Monday, August 24, 2020   
Instructors come up with unique ways to teach amid pandemic
Instructors continue to come up with unique ways to teach during the COVID-19 pandemic. At Mississippi State University, Humphrey Coliseum, which is the home of the MSU basketball team, has been turned into a history classroom. Dr. Jim Giesen said after getting an email from his department head asking if he would be interested in teaching his class of more than 800 students from The Hump, he jumped at the opportunity. "When I am standing down there and I am teaching, it is a trip," Giesen said. "I am used to teaching big classes, but when I teach big classes, normally I can see their facial expressions. If my jokes don't land, or if they don't get something, I can see bewildered faces. But now, I can only see a few students in the front row." One solution they came up with so students could take good notes was lowering the Jumbotron so it is only 6 feet off the court.
What consequences could Mississippi college students face for not following COVID-19 guidelines?
College students are away from home and perhaps feeling more freedom. But Governor Tate Reeves warns they can't let that translate to ignoring coronavirus safety guidelines. Ignoring the Governor's Executive Orders with large house parties, for example, could mean more than a slap on the wrist for Mississippi's college students. Because, in most instances, that is considered a violation of the school's student code of conduct. Mississippi State is sending a "weekend reminders" note to students. One bullet point specifically warns them not to host a party or gathering -- on or off campus : "Do not host a party or gathering in your home, apartment complex, residence hall room, fraternity/sorority house, or anywhere else. Students who do so will be subject to sanctions associated with violations to the student code of conduct to include the possibility of suspension or expulsion along with possible fines or arrest for violating local and state-wide ordinances." -- Regina Young Hyatt, Ph.D. Vice President for Student Affairs, Mississippi State University.
Two MSU Greek houses see COVID-19 outbreaks
Two Greek Life houses at Mississippi State University have seen outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and a total of 80 students are evacuating the houses and must quarantine for 14 days, MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter confirmed Friday. The 80 affected students have the option of returning to their homes or staying in either of the two Starkville hotels MSU rented for the fall semester as quarantine sites. MSU has staffed the hotels with employees from the departments of Housing and Residence Life and custodial services, and employees of the Longest Student Health Center will monitor quarantined students' health on site. All Greek chapters have safety protocol plans that follow guidelines from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Jacqueline Mullen, MSU's Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. Signs on the entrances to the houses say that everyone must wear a protective face covering. Chapters also have adjusted meal schedules to enforce social distancing, increased the frequency of cleaning and implemented check-ins for residents, members and visitors, Mullen said.
Starkville native named university vet, director of MSU Lab Animal Resources
Mississippi State University alumna Dr. Bridget Willeford has been named university veterinarian and director of MSU's Office of Laboratory Animal Resources. Willeford has served in this role on an interim basis since December 2019, following the retirement last year of former university veterinarian Dr. Lucy H. Senter. The Office of Laboratory Animal Resources provides veterinary care and animal husbandry resources for all animals required in biomedical research, teaching and testing programs at MSU. The office is under the guidance of the university's vice president for research and economic development. "The Office of Laboratory Animal Resources plays a vital role in our research enterprise, as well as our teaching and service missions," said MSU Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan. "Dr. Willeford brings extensive experience to this position, and I am confident that she and her staff will continue their excellent work providing care for our animals and meeting the needs of faculty and staff across campus."
MDEQ provides Oktibbeha more money to clean up roadside garbage
Much of the garbage piled up on the gravelly Harrell Road in northwestern Oktibbeha County is unidentifiable, but the heap does include an upended toilet. A discarded mattress lies several yards east. Harrell Road has been Icey Guyton's home for her entire life, and she said she strongly disapproves of the "nasty" trash heap near her residence. "Why would (people) come all the way over here to throw their trash out when they can put it somewhere else besides on our road?" Guyton said. "I think it's a disgrace." The spot is one of several illegal "dump sites" throughout the county, officials say. An annual Solid Waste Assistance Grant from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality covers much of what Darrell Fulgham, the county's only certified solid waste enforcement officer, called an "astronomical" cost of cleaning up dump sites. MDEQ announced the $20,224 grant in a Tuesday press release, and the dollar amount varies year to year. MDEQ Communications Director Robbie Wilbur said the allocation "remains pretty steady," but County Administrator Emily Garrard and District 1 Supervisor and Board President John Montgomery said Oktibbeha County usually receives anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000.
Hurricanes in the Gulf: Coastal Mississippi residents brace for back-to-back storms
Tropical Storm Marco strengthened into a hurricane Sunday as Gulf Coast residents prepared for historic back-to-back hurricane landfalls this week. Chuck Fortin, harbor master of the Bay St. Louis Harbor, said preparations were underway Sunday to brace for Marco's impact. "We actually removed the electrical service to the boats -- the posts they hook up to," Fortin said. "If those went under it would cost a lot and we'd be out of power for months. "We also issued an evacuation notice to have folks get their boats out of the harbor to a more protected area. We're making sure the docks are secure." Fortin said he's more concerned about high water than wind because with the position of the storm in relation to the harbor, he believes the surge will be higher than predicted. On Sunday, two American Red Cross shelters were opened: one in Kiln and the other in Columbia. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Pearl River Community College canceled classes Monday on all of their campuses ahead of Marco's arrival.
Tropical Storm Marco will bring rain, wind to the Gulf Coast
Marco weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm overnight, but the drop in wind speed may be little consolation to a stretch of Mississippi coast destined to feel the impact of two tropical storms by end of day Tuesday. Tropical Storm Marco's winds will reach Mississippi Monday morning, followed 24 hours later by Tropical Storm Laura, according to the National Hurricane Center. Laura is expected to strengthen to a hurricane before reaching the coast. Marco is expected "to turn west and move parallel to the Louisiana coast" Monday, while it's still too early to predict landfall for Laura, according to the National Weather Service. "Gusty winds, dangerous storm surge, and heavy rainfall are expected from Marco along portions of the Gulf Coast beginning later today," the National Hurricane Center said early Monday. "Tropical Storm Laura could bring additional storm surge, rainfall, and wind impacts to portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast by the middle of the week. This could result in a prolonged period of hazardous weather for areas that may also be affected by Marco."
As storms head toward Gulf Coast, Legislature slated to return Monday to pass DMR budget
The Mississippi Legislature is scheduled to convene at 4 p.m.Monday to try to pass a budget for the Department of Marine Resources, which has been in limbo from a fight between the Legislature and Gov. Tate Reeves over spending authority. Passing the agency's budget has taken on new urgency, as it would reportedly face problems making payroll by the end of the month, and as two potential hurricanes bear down on the Gulf Coast. DMR, which provides regulatory and marine law enforcement services on the Gulf Coast, has been without a state budget since July 1. Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann are calling the Legislature back into session. At issue is oversight of Gulf restoration funds Mississippi receives for oil and gas leases. The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, is a federal revenue sharing program for oil and gas producing states in the Gulf. For this year, the state has about $46 million in GOMESA funds. Legislative sources on Friday said a deal has been made for lawmakers to leave about $26 million allocated for projects already approved or started.
New Thinking on Covid Lockdowns: Overly Blunt and Costly
In response to the novel and deadly coronavirus, many governments deployed draconian tactics never used in modern times: severe and broad restrictions on daily activity that helped send the world into its deepest peacetime slump since the Great Depression. The equivalent of 400 million jobs have been lost world-wide, 13 million in the U.S. alone. Global output is on track to fall 5% this year, far worse than during the financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund. Despite this steep price, few policy makers felt they had a choice, seeing the economic crisis as a side effect of the health crisis. There wasn't time to gather that sort of evidence: Faced with a poorly understood and rapidly spreading pathogen, they prioritized saving lives. Five months later, the evidence suggests lockdowns were an overly blunt and economically costly tool. They are politically difficult to keep in place for long enough to stamp out the virus. The evidence also points to alternative strategies that could slow the spread of the epidemic at much less cost. As cases flare up throughout the U.S., some experts are urging policy makers to pursue these more targeted restrictions and interventions rather than another crippling round of lockdowns.
Mississippi reports 511 new COVID-19 cases, 8 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) on Monday reported 511 more COVID-19 cases, including 54 in Lee County. MSDH also reported eight new deaths statewide. In Northeast Mississippi, one new death was reported in Lee County and two deaths were reported in Lafayette County. The statewide total number of COVID-19 cases since March 11 now stands at 78,405 and the death toll is now up to 2,248. Most counties in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's coverage area reported new cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (14), Calhoun (1), Chickasaw (9), Clay (3), Itawamba (3), Lafayette (16), Lee (54), Marshall (13), Monroe (7), Oktibbeha (17), Pontotoc (6), Tippah (4), Tishomingo (7) and Union (3).
As union leaders call for slower line speeds, COVID-19 spreads in Mississippi poultry plants
With workers sick and workforces depleted, two Mississippi poultry plants have permission to ratchet up processing line speeds to increase production during the pandemic -- at the risk, union leaders say, of worker safety in one of the country's most dangerous industries. Union leader Randy Hadley, who represents 3,000 Mississippi poultry workers, said COVID-19 has slowed job applications during the summer months and forced existing workers to quarantine, and said the workforce he represents was seeing absenteeism as high as 26% in late July. "People are scared of coming into the facility to apply for a job because of the cases that are in the facility," Hadley said. In the early days of Mississippi's battle against the coronavirus, its thousands of poultry workers toiled unprotected on the frontlines. Now, workers and advocates say plants are making hand sanitizer, gloves and masks available. But COVID-19 continues to plague the plants' workforce as Mississippi case numbers remain high. As of Aug. 6, the Mississippi Department of Health had identified 27 COVID-19 outbreaks in meatpacking facilities across the state. At least 18 chicken-processing facilities had outbreaks.
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith Announces $1 Million to UMMC, Oxford's Baptist Memorial for Rural Health
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today reported that Baptist Memorial Hospital–North Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) will receive just over $1 million for rural health care projects. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved the grants as part of its mission to increase access to quality care in rural communities. "These grants will allow immediate- and more long-term work to expand rural access to care in Mississippi," Hyde-Smith said. "UMMC is receiving funding to use its telehealth system to improve rural tele-emergency services, which will help during the ongoing pandemic." "Baptist Memorial will use its funding to continue developing a rural residency program, which will help bring needed doctors to serve rural regions," she added. A $300,000 Telehealth Network Grant Program award to UMMC will support its work to increase access to rural tele-emergency services through emergency care consults from health care providers via telehealth.
Mississippi Republican delegates take part in national convention virtually and in-person
A small group of Republican delegates from Mississippi are joining other party members from across the country in Charlotte, for the four-day national convention which begins today. State Republican Party Chair, Lucien Smith: "It's a much smaller event than it had originally had been planned to be. We'll still have four great nights of a virtual convention where you'll see people who have been positively affected by the president's policies. People will get to hear directly from the president, vice president and number of his family and supporters on why they should vote for Donald Trump in November," said Smith. Former state party chair Joe Nosef says he wants to hear President Donald Trump speak to his ability to lead the nation through the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout. John Hopkins University reports more than 175,000 Americans have died as of this report; just over 2,200 have died in Mississippi. State Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall wants Trump to remind people about his successes. "We had prior to COVID, just a few short months ago, back in February, the best economy in our country's history. We've had the lowest unemployment figures on record," said Fillingane.
Mike Parker, a Democrat turned Republican former Mississippi Congressman, joins 'Republicans for Biden'
It's been nearly 20 years since most Mississippians have heard from former Congressman Mike Parker. Hence it is not of super substantial political importance in Mississippi that he is now endorsing Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden. But there is a growing trend of moderate/liberal Republicans publicly voicing support either for Joe Biden or against Donald Trump. Parker is now part of more than two dozen former Republican Congressmen who announced their support for the former Vice President in a release touting 'Republicans for Biden,' an effort headlined by former Arizona U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, an outspoken critic of the President Donald Trump. The announcement comes as the Republican National Convention officially gets underway today.
Kellyanne Conway To Leave White House Job, Citing Family Concerns
Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway has announced that she will step down from her post at the end of the month. Conway, whose official title is counselor to the president, is known for her tenacious defense of administration policy in frequent appearances on cable television. She is one of President Trump's longest-serving aides. In a statement on Sunday, she cited a need to "devote more time to family matters." "I will be transitioning from the White House at the end of this month," she said. Conway's husband, conservative lawyer George T. Conway III, has become a relentless critic of the president, frequently placing his wife in an awkward position. He announced on Twitter on Sunday that he is withdrawing from the Lincoln Project, a group of Republicans devoted to defeating Trump in November that he helped found. He said he is also taking "a Twitter hiatus." The news of Conway's impending departure from the White House follows a tweet from her 15-year-old daughter, Claudia, over the weekend announcing that she was "officially pushing for emancipation."
The outbreaks on campus begin: athletes, Greek members and more
Move-in for the fall semester began on Aug. 15, and since then, 46 University of Mississippi students have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the university's confirmed cases report. Of these cases, six are specified as "not in Oxford" and "not on campus," and no hospitalizations have been reported. Fifteen of the cases are student-athletes, and at least five members of Delta Delta Delta sorority tested positive. According to members of Delta Delta Delta who wish to remain anonymous, there are at least two instances of overlap in the student-athlete cases and the sorority cases. The university conducted "a mass screening for student-athletes returning to campus" the week before school began, and all tested athletes were instructed by the university to quarantine until they received their test results. While this is the only known instance of "mass" or required testing for university students, University Health Services will provide testing to any student, faculty or staff member who develops symptoms of COVID-19 or suspects that he or she has been exposed to the virus. The university is also investigating positive cases affiliated with at least two Greek organizations on campus, according to a statement from Provost Noel Wilkin to The Daily Mississippian on Friday, Aug. 21.
Free Dental Clinic Raising Funds to Serve More Uninsured Mississippians
A dental clinic that provides free care to Mississippians across the state is raising money to expand its services. The Jackson Free Clinic, which University of Mississippi Medical Center students run, is using a GoFundMe page to raise $75,000. The clinic launched the effort in July and staff members hope to have the project done in the spring of 2021. "The truth is that it depends on the success of the fundraising," Jojo Dodd, a UMMC third-year medical student and the chairman of the building committee, told the Jackson Free Press. "We will need folks in Jackson and Mississippi in general to kind of get behind the idea." He said that the clinic serves people, not only in Jackson, but also from across the state. "We are called the Jackson Free Clinic, but we saw patients from 89 cities across Mississippi in the past three years," he said. "They drive for literally hours for our dental services, and we are hoping that we can pull some support for this project from across the state." The clinic, Dodd said, attended to hundreds of patients in 2019. Over 1,000 students participated under the supervision of physicians and dentists, he said.
Health officials weigh in on college COVID-19 risks
From the classroom to colleges, preventing the spread of COVID-19 has been a challenge. Local health officials are now addressing the COVID-19 clusters showing up on college campuses. Also, they talk about what can be done to help stop the virus from moving at a freighting pace. Dr. John Gaudet, president of the Mississippi Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics said,"We have a very high transmission of coronavirus right now in the community, and when those students start moving to their colleges and campuses and dorm rooms they are bringing it with them." He says colleges and universities are learning just how fast the coronavirus can move on campus. For example: Officials at Mississippi College confirmed seven students recently tested positive for COVID-19. Campus officials say contact tracing is now being done. Gaudet says the coronavirus clusters at colleges many hearing about the across country have been linked to fraternities, sororities, and off-campus parties. He says it's important students resist the temptation to hang out in big crowds during the height of this pandemic.
William Carey University cancel classes, close offices due to incoming hurricane
William Carey University announced class cancelations and office closures at some of their campuses Sunday due to the pending arrivals of Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura. Classes are canceled at the Tradition campus Monday, along with campuses offices being closed. At the Baton Rouge campus, classes are canceled as well on Monday and Tuesday. The Hattiesburg campus will have classes meet and offices open as scheduled. WCU will monitor the weather forecast Monday morning and make more announcements about Monday night classes by the middle of the day.
Parents, educators look back at the first month of classes in Corinth schools
As of Friday, Corinth School District has had 16 total positive COVID-19 cases among students and three among staff members since opening the doors of their schools, according to CSD Superintendent Dr. Lee Childress. More than 120 students and staff have been quarantined since the semester began. As most schools in Northeast Mississippi begin the 2020-21 school year, Corinth School District is already four weeks into the first semester, giving parents of both traditional and online-only students time to evaluate and reflect on how the district has approached the return to school. Ashley Bennett has two daughters at Corinth Elementary School -- Catherine Bennett, a fourth grader, and Caroline Bennett, a first grader. Although Bennett and her husband had concerns about sending their children back to school, they both work full-time jobs, and it made the most sense to send them back. Bennett said her children were a little nervous to return to school, but practiced wearing masks and social distancing in public for months before going back, which helped them adjust to the new protocols.
U. of Alabama president warns that on-campus semester is in peril
University of Alabama President Dr. Stuart Bell issued a letter to UA students on Sunday warning of enhanced monitoring of student activities both on and off campus as UA seeks to maintain a full fall semester. Dr. Bell's letter called this "a critical moment for The University of Alabama." He did not directly reference football as the Southeastern Conference continues to pursue a September 26 start date for a fall season. The letter sounded a cautious note "Despite the robust testing, training, health and safety measures we carefully and clearly implemented, there is an unacceptable rise in positive COVID cases on our campus. "Make no mistake, this trend is a real threat to our ability to complete the semester on campus. The solution is proven: testing, mask wearing, social distancing, personal hygiene and compliance with crowd size limits are all that are asked as we work together to complete the semester together."
Alabama president tells students COVID case rise 'unacceptable'
Without citing specific numbers, University of Alabama president Stuart Bell said there was "an unacceptable rise" in COVID-19 cases in a Sunday message to campus. Posted on the UA website, the letter addressed to students, faculty and staff had a dire tone. "Make no mistake," Bell wrote, "this trend is a real threat to our ability to complete the semester on campus." ell went on to say the university police force and Tuscaloosa police would be "partnering to monitor bars, restaurants and off-campus residences where the city's COVID-19 ordinances and UA guidelines are not being followed." Photos and videos of packed bars continued to make social media rounds on the first weekend after classes began Wednesday. The school on Friday announced new limitations on activities and Greek housing as concerns grew over quarantine space for students testing positive on campus. "Completing the fall semester together is our goal," Bell wrote Sunday. "The margin for error is shrinking."
Auburn University investigating students packing bars amid pandemic
Two masked men on Southeastern's patio in downtown Auburn posed for a photo while around them unmasked people milled around chugging beers, greeting friends and singing along to "Mo Bamba." It was the culmination of the first week of classes at Auburn University. Now, Auburn officials are investigating students packing into bars without masks or social distancing measures while in the midst of a pandemic. Auburn reported 41 COVID-19 cases for the week of August 8-14 and has reported 338 since March. The city is still under Governor Kay Ivey's statewide mask mandate that requires face coverings when in public and in close contact with other people. The order is set to expire August 31 at 5 p.m. Throughout the week, bar patrons could be seen out of their seats and mingling without masks in Southeastern, Skybar, 1716 and Moe's Original BBQ. On Saturday, the numbers in Southeastern and Skybar rose to the hundreds, and police officers showed up at each bar, hitting Southeastern around 10:30 p.m. and Skybar around 10:45 p.m.
Socially distanced Bid Day breaks Panhellenic records at Auburn
Cheers echoed off the stands of Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 15, but they weren't from football fans. They were the cheers of a record 1,539 Auburn women who rushed and received bids at this year's Bid Day, which took place inside the stadium beginning at 4:30 p.m. Bid Day followed a fully virtual recruitment week, a first for Auburn Panhellenic because of the need to socially distance. The council had initially considered two other options which each involved some virtual and some in-person recruitment rounds. "We were so impressed with our chapters and our potential new members during the week as they navigated an entirely virtual platform with minimal technology issues," said Madison Birckhead, president of the Auburn Panhellenic Council. "Our team planned and educated our members in an attempt to make the best of the new platform and situation."
'Black at Auburn': Students of color share their experiences of race at Auburn
In the midst of a pandemic that rocked the world, people from all walks of life left the safety and protection of their home to pick up a mask and signs to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in late May. The event, only the latest in a long history of Black civil rights in America, sparked an international conversation about race and how Black Americans are profiled in communities meant to serve them as they do white Americans. The Auburn community was not exempt from this discussion. In July, an Instagram page called Black at Auburn appeared, following the lead of other Instagram pages for other universities with similar goals: sharing the experiences of Black, indigenous and people of color, or BIPOC, students and community members at Auburn and interrogating the idea of the Auburn Family.
UGA health faculty on COVID-19 policies and testing: Campus is in 'grave danger'
Four leading health policy and public health faculty at the University of Georgia are alarmed at what they consider a flawed and dangerous process for surveillance and management of COVID-19 at UGA. In a guest column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, they explain why they believe the situation in Athens is dangerous, and the university administration is being secretive and irresponsible. They also say parents need to be aware of the inadequacy of UGA's COVID-19 testing regime.
UF's COVID-19 dashboard does not show dates of test results
As University of Florida students begin to trickle back to campus in Gainesville, a dashboard intended to show numbers for coronavirus infection doesn't provide information that offer insight for current test results. The UF COVID-19 dashboard shows a 19.5% positivity rate for students tested through campus health centers, and 0.47% among those who opted to test through the school's return-to-campus testing. It is unclear how many of the positive cases are recent or date back to the early stages of the pandemic. Many of UF's peer institutions are making public current testing results, and in some cases acting on them to alter reopening plans. The University of California-Berkeley's COVID-19 dashboard tracks and graphs tests and cases on a weekly basis, the data provided through the university health services. The Georgia Institute of Technology publishes new cases daily, including whether the infected person is a staff member or student and whether they live on or off campus.
Gainesville reaches 30th anniversary of the student murders
In late August 30 years ago, Sadie Darnell was seen in news photographs and videos around the world. She was a Gainesville Police Department lieutenant who served as the agency spokeswoman when five college students were murdered and mutilated and was a daily presence in the news. Now, after losing her bid for a fourth full term as Alachua County sheriff, she joins more law enforcers from that time who are finishing their careers with deep memories of the crime and the role they played in finding and prosecuting the killer. At other anniversary points of this pivotal tragedy, the Gainesville community has gathered for vigils or services of commemoration. This time, with the coronavirus pandemic preventing that, the anniversary might seem overlooked. The University of Florida stopped anniversary recognitions such as tolling the carillon bells of Century Tower five times after the 25th anniversary. There are lasting reminders on campus, however. There are also five palm trees planted in the median near the wall in memory of the students, as well as five trees on campus near Library East. But for many who were in Gainesville in August 1990, the passage of decades has not erased the memory of the days when residents were too afraid to go outside, bought guns and, for some students, fled town.
A 'regrettable error': U. of Kentucky COVID-19 data left vulnerable
A spreadsheet containing negative COVID-19 test results and personal information of several hundred University of Kentucky students and a few employees was left vulnerable to viewing by anyone with an active UK email address, the university learned over the weekend. "While not an external security incident with respect to University systems, this was, without question, a regrettable error," UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said in a statement. "We deeply apologize for it and will do everything possible to make it right on behalf of our students and employees." Student and employee's names, dates of birth and negative COVID-19 test results were viewable via a public Microsoft Sharepoint file that the university's contact tracing team was using to share information internally. The spreadsheet included those who had tested negative for COVID-19 in the last two weeks through the university's initial round of mandatory testing. "We are able to determine who accessed the files in an unauthorized manner and plan to follow up with each individual," Blanton said.
Chief financial officer: Coronavirus has cost Texas A&M University System $150 million
The Texas A&M University System's chief financial officer told the board of regents Thursday that the System has experienced a net loss of nearly $65 million since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy chancellor and CFO Billy Hamilton said near the start of Thursday's A&M System Board of Regents meeting that total losses and expenses relating to COVID-19 neared $150 million across the System's 11 universities and eight agencies, and that CARES Act funds offset those costs considerably. "Across all of our campuses and agencies, we had about $82.5 million in lost revenue -- and that ranges from everything from [refunding] housing contracts and dining, to summer camp revenue and agency training courses, conferences, event fees -- it's just all over the map depending on the entity," Hamilton told The Eagle midday Friday. Hamilton added that the A&M System incurred $68.4 million in expenses to ramp up remote education, increase cleaning and testing and set up or bolster other pandemic-related measures due to the coronavirus.
U. of Missouri students start classes Monday with hopes they can continue
Classes start at the University of Missouri on Monday, with many hoping it can avoid the fates of schools including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame, which both closed shortly after reopening because of COVID-19 outbreaks. The university is opening under its "Show Me Renewal" plan. Students began moving into residence halls on Aug. 12. University administration remains confident, but not everyone on campus is. "We are expecting the university is going to close down," said Tuhin Haldar, a graduate student pursuing his doctorate in chemistry. He said it was the consensus among graduate assistants and instructors in his circle that the university would be forced to shut down. "You can't stop students from partying," Haldar said. "They're very young, and they don't understand the consequences of their actions." University of Missouri System president and MU Chancellor Mun Choi has said shutting down campus wouldn't be a "knee-jerk" decision and MU spokesman Christian Basi said many factors will be considered.
College COVID strategies don't adequately address typical student behavior
Kira Griffith, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and president of the Residence Hall Association, was "disappointed" last week when the campus called off its plan for in-person instruction due to outbreaks of coronavirus among students. While she was disappointed in the students who knowingly violated the university's "Carolina Together" social distancing guidelines, Griffith was equally disappointed with university leaders, including the UNC system's Board of Governors, which "put students in this situation" in the first place, she said. The reopening plans for the Chapel Hill campus's in-person semester included fully occupied residence halls and unclear consequences for noncompliance with social distancing and other guidelines, Griffith said. It left "a lot of room to make a mistake," she noted. "The blame shouldn't just fall on students." College leaders at institutions that already opened their campuses for the fall semester have in fact been placing much of the responsibility and blame for spreading the virus on students. The administrators have done this despite prior warnings about reopening from adolescence and behavioral experts that 18- to 22-year-olds were the least likely age group to follow directions for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Stop Campus Partying to Slow the Virus? Colleges Try but Often Fail
Struggling to salvage some normalcy -- and revenue -- from a crippling pandemic, many colleges and universities are inviting students into dorms and classrooms. The limited openings, being tried by more than a third of the country's 5,000 campuses, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, have come with strict rules: No parties. Mandated coronavirus tests or routine self-checks for symptoms. No setting foot into public spaces without masks. But early outbreaks at dozens of colleges have underscored the yawning gap between policy and enforcement --- and the limitations of any college to control the behavior of young people who are paying for the privilege to attend classes. On-campus restrictions are being undermined by off-campus partying. A few schools have begun imposing tough penalties to send a message. Purdue University's president, Mitch Daniels, suspended 36 students in the past week after a cooperative house was caught partying less than 24 hours after he had specifically outlawed off-campus parties. But education officials say it is generally not in the nature of colleges and universities to function like police states.
What Kinds of Information on Covid-19 Cases Can Colleges Legally Share? Experts Weigh In
Earlier this month, officials at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told the student newspaper that the institution would not share the number of cases in Covid-19 clusters. The reason, they said, was the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Colleges have cited Ferpa, the federal student-privacy law, and, in some cases, even the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (Hipaa) as a rationale for not publishing coronavirus-case numbers or sharing details about infections on campus. The privacy measures have been invoked in the past as a reason colleges would not disclose information about athletes' injuries and students' sexual-misconduct cases. In the midst of the pandemic, that stance has caused tension in college towns and with faculty members who are demanding transparency. Colleges are withholding information, critics say, that could help members of the community protect themselves. The Chronicle spoke with two experts on Ferpa who clarified which kinds of information on Covid-19 cases are protected under the law.
Effort to put old flag on ballot is underway, but organizers must navigate a long maze
Bobby Harrison writes for Mississippi Today: Paperwork has been filed to begin the convoluted process of gathering the signatures to place on the ballot an initiative to resurrect the 126-year-old state flag that features the Confederate battle emblem prominently in its design. Several steps must be finalized before the actual process of collecting the signatures can begin. Once the paperwork is completed, initiative sponsors will have one year to gather the necessary signatures. In order for the flag proposal to make the ballot, the signatures of 106,196 registered voters must be obtained, or 12 percent of the total from the 2019 election for governor. The signatures must include 21,239 from each of the five congressional districts that existed in the 1990s. If and when the initiative's organizers begin that daunting task, they had better plan on doing extra work in the old 2nd Congressional District.
Speaker Gunn out to limit Gov. Reeves' spending authority
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: The fight between House Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves that stalled passage of the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) appropriation bill could be a harbinger of Gunn-fights to come. At immediate issue is $41 million in Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds for projects along the Gulf Coast. The federal government allocates to Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas a portion of the revenue generated from off-shore oil and gas leases in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. GOMESA was set up in 2006. When an increased phase of funding began, Gov. Phil Bryant in 2018 established a multi-agency advisory process to help DMR select projects to fund. Gunn now wants the legislature, through its appropriations process, to select the projects. "Only the Legislature can spend dollars," Gunn told Mississippi Today. "We are not going to allow the governor to spend money. That is not what the law says." Well, not exactly.

What we've learned about Mississippi State football during training camp
Mike Leach gathered his socially distanced players on the playing surface at Davis Wade Stadium on Friday. The grass is green, but the lines have not yet been painted. Mississippi State does not have a scheduled home game for the 2020 season until Oct. 3 against Arkansas. There was something he wanted to get across to them, though, just a handful of days into preseason training camp. "For years I've understood that some of the best football in the entire nation is played in the state of Mississippi," the first-year Bulldogs coach said. "I know the emphasis of it. I know what it means to the people here ... Great players come from here. Greatness comes out of here on the football field." The country will have to wait another month to see just how great Leach's first Mississippi State team will be. But in the meantime, Leach has learned a few things about his players during the first week of camp.
Mississippi State to sell alcohol at football games, school's 2020 game day protocols state
Alcohol is coming to Davis Wade Stadium. Friday, Mississippi State released its 2020 gameday protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including that beer sales will be allowed during MSU football games this fall. Granted "resort status" following the Mississippi Legislature's passing of Senate Bill 2253, MSU will become the eighth school in the Southeastern Conference to allow the sales of alcohol at athletic events. Ole Miss was the most recent SEC school to begin selling alcohol at football games. Following an Oct. 19 loss to Texas A&M last season, the school announced its hospitality provider Centerplate had sold 15,400 beers for a total revenue of $128,000 at that game alone. Also included in MSU's release Friday were a slew of health and safety precautions that will be relied on to combat the spread of COVID-19. Among the measures, patrons will be required to wear face coverings during all movement throughout the stadium and when not able to maintain recommended physical distance from people not in their same household. The Bulldogs' first home game is scheduled for Oct. 3 against Arkansas.
Mississippi State to allow alcohol sales in Davis Wade Stadium this fall
Davis Wade Stadium won't have nearly as many fans as usual inside its gates this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will have something it's never had before. Beer. Mississippi State released its stadium guidelines to combat the spread of coronavirus Friday. A bullet point titled "Alcohol sales" was listed toward the bottom of the press release. Here's what that point said: "In compliance with the Mississippi Legislature's adoption of Senate Bill 2253, beer sales will be allowed in Davis Wade Stadium. The 2020 legislation granted MSU the legal 'resort status' necessary to authorize beer sales in the university's athletic venues and brings MSU in step with all Mississippi Division I universities and other Southeastern Conference colleagues." The press release stated information on ticket allocation will be issued to season ticket holders in the coming weeks.
Mississippi State releases football season guidelines
Mississippi State Athletics announced on August 21 a reduced capacity at Davis Wade Stadium for the 2020 season in compliance with state and local guidelines. As a result, MSU anticipates being able to seat approximately 25 percent of Davis Wade Stadium's capacity for games during the 2020 season. Club areas and suites will be limited to the allowed capacity determined by the Governor's most recent Executive Order. Although game days will look different this season because of many health and safety precautions being implemented, MSU Athletics remains committed to delivering a positive experience for all who attend. In consultation with the CDC, Mississippi State Department of Health, and the Southeastern Conference, MSU Athletics will implement several measures to make your game-day experience as healthy and safe as possible.
Mississippi State students react to new game day restrictions
Mississippi State students spoke out Friday about this year's football season. It's looking a lot different after Gov. Tate Reeves announced new restrictions for college football stadiums. Thousands of fans in the seats is what helps electrify football games as they cheer their teams. This year's games will no doubt be a different experience. "I think it is going to impact a lot of people. A lot of people come to SEC school like Mississippi state for the football experience, parting and tailgating before the games. Some people don't get to see their parents except when they come to the games," said MSU student Shaw St. Amant. "With that and the reduced number of people coming to the game. I think Mississippi State is 13,000. You basically have a sec basketball game crowd coming. That is one hit. Now with tailgating not being held on campus. That's going to be very painful to a lot of businesses to Starkville," said owner of Little Dooey, Bart Wood.
Sanderson Farms tournament changes could impact nonprofits
Nonprofits across the state could receive less funding this year from the Sanderson Farms Championship, thanks to restrictions brought about by the coronavirus. Century Club Charities recently announced that the tournament would be played without spectators, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The news comes as other offerings related to the tourney are also postponed, including the annual ladies' day dinner, the sponsor party dinner and other events. With no spectators and spectator-related events, the tournament will likely generate hundreds of thousands of dollars less this year for local charities. Century Club revenues are generated from sponsporships, social events, ticket sales and other tournament-related events. Since 1994, Century Club has raised more than $16 million for Friends of Children's Hospital and other charities across the state. The championship's biggest benefactor is Friends of Children's Hospital, which received more than $1.3 million in proceeds from the 2019 tournament.
Conference USA moves soccer and volleyball seasons to spring
Conference USA announced Friday that men's and women's soccer as well as volleyball will be moved from the fall to the spring. The release stated the move to the spring allows C-USA schools to not only compete for a C-USA Championship but also have an opportunity to play in an NCAA-sanctioned championship tournament. "We value the opportunity for our schools to compete at the highest level and play for championships" C-USA commissioner Judy MacLeod said in the release. "Moving these sports to the spring maintains those opportunities for our student-athletes, coaches and fans." Due to multiple conferences either cancelling its fall season or making the move to the spring, Southern Miss' volleyball and women's soccer teams were looking at nearly all-conference schedules.
'Football season is essential': No football season could cost millions in revenue and devastate local businesses
The fall season usually draws in Ole Miss football fans from all around the country every year to enjoy one of the greatest college football experiences in the South. With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to impact the United States, uncertainty surrounds the question of how one of the South's most beloved college football towns will handle limited attendance numbers, a major loss in revenue and the possible devastation of locally owned businesses. As of now, the Ole Miss football season is set to kick off on Sept. 26. Still, the number of cases among student-athletes is growing, with the university reporting 15 positive cases among athletes and one staff member during the week that students returned to campus. The city of Oxford is already bracing for impact as students have officially made their way back to campus. What is not so easy to brace for, is the financial loss that local businesses will face and have been facing since the beginning of the pandemic. "Small college towns like Oxford are going to be hurt significantly during the football season, regardless of whether it is played," Joshua Hendrickson, associate professor of economics, said. "The governor has already signed an executive order that limits stadium capacity to 25%." According to Visit Oxford, the overall financial impact of no football season could result in a $70 million loss.
UGA athletics pinpoints figure for COVID-19 expenses
UGA athletics is projecting costs related to COVID-19 to total more than $5 million, the school said in a video sent to donors on Friday. The expenses include frequent testing, expanded facilities sanitation, social distancing measures and mental and physical healthcare, the video says. It also will help cover costs for scholarships for spring sport athletes who gained another year of eligibility. Reduced attendance for home football games in Sanford Stadium, fewer total games and the cancellation of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Virginia in Atlanta "have greatly impacted ticket revenues and overall cashflow," in the athletic department, the school said on its booster club website. The school is asking those who opt out of applying for football tickets this season to consider rolling over all or a portion of their contribution for season tickets and Hartman Fund or seat back balances to a COVID-19 UGA Athletics Fund. "I hope we can count on you to join us in our commitment to uphold Georgia's legacy of excellence as an elite level program by continuing to support us during these challenging times," said coach Kirby Smart in the video message.
U. of Arkansas cuts salaries for athletic staff
Most employees in the University of Arkansas athletic department will see their salaries reduced starting Sept. 1 in a belt-tightening move brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and its collateral issues, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has learned. The salary reductions, topped by a 15% cut for Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek, are expected to result in savings of about $3 million. The pay cuts will be in effect for the rest of the 2020-21 fiscal year, said UA senior associate athletic director Kevin Trainor, meaning they are scheduled to end on June 30, 2021. "As part of our continued efforts to mitigate financial losses resulting from the pandemic and minimize its impact on the overall experience of our student-athletes, we have implemented salary reductions beginning on September 1 for the vast majority of administrators, coaches and staff members within our department," Yurachek said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "As it became evident that we would not be able to host a full capacity football stadium this fall, this difficult step became necessary." Arkansas is not alone in the SEC and across the country in taking salary reduction measures. Ole Miss, Missouri and South Carolina already have announced similar moves.
Paper tickets vanishing as LSU shifts to mobile system: 'The physical thing connects you to the memory'
Morgan Degruise walked through the concourse at halftime of the 2020 national championship game looking for a ticket. Degruise owned a paper ticket from almost every game of LSU's undefeated season, but he entered the stadium using a digital version issued by the College Football Playoff. Degruise wanted a hard copy. Degruise, 25, noticed Clemson fans with tickets and offered them a deal: If Clemson won, Degruise said he would pay them $50. If LSU won, they would give Degruise their ticket, the physical copy proving he attended the game. Degruise exchanged phone numbers. He hoped one of the fans would call him later. "I didn't get many calls back from those people," Degruise said. "At the time, they all agreed to it because they thought Clemson was going to win." When LSU led 42-25 early in the fourth quarter, Degruise received a phone call from a Clemson fan. They met inside Mercedes-Benz Superdome as LSU approached its fourth national championship. The Clemson fan handed him two tickets, and Degruise protected them until he got home, later adding the tickets to a shadow box filled with about 50 other stubs. "The tickets are a piece of that history," Degruise said.

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