being notified of the positive test. Failure to reveal the information could result in suspension for students and termination for employees, said MU spokesman Christian Basi. Mun Choi, University of Missouri System President and MU chancellor, sent the information to the campus community and a news release also followed. The new requirements are being added to the university's Show Me Renewal plan. The new requirements also restrict sizes of events to 20 people or fewer, unless the university provides permission for more.
Colleges' best-laid coronavirus plans quickly come undone
Only a fraction of colleges have started their fall semester. As August and September progress and more institutions resume teaching, the academic term could see a wave of similar outbreaks and sharp pivots to online learning if students don't adhere to rules and guidelines about masks and social distancing. President Donald Trump, lawmakers and state governing boards have pressured universities to reopen for in-person lessons. Trump threatened colleges tax-exempt status and his administration changed the rules about international students' coming to the U.S. if their colleges offered online-only courses. At UNC, the chancellor and provost did not have the "full freedom" to decide whether or not to reopen their campus because "the [Board of Governors] told system universities they had to reopen and that individual university chancellors could not make those decisions independently," Barbara K. Rimer, dean of UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, wrote Monday.
Universities scramble to deal with virus outbreaks
The University of Notre Dame reported 58 confirmed cases since students returned to the South Bend, Indiana, campus in early August. At least two off-campus parties over a week ago have been identified as sources, school officials said. Paul J. Browne, vice president for public affairs at Notre Dame, said the university is prepared to suspend or otherwise discipline the hosts of such parties. University officials in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama were likewise frustrated by scenes of crowded bars and other nightspot areas on the first weekend many students returned to school. Balancing the health risks with educating students has been keeping university presidents up at night, said Mildred García, head of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. She said many are having to reconsider their plans as things change rapidly. "They are doing the best they can with their staff and trying to educate the students about masks and social distancing and the effects of this virus," she said. "They're doing all they can -- and yet these are young people. When we think back about when we were young, sometimes you think you're invincible."
UNC Pulls the Plug on In-Person Fall. Will Other Campuses Follow?
Two weeks after moving students into the dorms for an in-person fall, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced that it's moving mostly online for the rest of the semester. The university is encouraging those students who can to return to their family homes to do so, and it will release them from their housing contracts penalty-free. The move comes after a three-day stretch during which the university saw three separate clusters of coronavirus infections in residence halls, plus one cluster in a fraternity house. In total, 135 students and staff tested positive for the coronavirus last week. "As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation," Kevin M. Guskiewicz, the chancellor, and Robert A. Blouin, the executive vice chancellor, wrote in the announcement. UNC's quick switch online is a jarring about-face, and may portend grim news for other campuses that have chosen to open for in-person activities amid high coronavirus infection rates around the country.
After a spring and summer of planning, higher ed faces its moment of truth
As fall fast approaches, a steady stream of colleges have backed away from plans for an in-person semester in favor of a largely virtual one, citing the worsening course of the coronavirus pandemic. But many other colleges are pushing ahead with plans for in-person classes, and students have already started moving in at some colleges that have implemented mask mandates, installed Plexiglas barriers in communal bathrooms and classrooms, and placed hand-sanitizing stations throughout their campuses. Observers are questioning how college leaders are balancing the health and safety of faculty, staff, students and members of surrounding communities with the financial and political pressures driving the push to reopen campuses. Are they striking the right balance? Some don't think so. One feature of campus reopening plans is the behavioral expectations for students -- that they consistently wear masks, practice excellent hand hygiene and observe social distancing protocols and limits on group gatherings (read: no parties). While some colleges have made violations of these protocols punishable by suspension or expulsion, student affairs professionals and other college leaders have expressed concerns about enforcement, particularly in off-campus housing settings.
Coronavirus Quarantine Rules Complicate College Move-In
Thousands of students from states now considered hot zones for Covid-19 are embarking on a great migration to college campuses elsewhere around the country -- including in states where the pandemic is largely under control. Education Department data show that in fall 2018, the latest year available, as many as 77,000 first-year students left states where the virus is now more prevalent to go to college in states now lower-risk. New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Massachusetts are the low-risk states whose schools draw the most freshmen from states now considered high-risk, or have reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people within the past two weeks. Though hundreds of schools have opted for remote or hybrid instruction rather than in-person classes this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic, students are still flocking to dorms and off-campus apartments. The recent rise in cases around the country has pushed some schools to rethink how and when students come back, especially as states in the Northeast maintain tight quarantine orders for new arrivals.
Will Coronavirus Join the Rush at Fraternities and Sororities?
The concerns over Greek life come amid reports of virus outbreaks at fraternities and sororities across the country. Universities are struggling with how to prevent tightly packed sorority and fraternity houses from turning into coronavirus clusters. As students return to campus, there have been virus outbreaks at residence halls and other university housing as well. More than 13,000 students, faculty and staff members at colleges have been infected with the coronavirus, according to a Times database of cases confirmed by schools and government agencies. But fraternities and sororities have been especially challenging for universities to regulate. Despite all the restrictions, both fraternities and sororities say they are reporting swelling numbers of applicants. Students are pining for the connections that college life is supposed to offer. And with many of the normal avenues of meeting people and making friends closed off, many students are turning to the Greek system. There are about 800,000 undergraduate members of fraternities and sororities. But that enthusiasm can sometimes translate into behavior that non-Greek students say endangers others.
Need A Laptop? Colleges Boost Loaner Programs Amid Pandemic
We've long known there's a digital divide in America. The pandemic, which has forced the country to jump headfirst into an immersive, all-encompassing digital existence -- is only exacerbating it. Most of the discussions focus on elementary school children, but college students get stuck in this disconnected abyss too. Research shows 10 percent of the nation's college students -- that's about 2 million people -- don't have access to a laptop for school. And, that number may be much higher now as so many families are sharing devices to work remotely or to keep younger children in virtual school. The lack of connectivity is disproportionate when it comes to non-white communities: 37% of Latino families either have no broadband Internet at home, or are connected only through a smartphone. Colleges across the country have been amassing as many computers as the market will allow -- so they can lend them out to students.
John Rounsaville thrust into economic crisis
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: As of April 30, the pandemic shut-down pushed Mississippi's unemployment rate up to 15.7% with 187,800 unemployed residents. Two weeks later Gov. Tate Reeves thrust John Rounsaville into the middle of this economic crisis, putting him in charge of the Mississippi Development Authority. "He hit the ground running try to save jobs and hasn't let up!" said one of the state's top economic developers. "He has always been a great policy mind and a hard worker," continued David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo. The 45-year-old native of the Big Creek community in Calhoun County comes to this position from two successful years as State Director for USDA Rural Development. "John was very innovative and aggressive" at USDA, said one state government insider. "He worked hard to leverage rural development dollars to have the greatest impact on community development." For nine years previously, Rounsaville, also a JAG Major in the Air National Guard, served as Vice President of Strategic Services for Waggoner Engineering, Inc. Both positions put him in close contact with developers and local officials around the state.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State are playing when? 2020 Egg Bowl gets official date
If there's one thing that can make the 2020 college football season start to feel normal, it's this: There will still be an Egg Bowl. Ole Miss and Mississippi State will play each other on Nov. 28 in the second-to-last week of the season, the SEC announced on Monday evening. The game will be held in Oxford. The two teams were originally scheduled to play on another on Thanksgiving night (Nov. 26) but the COVID-19 pandemic led to the SEC completely rewriting its 2020 schedules. This year will mark the first time since 2001 that Ole Miss and Mississippi State won't end their regular seasons against one another. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are both entering new eras in their football history. This year's Egg Bowl will be the first for both Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi State coach Mike Leach. Mississippi State has won the last two Egg Bowl games and three of the last four overall. The Bulldogs won 21-20 last season in Starkville after Ole Miss missed an extra point that could've sent the game to overtime with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Analysis: Breaking down Mississippi State's 2020 football schedule
Football season is on the horizon. Monday night, Mississippi State learned its official ledger for the 2020 season as the Bulldogs will partake in a 10-game, conference-only slate amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With first year head coach Mike Leach opening fall practices Tuesday and the first game against LSU less than six weeks away, here's a deep dive into MSU's matchups and what to expect this year. What better way to start one's tenure than a season opener against the defending national champions? Mississippi native Myles Brennan is slated to take the reins under center for the Tigers after Joe Burrow's video game-like 2019 campaign. And while Brennan likely won't replicate Burrow's numbers, he should prove efficient. MSU has proven capable of beating LSU as recently as 2017 and have more wins in Baton Rouge over the Tigers (18) than in Starkville (7) since their series began in 1896.
SEC releases Mike Leach's first Mississippi State football schedule
One month ago, long before the Big Ten and Pac-12 canceled their 2020 fall football seasons because of coronavirus concerns, Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said he hoped he'd have a chance to coach at least 10 games this year. He's in line to get his wish. The SEC released the 10-game, conference-only schedules for its 14 member institutions Monday evening. Leach and company learned earlier in the day who they'd play in the season opener -- defending national champion LSU. In Death Valley, too. Now the Bulldogs know what they're up against through November. Here's a look at their 10-game SEC slate.
Mississippi State to start 2020 SEC college football season against LSU
Mississippi State finally knows who to turn its attention to. On the eve of the Bulldogs' first training camp practice of the Mike Leach era, the SEC announced the conference's Week 1 slate of games during the "Paul Finebaum Show" on Monday afternoon. Mississippi State's season opener comes on the road against LSU on Sept. 26. LSU beat Mississippi State 36-13 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville last year on its way to a 15-0 record and the program's fourth national championship, but many of the Tigers who led LSU to that victory have since departed -- including Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow. According to ESPN, LSU ranks last in the Power 5 in returning offensive production. Mississippi State, meanwhile, will go down to the bayou with a new head coach in the offensive-minded Leach and a new quarterback in graduate transfer K.J. Costello from Stanford.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State football schedules announced
Are you ready for some college football? The Mississippi State and Ole Miss football teams learned their fall schedules on Monday. The SEC rolled out its complete 2020 schedule, which features a 10-game, conference- only schedule for each team. Times will be announced later. Week 1, on Sept. 26, Ole Miss will host Florida while Mississippi State will travel to LSU -- the defending national champions. Mississippi State and Ole Miss will continue to play on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 28), but it will not be the last game of the regular season this year. After traveling to LSU, Mississippi State will host Arkansas, travel to Kentucky and host Texas A&M before an off week on Oct. 24. Following the off week, the Bulldogs will travel to Alabama on Halloween, host Vanderbilt, host Auburn, travel to Georgia, travel to Ole Miss and host Missouri to close.
How a cardiologist may have saved the college football season
Michael Ackerman isn't a college football fan. The Mayo Clinic genetic cardiologist has been to two college football games in his life. But if we have college football this fall, Dr. Ackerman will be one of the reasons why. His perspective on myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, helped the Big 12 hold off on canceling its season, which would have set off a string of dominos that could have doomed college football last week. Without the Big 12, the ACC would have likely dropped out, and it would have been increasingly difficult for the SEC to move forward alone. The fate of the 2020 season hinged on the biggest wild card of the Power 5 conferences. The Big 12 brought in Ackerman for its Tuesday call last week amid a Sports Illustrated report the conference was split on what to do. The Big Ten and Pac-12 had already announced their plans to cancel the fall football season, citing myocarditis as a primary factor in those decisions. Enter Ackerman. He explained to the Big 12′s leaders that a new myocarditis study in the Journal of American Medical Association that sparked panic across college sports didn't have the "bandwidth" to be transferable in a useful way.
LSU fans without tickets will likely be discouraged from campus tailgating, president says
LSU might discourage football fans without tickets to the game from tailgating outside of Tiger Stadium during home games this fall, the university president said Monday. Interim LSU president Tom Galligan told WRKF Radio that the school is grappling with how to keep fans safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. "If we can have fans, we're probably going to urge a lot of the people who don't have tickets to the game to not come to campus," Galligan said. LSU's first game is scheduled for Sept. 26, but little is known about what a home football game could look like -- including whether fans will be able to watch and how many would be allowed inside the stadium. The athletic department has not announced an official policy on stadium capacity or tailgating.
Gamecocks fight to keep corona-safe bubble intact against college social life
The bubble was created, saw a small amount of positive coronavirus tests and was deemed safe for the start of preseason camp. South Carolina's system at the Long football operations center is working. But the X-factor that USC and every other school in the country faces is already in motion. The return of students and the start of classes has all colleges accepting the same quandary. "You're dealing with college-age kids," coach Will Muschamp said. "They want to be college kids and we want them to be college kids, we just want them to do it with a very boring lifestyle right now." Classes at USC, which are a mix of in-person and online sessions, begin Thursday. Last Saturday marked the first day of the final wave of students moving to campus. The football players have their bubble and it will be there for all of their 25 scheduled practices over the next 40 days. But girlfriends, parents, friends and social situations won't be in it with them. USC president Bob Caslen, noting that college students are "young and gregarious," said it is vital for everyone to wear masks and social distance. The USC campus is requiring masks at all times and in-person classes are set up so they can social distance.
NCAA eyes mid-September for basketball decision
The NCAA will likely decide next month whether to start the college basketball season on time or have a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said Monday that mid-September will likely be the first of many decisions about the 2020-21 season. Gavitt said the NCAA has developed and studied contingency plans in case the season cannot be started on Nov. 10. Arkansas is scheduled to open the season Nov. 10 with a game against Oral Roberts in Fayetteville. Four conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, have postponed fall sports and hope to play in the spring. Six leagues, including the Big 12, ACC and SEC, are moving forward with plans to play in the fall. The Pac-12 has said its postponement includes basketball, but other conferences have not mentioned plans for hoops.
A tradition silenced: How losing band shows in 2020 is impacting the HBCU community
Alabama State drum major JaVonta Price was on his way home after a morning grocery trip during his summer break. His mom texted him, sharing a tweet with the news he figured was coming but wasn't ready to face. The SWAC fall athletic season would be canceled. What it meant? So much more than football on Saturdays. It meant no hyped-up crowds, hollering at the drum majors' signature move, the Hornet lean back. No leading the loud and proud Mighty Marching Hornets onto the field for their weekly spectacle. Many show bands -- a voice of the Black college experience -- would be instructed to pause. His stomach turned over, and everything he had just bought, he wanted to take back. "Black bands are definitely embedded into our country," said Jackson State band director Roderick Little. "Even when we go and play at PWIs (Predominantly White Institutions), we are welcomed with open arms, because they are just in awe of what our band programs have to bring from musicality to showmanship and the overall energy we bring within our shows."

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: August 18, 2020Facebook Twitter