Thursday, August 20, 2020   
Seven area cities receive Main Street state awards
Businesses and Main Street associations in seven Northeast Mississippi cities were honored Wednesday as recipients of 2020 Mississippi Main Street Association annual awards. The annual awards program honors Main Street directors, board members and volunteers and recognizes the most outstanding downtown development projects from the 45 Main Street communities in Mississippi. Winners were announced during a virtual ceremony from the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson. Starkville Main Street was honored twice in the Economic Vitality category, including the Outstanding Economic Impact Project award for Orientation Dine Around Town. As part of that program, Starkville Main Street teamed with the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau and Mississippi State University to invite new MSU students and their families to dine in the city's restaurants. The IDEA Shop was chosen for Outstanding Entrepreneurial Endeavor. It provides an assortment of design workstations, 3-D printers, electronics and advanced woodworking tools not commonly available to assist the public.
USDA Appoints Meat Industry Participants as New Members to Food Safety Advisory Committees
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week the appointment of 10 new members to the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection and an additional new member to the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. "USDA is excited to announce the new committee members to NACMPI and NACMCF," said Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears. "These committee members represent a diverse group distinguished by their knowledge and interest in meat and poultry safety. Their expertise and advice play a key role in informing USDA's food safety decisions to ensure the U.S continues to have one of the safest food systems in the world." The new NACMPI members appointed to serve two-year terms include Dr. Jimmy L. Avery, Mississippi State University and Dr. Byron Williams, Mississippi State University.
Women's journal submission rates continue to fall
Female academics' research productivity dropped off at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, which many experts have attributed to women's outsize role in caregiving even before the pandemic. Some also blame women's disproportionate service roles and take-up of emotional labor. Months later, journal submission rates for women have improved in some cases. But the general outlook for women remains poor, with K-12 schools still closed in many communities, childcare options and other services still greatly reduced, and a bumpy teaching semester ahead. Alexandra Hui, associate professor of history at Mississippi State University and co-editor of Isis, also said she hoped that this public health crisis would lead to significant “shifts” in academe, perhaps concerning childcare options, support for faculty and staff parents, and both institutional and disciplinary tenure standards. “That change isn’t going to happen fast enough for people right now,” Hui cautioned. But “I don’t think we’re going to retreat to the very narrow representations” of women in academe seen 100 years ago. For Hui, at least, this time has already “normalized” the scholar-parent identity to some degree. “On Zoom meetings, I, for one, let my child wander into the frame. Yes, he’s my child, and he’s here because no one else can watch him.”
Another car burglar arrested in Starkville
Starkville police arrested four car burglars in a 24-hour period this week. Wednesday morning, officers arrested Dontavious Lucious, 19, of Starkville, for an auto burglary on Colonel Muldrow Avenue. "This is the second consecutive day officers have stopped and arrested an active auto burglar," said Starkville police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Lovelady. "We thank the vigilant citizens who promptly reported suspicious activity this morning. Without your assistance, this arrest would not have been possible." On Tuesday morning, police arrested three juveniles, aged 13-16, for auto burglaries that happened on Peoples Street. All three had been previously arrested for auto burglary. The incidents remain under investigation and more charges are expected. Lovelady reminds people to lock vehicle doors and remove firearms and other valuable items. Locking doors and securing valuables will reduce your chance of becoming an auto burglary victim.
Airbus helicopters 'essential to the security of the United States'
For nearly 17 years, Airbus has been building helicopters used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as well as the military in Columbus. Airbus delivered the first of 16 new H125 helicopters uniquely configured for CBP's Air and Marines Operations on Wednesday at a ceremony that included U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly. Air and Marine Operations is CBP's federal law enforcement component. Steve Boyer, deputy executive assistant commissioner of Air and Marine Operations, said the H125 helicopter was an exceptional machine that served a vital mission. "We use this fleet every day, every year to intercept thousands of pounds of narcotics, take down human smuggling, take down drug trafficking organization, and we use it for national events ... this is our workhorse," he said. "Airbus Helicopters' continued commitment to designing, manufacturing, and delivering quality products will enable AMO personnel to successfully and safely carry out this mission." Wicker heaped praise on the workers at the plant, saying the helicopters were recognized worldwide.
ERDC researchers receive national Women of Color Awards
Four researchers at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) have been honored with Women of Color STEM awards. Vickey Moore, Dr. Reena Patel and Lulu Edwards were selected as WOC Technology All-Star Award winners, while Barbara Pilate was awarded the New Media Leadership Award in Government. Moore, a research computer scientist in the Information Technology Laboratory, earned her bachelor's from Alcorn State University and her master's from Mississippi State University. Patel, a research mathematician in ITL, is originally from India, where she received a master's in mathematics and a bachelor's in science from Bangalore University, before earning a doctorate from Mississippi State University. Edwards, a research engineer in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, grew up in Starkville and earned a bachelor's from Mississippi State University and a master's from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Mississippi reports 894 new COVID-19 cases, 27 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Thursday reported 894 new COVID-19 cases, including 41 in Lee County. The state also reported 27 additional deaths. Lafayette, Lee and Monroe counties reported an additional death. Oktibbeha County reported two new deaths. The statewide total of COVID-19 cases since March 11 now stands at 75,449 with 2,190 deaths as a result of the virus. Around 56,577 people are estimated to have recovered from the virus as of August 16. North Mississippi Health Services has 55 positive inpatients and 4,748 positive outpatients as of August 20. All following counties reported additional cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (13), Benton (7), Calhoun (3), Chickasaw (7), Clay (4), Itawamba (13), Lafayette (17), Lee (41), Marshall (36), Pontotoc (20), Prentiss (13), Tippah (6), Tishomingo (6) and Union (6).
'These are people who didn't have to die,' Dr. Thomas Dobbs says of new coronavirus deaths
Gov. Tate Reeves and the state's health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, acknowledged that an increase in Wednesday's COVID-19 numbers and outbreaks at two colleges are concerning developments in the state's battle against the coronavirus. The state announced 1,348 new cases, the largest single-day total in August, and 36 deaths on Wednesday. "I'll always tell you when the numbers are good and bad," Reeves said. "They have been good for a while, but today's were bad. It's one day, not a trend, but it's important to notice and acknowledge." Dobbs called Wednesday's data a "considerable increase" over recent numbers. "We need to realize that these are people who didn't have to die. These are people who otherwise would be with us today," Dobbs said. "Most of the people who are dying today in Mississippi are not in nursing homes. They're people who live in the community. They're contracting COVID, getting sick and they're dying. It's something we need to work diligently to suppress in the communities."
Coast casino employees have at least 15 cases of COVID, aren't following mask policies, claims workers' union
A workers' union that represents over 300,000 casino workers in North America is calling for more protection from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Representatives from UNITE HERE Local 23 appeared before the gaming commission Thursday morning, presenting the concerns detailed in the union's report. The Mississippi Gaming Commission did not make any changes at the meeting on Thursday, but did acknowledge the union's report and their concerns. The report says the union has documented 15 cases of coronavirus among employees at Biloxi casinos. Workers reported risks of potential exposure to supervisors, say the report, but were made to continue working for multiple days afterward. The report states 10 cases were documented at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, including a server at the Stalla restaurant, a server and a food runner at the Terrace Café, two cooks, a dishwasher and four housekeepers. Five cases were reportedly documented at the IP Casino Resort Spa, all in the housekeeping department.
Natchez and Adams County to consider hiring lobbying firm
Natchez and Adams County are considering hiring a lobbying group to help the city and county secure funding in Washington, D.C., and Jackson for projects in the area. Near the end of the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen's budget retreat meeting Saturday, Mayor Dan Gibson told alderman about the plan to consider hiring a lobbyist. "In just a couple of weeks we are going to be considering a contract to bring on a lobbying firm for Natchez and Adams County and that individual is former Congressman Gregg Harper and his partner ..." Gibson said. "If the city is going to succeed, you have got to have a place at the table, and it is important that we always have people on retainer who are always representing you in Jackson and Washington where the decisions are being made," Gibson said. "Having been a lobbyist I will continue to be a lobbyist for Natchez. I will be lobbying in Jackson very shortly." Gibson said the initial proposal is for a contract with Harper, the former 3rd District U.S. Rep. of Jackson, that could cost anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 a month that the city and the county share.
Talking Health Care With Mike Espy
In all the chaos of 2020, the 2018 special election that saw former U.S. Rep. and Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy returning to vie for national office seems a distant memory. That contest is a prologue to this fall's rematch, one that touched on vastly different themes than those now troubling the nation. Of all the issues separating Espy from his opponent, Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith, their approach to health care may represent the starkest divide. Certainly, it is the most resonant question in a year of anxiety and agony over the pandemic and the state of America's public health. Medicaid expansion, a critical issue in last year's statewide elections, looms large above all else but coronavirus. Espy sat down for a video chat with the Jackson Free Press to discuss the topic of health care: both his plans for achieving Medicaid expansion in Mississippi and his thoughts on the state and national response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rep. Michael Guest says Democrats are using Post Office to make President Trump look bad
Congressman Michael Guest appeared on Super Talk Mississippi this morning to speak on a variety of topics ranging from stimulus money to the ongoing controversy surrounding the United States Post Office. On the current status of a second stimulus package, Guest said that negotiations are ongoing and that they remain at the "low level." "Negotiations on a big package seem, at this point, to be on hold," he said. "We are hearing some things out of Washington, particularly out of the Senate, that they will look at introducing legislation when they return in September." Later in the show, host Linda Allen asked Guest to clear up some "conspiracy theories" surrounding the post office including if the Post Office was going out of business. "First off, the Post Office is not going out of business," Guest responded. "The postal service has been an important part of our country since our very founding." He did say, however, that the Post Office now has many additional competitors and that many Americans no longer use the Post Office for their everyday business.
At DNC, Obama says Trump using presidency like a 'reality show' to get 'the attention he craves'
Former President Barack Obama delivered an unsparing attack on President Donald Trump at the virtual Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night, accusing his successor of using the nation's highest office to help himself and his friends, and treating the presidency like a "reality show" to get "the attention he craves." Speaking from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia under the convention night's theme of "A more perfect union," Obama accused Trump of failing to take the job seriously, resulting in a massive death toll due to the pandemic, job and economic losses, and a diminished U.S. standing around the world. Obama's remarks were his sharpest and most direct attacks on Trump since leaving office after two terms in 2017. It represents the latest evolution of the former hometown president's decision to go harder on Trump as the election approaches. Obama was under no illusions that Trump, upon taking over, would continue with his policies or embrace his vision of the country. But Obama said he hoped "for the sake of the country" that Trump would take the job seriously and feel the weight of the office and have some reverence "for the democracy that had been placed in his care."
Kamala Harris talks of uniting under Biden, learning from a strong family and surviving Trump
Sen. Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president Wednesday night, marking a historic first with a speech that was part autobiography, part campaign pitch and firmly rooted in her California background. The Oakland native officially became the first woman of color to be on a major party's ticket on the penultimate night of the virtual Democratic convention after former President Barack Obama, the first Black president, spoke. It was a symbolic passing of the torch on the path to what Democrats hope Harris can achieve in November -- becoming the first Black woman and first Asian American woman to be elected vice president. And the former San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general also showed off a skill Democrats hope she brings to the ticket -- going on attack against President Trump. Speaking from Wilmington, Del., where Joe Biden will accept the presidential nomination Thursday, Harris said that "the constant chaos (under Trump) leaves us adrift. The incompetence makes us feel afraid. The callousness makes us feel alone. It's a lot."
President Trump Praises QAnon Followers as 'People That Love Our Country'
President Trump welcomed the support of followers of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory Wednesday, saying he knew little about the theory but suggesting that those who subscribe to it are patriots who back his presidency. During a White House press briefing, Mr. Trump said: "I've heard these are people that love our country." He added: "I don't really know anything about it, except that they do supposedly like me." QAnon is a far right-wing, loosely organized network and community of believers who embrace a range of unsubstantiated theories. These views center around the tenet that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles have long controlled much of the "deep state" government, which they say seeks to undermine Mr. Trump. A memo released in May by the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified QAnon as a potential domestic terrorism threat, citing at least two incidents connecting QAnon with the planning and execution of violent acts.
President Trump pushes for universities to reopen even as coronavirus cases spike on campuses
President Trump on Wednesday pushed for universities to reopen for classes in the fall amid coronavirus outbreaks on campuses that have reopened -- and in some cases closed -- this month. "We have learned one thing, there's nothing like campus, there's nothing like being with a teacher as opposed to being on a computer board," Trump said Wednesday at a briefing. "The iPads are wonderful but you're not going to learn the same way as being there." Trump has long pushed for schools to reopen for in-person classes this fall, as health experts and educators warn about potential issues surrounding students returning for classes. Trump suggested it is "safer" for students to be back and living on campus. "Instead of saving lives the decision to close universities could cost lives. It is significantly safer for students to live with other young people than to go home and spread the virus to older Americans," he said. "The coronavirus is far more deadly for older people and those with underlying conditions."
School outbreaks wreck President Trump's plans for return to normal
President Donald Trump hoped schools and colleges would reopen their doors this fall, marking the retreat of the coronavirus pandemic and the start of an economic revival just months before the presidential election. Metastasizing outbreaks are shattering those hopes. Thousands of kids and coeds are getting sick, along with their teachers, triggering mass quarantines, campus closures and last-minute switches to online learning. Virus-proof kids who are "virtually immune" to the scourge -- that was what the president promised. A few days into the new school year, that prediction hasn't held together. "His promises have proven to be false," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat whose home state has seen coronavirus infections in 87 percent of the counties as of Monday, thrusting more than 2,000 students and nearly 600 teachers into quarantine. "Children are getting infected at a greater percentage. Teachers are getting infected at a greater percentage," said Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees policy for national pandemic response. "That's compounded with the common knowledge that this pandemic -- with over 170,000 people who have lost their lives -- is not going away. You can't wish it away. You can't talk it away."
Two Mississippi universities find COVID-19 as students return
Outbreaks of the new coronavirus have been found at two of Mississippi's eight public universities within the first days of students returning to campuses, the state health officer said Wednesday. Dr. Thomas Dobbs said cases at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and Mississippi University for Women in Columbus appear to have originated off-campus. "Not a big surprise," Dobbs said. "We know when people socialize and get in groups concentrated not wearing masks, they're absolutely going to spread the coronavirus." The Health Department said Wednesday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had at least 74,555 reported cases and at least 2,163 deaths from COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening.
MUW, Ole Miss report 'considerable' student cases of COVID-19 as in-person classes resume
The Mississippi State Department of Health is investigating COVID-19 outbreaks at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi University for Women, state Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Wednesday. He did not say exactly how many cases have been reported so far, but indicated there were many. "It will be considerable students. We are waiting for additional testing," Dobbs said during Gov. Tate Reeves press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. "More will come on that." Classes began Monday at MUW. The fall semester begins Aug. 24 at Ole Miss, but some students already have begun moving onto campus. Some university officials in Mississippi said they have plans in place for a potential outbreak, so are ready to handle the situation.
Nursing class shifts to remote learning after positive COVID cases at MUW
Juniors in Mississippi University for Women's Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program have shifted to remote learning for 14 days to meet classroom physical distancing measures and out of an abundance of caution after four students tested positive for COVID-19 this week. The four students were asymptomatic and identified as close contacts by family members or friends who live off campus. Based on information available to university officials, there is no internal community spread on campus. The four students who tested positive are isolating for 14 days off campus. Additionally, the other 71 students in the classroom were also notified to quarantine for 14 days. "Our contact tracing measures went into effect immediately and we were able to identify other students and individuals who were in contact with these students," said W President Nora Miller. "We are working closely with local and state health officials for guidance to ensure the continued safety of our students, faculty and staff. The health and well-being of our campus community remain a top priority."
U. of Mississippi Forms COVID-19 Contact Tracing Team
When medical experts recommended contact tracing as another tool to help curtail the spread of COVID-19, University of Mississippi leaders began creating an internal team and extensive process to notify members of the campus community who may have come into contact with a positive case. Many universities have looked outward for expertise or assistance to augment official contact tracing efforts of state health departments. For UM's Oxford and regional campuses, Alex Langhart, director of University Health Services, realized that the expertise and talent needed to tackle this important task existed on campus in the School of Applied Sciences, where degree programs focus on the intersection of human health and service The university's contact tracing team is composed of 21 volunteers from the school's five departments, as well as the Institute of Child Nutrition, and each brings a unique skill set to help inform Ole Miss students, faculty and staff as they begin engaging on campus again for the fall semester.
Delta State University names Robin Douglas 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.
Courtney Taylor touts Communiversity as 'home for partnerships'
Courtney Taylor had been executive director for the Communiversity and workforce training at East Mississippi Community College for four months before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the college to send all its students home, leaving the brand new 143,000 square-foot advanced manufacturing training center on Highway 82 empty. "All of a sudden, we're looking at how do we train people in these skilled trades when we can't physically bring them into a building?" Taylor told members of the Columbus Rotary Club during their weekly luncheon at Lion Hills Center on Tuesday. "How do you do that? "The Communiversity all of a sudden was empty," she added. "We had a few people there, a few of us that wanted to go to work every day because we're sadistic like that. We didn't have any students there. It was just a really weird time." But the pandemic allowed Taylor and others at the Communiversity to pause and take stock of the broader needs in the Golden Triangle's manufacturing and industrial community and how the Communiversity could serve those needs.
Itawamba Community College students return to campus for first week of classes
Public speaking instructor Jessi Stevenson has worked at Itawamba Community College for 15 years, and she's never faced a classroom in quite the way she has this week. On Wednesday, just two days after ICC students returned to class, Stevenson's public speaking class on the Fulton campus was a mix of physical and virtual attendees. Only 12 of the class's 24 students sat at their desks. The other half joined the class virtually via Zoom. The next time her class meets, the groups will swap places. It's different, but Stevenson doesn't necessarily consider that a negative. According to ICC President Dr. Jay Allen, by the time registration for online classes ends, about 5,000 students will be enrolled across the college's trio of campuses. Allen said he's aware of how challenging the semester will be for students and has tried to make his faculty and staff aware of and sympathetic to those challenges. Flexibility and compassion will be key, he said. Allen said the school's primary goal this semester is to "give students as normal an experience as possible, to keep them engaged with the college, to aid them and challenge them to be successful both in the classroom and out."
Alabama student details COVID-19 fight, has message for doubters
John Dodd thought it was a hangover. Waking up in his Tuscaloosa apartment June 5, the Alabama student from Winfield, Alabama felt like garbage the morning after drinking a few beers with three friends. It happens. He went to the gym in his apartment complex thinking he could sweat it out. What followed, however, was anything but paying the tax for a night of drinking. The gym offered no cure as a fever began. Within 48 hours, the sore throat started as his sense of smell and taste slipped away. A few nights later, Dodd struggled so badly to breathe, he ran his shower on max heat so the steam would soothe his lungs. Dodd's a healthy 20-year old and a COVID-19 survivor. And he has a message for his Alabama classmates as in-person classes resume Wednesday in Tuscaloosa. "It's very real," Dodd said, free of symptoms since the end of June. "It could have been even worse for me and it was already bad enough. I would never want to go through that again and I couldn't imagine it being worse and for a lot of people out there, it is a lot worse."
Auburn University quarantines students after COVID-19 positives in dorm, fraternity
Auburn University officials have acknowledged they are isolating "multiple students" who tested positive for COVID-19, while city police gear up enforcement of the state's mask order. University spokesman Preston Sparks issued the following statement to the Opelika-Auburn News late Wednesday afternoon. "Auburn is aware of multiple students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in a campus residence hall and a fraternity house. The university has taken immediate action to quarantine the impacted students and is going above and beyond all guidance from public health officials. The students will remain quarantined for a designated duration, until each has received medical clearance. While quarantined, students will continue to complete coursework remotely and follow all university protocols in an effort to minimize further spread." Faculty members contacted by the newspaper Wednesday said they received no word from the university's administrators about the quarantines, word of which first appeared late Tuesday night in online news reports. People who refuse to wear masks -- on campus or off -- now run the risk of being cited for up to $500 by city police.
U. of Arkansas platform tells students to self-assess
Reminders to complete health self-assessments will be seen by University of Arkansas, Fayetteville students whenever logging into the online platform that delivers course information, a UA spokesman said. Daily checks are among the strategies used by universities to try to avoid covid-19 outbreaks on campuses, with some large public universities -- including the University of Tennessee -- making them mandatory for students through online forms or apps. Such checks can lead students to stay home, university leaders say. In general, UA students who experience symptoms are asked to contact their health care providers or the campus health center, where covid-19 testing is available. As at other college campuses, the UA health self-assessment "is meant to remind students about COVID-19 symptoms to be on the lookout for and what steps to take if they are experiencing any symptoms," UA spokesman Mark Rushing said in an email. The university opted not to require a daily certification for students, as it does for employees who work on campus.
LSU reverses decision to keep positive coronavirus test results quiet
Despite long explanations about why publicly reporting positive COVID tests on university campuses is misleading, LSU reversed course and Wednesday began reporting cases on its website. The decision was made Tuesday and the dashboard was added Wednesday to the LSU website dedicated to the reopening of campus, which closed down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. LSU reported 22 positive test results in the past four days. LSU plans to keep a running tally. Students began moving onto Baton Rouge campus Saturday and continue to do so throughout the week. Classes for the roughly 32,000 students at the flagship begins Monday, Aug. 24. As late as Friday last week, Interim LSU President Tom Galligan vigorously defended the university's decision not to publicly disclose the test numbers, saying the positives were misleading. In an interview Wednesday, Galligan said while aware of the situations at Notre Dame and Carolina, the LSU decision was primarily motivated by faculty and others who began calling university leaders.
Move In, Move Out: For In-Person College, Everything Rests On The First Few Weeks
The excitement in the air at the University of Georgia is palpable, with move-in days for the fall semester finally here. There are packed cars, overstuffed suitcases, a white shag rug, an old grey futon and a potted succulent named Susie. But nestled between the familiar college accessories were stark reminders of the coronavirus pandemic: Boxes of cleaning supplies. Masks. Hand sanitizer. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of college students are making their way to campus to begin the fall semester. At the University of Georgia in Athens about 8,000 students are moving into the dorms this week, beginning an unusual on-campus experience, with a global pandemic as the backdrop. The state of Georgia has one of the highest rates of coronavirus per capita in the U.S. and unlike other colleges that have transitioned to virtual learning, this flagship university is determined to host students on campus and have many of its classes in person. The plan to reopen the University of Georgia and hold in-person classes has been met with serious dissent from faculty. In early August, students and staff held a "die-in" to protest the reopening.
Study says 'explosive localized outbreaks' expected when classes start at universities like UGA
A widespread outbreak of COVID-19 is likely in the University of Georgia community as fall semester classes get underway, according to a UGA professor's working paper. Curbing large off-campus gatherings is essential to limit the spread of COVID, according to the study. Ecology professor John Drake's analysis of what will happen when students return to campus does not specifically name UGA, but the characteristics of the "typical large state university" in his analysis exactly match UGA: a population of 50,000 -- UGA has about 40,000 students and 10,000 faculty and other employees -- and a surveillance testing regime of 300 people a day, which is UGA's stated testing goal. "Preliminary results suggest that campuses should anticipate explosive localized outbreaks and be prepared for significant levels of transmission associated with the congregation of students," Drake wrote. An authority on modeling how diseases spread, Drake is a distinguished research professor and director of the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases in UGA's Odum School of Ecology.
Presdient Bob Caslen expects jump in cases after classes start, but is confident in South Carolina's plan
A day before the University of South Carolina resumes in-person classes, top officials expressed confidence that most students will follow safety rules, but warned case numbers are still sure to increase. "We know the majority of (students) are going to comply and will be happy to comply," USC President Robert Caslen said during a Wednesday town hall with reporters. "We also know there will be exceptions and we will hold those exceptions accountable." Caslen touted the university's reopening plan, which includes multiple types of coronavirus testing, contact tracing, a mask requirement, quarantine areas, modifying recreation areas, offering an online-only option for all classes, the #IPledgeColumbia drive to get people to wear masks and socially distance and more. "We are very proud of the plan that is being put in place," Caslen said. Caslen also emphasized the need for the City of Columbia, landlords and other groups such as the Five Points Association to work together on solutions.
Classes resume on Texas A&M campus amid coronavirus concerns, precautions
Texas A&M University students returned to campus Wednesday, the overwhelming majority wearing masks, and many holding on to concerns and hopes regarding the upcoming academic year. For freshman Julia Keys, the decision to go to school in-person this year -- rather than opting for online learning options made available due to the COVID-19 pandemic -- was fueled by her learning style. She said being physically present in class is best for her. Keys is optimistic about the upcoming year. She hopes to attend a football game and participate in campus activities. She said she's happy with the school's safety precautions, which make her feel like leaders are doing their best to ensure students are able to continue taking classes in Aggieland for as long as possible. "I'm excited to get my work done," Keys said. "Hopefully COVID will pass pretty quickly. I think it will be a good year." While official enrollment numbers are not available yet, preliminary enrollment as of the first day of class is sitting at 70,606 students across the College Station, Galveston, Health Science Center and Qatar campuses.
U. of Missouri fraternities switch to virtual rush, ban gatherings at houses
University of Missouri fraternities have moved their recruitment activities online this week in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. In addition to switching to fully virtual recruitment, the Interfraternity Council Executive Board also banned gatherings in houses for the duration of the semester beginning midnight Sunday. Monday marks the first day of fall classes at MU. The restriction goes beyond MU's strict regulation on gatherings of more than 20 people. Fraternity members are restricted to one guest in the house, and guests are not allowed in common areas. "Failure for chapters to follow these new guidelines will result in a referral to the Interfraternity Council Judicial Board," a letter from the council to its member fraternities said. Chapters who violate the new rules will be met with "strict consequences." The Interfraternity Council moved recruitment online Tuesday and released the statement regarding the new gathering guidelines Friday. Christian Basi, spokesperson for the university, called the council's move a proactive choice.
MUSC testing cellphone app at Clemson that notifies users of COVID-19 exposure
A COVID-19 cellphone app being tested by the Medical University of South Carolina is designed to alert people if they've been exposed to the virus without storing their data or using satellites to track their movements, university officials told state senators Wednesday. Senators gave their blessing for initial testing at Clemson University this fall after getting repeated assurances the app is completely voluntary and won't personally identify anyone. "This is exposure notification, not contact tracing," Clemson President James Clements told the panel. As designed, if people who voluntarily participate test positive for COVID-19, they'll be notified through the app. If they decide "for the greater good" to share that, the people they've recently spent time with -- provided they've downloaded the app too -- will be notified they could be infected and may want to get tested. They won't be told who exposed them or where exactly, said Russ Kuarlato, Clemson's chief information officer. Instead, it will say "you were in close proximity within this date and time," he said.
Student affairs staff challenged by pandemic demands
"Front line" student affairs professionals -- including residence life and student activities staff, student conduct officials, and academic advisers -- are often the first people at colleges and universities to communicate with and support families and campuses when there's an emergency involving a student, such as a health crisis or death. As campuses reopen during the coronavirus pandemic, these employees are often responsible for coordinating quarantine housing and mask distribution and managing conduct hearings for students who break social distancing and other public health rules. And like faculty members, these staff are also more likely to interact with students. But compared to the strong opposition to reopen campuses and in-person instruction widely voiced by faculty members across the country, lower- and entry-level student affairs staff members have remained relatively quiet -- at least publicly -- about health and safety concerns related to the pandemic, despite some of their jobs putting them in regular physical contact with large numbers of students.
Anger, Confusion, and Resignation as Chapel Hill's Campus Rapidly Empties
Even the freshmen knew this wasn't going to last. Walk through the campus here, and you find young women like Gabriella Lopez and Lindsey Ware, who thought they might get just a small taste of college life after a dismal spring that saw them isolated in their homes for the final months of their senior year of high school. "I just wanted the college experience a little bit," said Lopez. "I've been telling everyone: They'll kick us out by the time our payment goes through." That's more or less what happened. After starting classes on August 10, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced on Monday that it would shift instruction online after a spike in coronavirus cases among students. Students here now are struggling with a series of questions: Should they move out, or will the university kick them out anyway? Will they get their money back? They seem jarred, but not surprised. But the biggest question on everyone's mind, among students, professors, and perhaps even some administrators here, is this: Should the university have opened at all?
Michigan State president explains decision to call off in-person undergraduate instruction this fall
Michigan State University's president, Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, listed events over the summer that gave university administrators cause for concern about reopening its East Lansing campus for in-person instruction this fall. COVID-19 testing positivity rates generally rose across the country for the young adult demographic that includes college undergraduates. An East Lansing bar was tied to a June outbreak affecting well over 150 people. When Michigan State brought athletic teams back to campus, they initially recorded a low testing positivity rate, only to see additional cases among athletes and those working with them. But the experience of other colleges and universities that had started classes earlier than Michigan State proved to be a decisive factor in a high-profile decision Stanley made Tuesday -- to call off in-person classes, ask undergraduates to stay home and hold fall instruction in remote and online formats. "What we saw was both in schools that elected to test students before they came to campus and those who had not, two weeks in, many of them had started to see cases on campus -- and a significant number of cases on campus," said Stanley, who took questions from reporters during a videoconference yesterday. The Michigan State president is a biomedical researcher, and he sounded every bit the physician, delivering information at a rapid clip.
China's National-Security Law Reaches Into Harvard, Princeton Classrooms
The effect of the new national-security law that China imposed on Hong Kong is extending far beyond the territory to American college campuses. Classes at some elite universities will carry a warning label this fall: This course may cover material considered politically sensitive by China. And schools are weighing measures to try to shield students and faculty from prosecution by Chinese authorities. The issue has become particularly pressing because at least the first semester at many universities will be taught online, meaning some students from China and Hong Kong will connect with their U.S. classmates via video links. Some academics fear the classes could be recorded and ultimately end up in the hands of Chinese authorities. Almost 370,000 Chinese students and roughly 7,000 from Hong Kong enrolled at U.S. universities in the 2018-19 school year, and academics in the U.S. say they often opt to take classes on Chinese law, culture and politics because they want to understand more about their country and how the world views it. The new national-security law—which bars what it calls sedition, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces—allows China to pursue and prosecute people seen as violating it even outside Hong Kong.
As Congress slows, the presidency grows
Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, former Senate majority leader and the founder and CEO of the Daschle Group, and Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, former Senate majority leader and a senior partner at Crossroads Strategies, write for Roll Call: The recent breakdown of COVID-19 relief legislation and President Donald Trump's subsequent executive actions are just the latest in a long series of examples of Congress failing to act and a president stepping in to fill the void. This is not how our government should work. The people's representatives are supposed to write the laws, and the president is to execute them. When James Madison teamed up with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to defend the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, he warned that the "legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity, and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex." The framers envisioned "energy in the executive" as a ballast against congressional overreach. They likely would not recognize our current state of affairs. Ironically, while this inaction is driven by jockeying for power among congressional Democrats and Republicans, in the end, only the presidency gains the advantage. And it's been happening since well before President Trump took office.

Mississippi State football players staying cautious amid students' return to campus
Mississippi State football's leadership is preaching responsibility. With fall camp enduring amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, senior defensive end Kobe Jones and his fellow upperclassmen have been largely bubbled off to the general public throughout voluntary in-person workouts this summer. But with classes resuming Monday at MSU and students largely back on campus, the football team is now at greater chance of infection despite the best efforts of administrators and thus forces more day-to-day decision making on players. "Around the team we're emphasizing to kind of set the standard in society, around the community, in Starkville," Jones said. "Like wearing masks, taking safety precautions, keeping our hands clean and things like that. And on top of that, I feel like we do feel safer at work." Given the isolation this fall has brought, coupled with the temptations that come with living on or near a college campus, players are getting increasingly boring, albeit with a purpose, in their everyday lives. Senior linebacker Erroll Thompson, who returned to MSU despite testing the NFL Draft waters this spring, said he and Jones have spent ample time on the phone in between games of Madden each night.
'All gas, no brakes': What Mississippi State football players said about Mike Leach's offense
Mike Leach-led football practices just hit different. Take it from seasoned SEC veteran linebacker Erroll Thompson, who is just two days into trying to defend against Leach's Air Raid offense on Mississippi State's practice field. "I would describe a Mike Leach practice as very fast and up-tempo," Thompson said. "It's literally all gas, no brakes the whole practice. There's no time to waste. He believes in getting everything done. There are no reps being wasted." Thompson, a 2018 Associated Press All-SEC Second Team selection and a team captain in 2019, has been through the ropes in one of the toughest conference in college football. Leach is his third coach to play for, and he has played against many others in 29 career starts. What Leach has presented in two training camp practices is unlike anything he's gone up against, though. That includes matchups against prolific quarterbacks Joe Burrow of LSU and Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, both of whom were selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Facing Leach's Air Raid is already right up there with those gunslingers in Thompson's book.
What Mississippi State football players said about NCAA eligibility, coronavirus concerns
Erroll Thompson never thought about opting out of the 2020 college football season. The Mississippi State senior linebacker's reasoning was both straightforward and sentimental. "I love football too much to opt out," he said. College football players across the country who love the game as much as Thompson could be in for encouraging yet somewhat complicated news this week. Yahoo! Sports' Pete Thamel reported that the NCAA Division I Council decided fall sport student-athletes can play any number of games this year without burning a year of eligibility. The uncertainties and uncommon nature of the COVID-19 pandemic certainly influenced that decision. If the NCAA Board of Governors backs up and solidifies the council's decision in a vote that is expected to come Friday, according to Thamel, Thompson and company could return for a full slate of games a year from now. But Thompson isn't worried about next year. He loves football too much, after all.
Ole Miss athletics reports 14 new positive COVID-19 cases, constituting an outbreak
The Ole Miss athletics department reported its largest number of positive COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. In an email sent out to the campus community, the school reported 14 new positive tests with 13 of them being student-athletes and one employee. 11 of the 13 are from the same team, according to the University's release, but did not specify which teams were affected. A source with knowledge of the situation told the EAGLE the 11 positives did not come from the football team. The number is considered an outbreak by the Mississippi State Department of Health, which would be the first outbreak of cases since student-athletes began reporting back to campus in June. "The 13 positive cases reported today were discovered in a mass screening of 274 individuals that are associated with Athletics, and privacy concerns prevent us from being able to provide any details on their role in our department," said Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter in a statement. "We will use this as a teaching moment to reinforce responsible social behavior with all those affiliated with our athletics program and our campus community."
Auburn announces reduced fan capacity at Jordan-Hare; tailgating not allowed on campus
Jordan-Hare Stadium will operate at 20% capacity for Auburn's home opener against Kentucky, with all general seating being reserved for Auburn students. Following Alabama state guidelines, the University announced that Jordan Hare Stadium will operate at 20% capacity for the home opener on Sept. 26. All general seating outside of controlled premium spaces and those designated for home and visiting team player and coach guests will be reserved for Auburn students. "We look forward to having Auburn students in attendance at our season opener and appreciate everyone's flexibility and understanding as we adjust to this temporary reality of reduced capacity at Jordan-Hare Stadium," Athletic Director Allen Greene said. Face coverings will be required for all spectators and gameday workers. Following the CDC, state and local guidelines, tailgating on Auburn's campus will be prohibited this season.
UGA football's plans for fans, ticketing in Sanford Stadium this season
UGA is reducing capacity in Sanford Stadium to 20 to 25 percent for its four football home games under the SEC's revised schedule, the school announced Wednesday. That's between 18,550 and 23,180 fans per game in a season that would be played during the pandemic. "We hope this is the plan that we end up with but as well all know things change rapidly," athletic director Greg McGarity said. The Bulldogs sell out their 92,746 seat home stadium in a normal season. The 20 to 25 percent capacity is along the same lines as others in the SEC, but the numbers at Georgia are considered tentative depending on health conditions. With 58,000 season tickets regularly, Georgia is having to dole out its tickets. Instead of season tickets, donors have to opt in or out to get single game tickets. Donors will not be able to receive their exact seat locations as previously. It remains to be seen if there will be any tailgating permitted.
Mizzou to require masks at football games
The Southeastern Conference is not deciding how many fans will be allowed at football games this fall, instead leaving it up to each of its 14 member schools. The SEC is, however, mandating mask-wearing for everyone in attendance. That was one of many health and safety guidelines released by the league this week for its 10-game, conference-only football slate beginning Sept. 26. Missouri has yet to formally announce procedures for Memorial Stadium but plans to allow no more than 25% capacity for 2020 home games, the university confirmed. Capacity for home games is 62,621 with the addition of the South End Zone seating, meaning just over 15,000 fans will be allowed at games in 2020. Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk wrote in an email to fans Tuesday that the school will change stadium seating plans for season-ticket holders this year based on donor level within the premium spaces and standard admission bowl seats. Missouri plans "to allow as many donors as possible to attend games," Sterk wrote.
Myles Brennan has personal coronavirus bubble ahead of LSU season
Most days, quarterback Myles Brennan said he leaves LSU's practice facility and returns to his apartment. He eats dinner. He watches tape. He studies. Then he goes to sleep and repeats the routine the next morning. Brennan, in his first year as LSU's starting quarterback, wants to limit possible exposure to the novel coronavirus. College athletics won't play in a bubble like some professional leagues, so Brennan has tried to isolate himself away from practice. He lives alone, and he registered for online classes this fall. "It has been nice not having to worry as much about being exposed to the outside community," Brennan said. For LSU to compete this season, it needs Brennan to remain healthy. The Tigers have two freshman quarterbacks behind him, Max Johnson and TJ Finley, who enrolled early but lost valuable practice time because of the pandemic.
Phillip Fulmer requested 15% pay cut as part of Tennessee's budget reduction in athletics
Phillip Fulmer requested a 15% pay cut as Tennessee athletics braces for the effect of COVID-19 on the athletic department's finances. The Tennessee athletic director informed UT season-ticket holders in an email Wednesday of his decision, which has not yet taken effect as part of cost-cutting measures. "The request is not expected to encounter any hurdles," UT spokesperson Tom Satkowiak told Knox News. As of Wednesday, Tennessee has not announced pay cuts for any other coaches or administrators in the athletic department, but Satkowiak indicated that broader cost-cutting measures are being discussed. Fulmer signed a four-year deal worth more than $1 million annually in April 2018. Fulmer updated UT season-ticket holders Wednesday after he announced Tuesday that Neyland Stadium would be limited to 25% capacity this season due to the pandemic. He loosely outlined UT's financial picture and asked fans to consider spinning their season-ticket purchases into donations.
Inflated Rosters, Financial Burdens and 'Tough Conversations': Ramifications of an Extra Year of Eligibility
The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday approved a proposal to grant all fall athletes an extra year of eligibility, no matter if they play a 2020–21 season or not. Final approval is expected to come Friday during a meeting among the Division I Board of Directors. So, all athletes playing football, soccer, volleyball and cross country have a fifth and, in some cases, a sixth year of eligibility. The seniors on those squads will not count against those teams' roster limits. For instance, if 20 scholarship-earning seniors on a football team decided to return for the 2021 season, that program's roster could conceivable, barring attrition, be at 105 players. While the NCAA's ruling is a giant positive---in a COVID-impacted world, all athletes deserve a do-over -- there are negative ramifications. More players on a roster means more money, and in a time of financial stress -- some universities are projecting losses in the tens of millions -- affordability is in question. Can schools that are already slashing staff, salaries and sports really be expected to fund 10-30 additional scholarships?

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