Wednesday, August 26, 2020   
MSU-Meridian's Carlen Henington receives American Psychological Association award
A Mississippi State University-Meridian professor of educational and school psychology is being honored by Division 16 of the American Psychological Association. Carlen Henington, who also is MSU-Meridian's curriculum coordinator of educational psychology, is a recent recipient of the division's Contribution to Practice Award, presented during APA's virtual convention earlier this month. "Dr. Henington has been an invaluable addition to the MSU-Meridian faculty in the Division of Education. Her passion for students, colleagues and the field of school psychology is contagious," said Kimberly Hall, division head. Upon receiving the award, Henington said she was excited and honored to be recognized among a list of inspiring school psychologists. "After more than 30 years in psychology, I continue to feel privileged to have found such a rewarding field with incredibly dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to impact the world. I am humbled to know that the work I do is meaningful," Henington said.
70 MSU students test positive for COVID-19
Only a week into the fall semester, 70 students at Mississippi State University have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to data published Monday on the MSU website. The university administered 451 tests to students from Aug. 17 to Aug. 22, according to data that will be updated weekly on the site, as well as 87 to employees and 18 to private patients. One employee and two private patients tested positive. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said new cases were to be expected with campus opening to in-person instruction. Campus closed and classes moved online in March when the spread of COVID-19 became a global pandemic. MSU Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said all quarantined students are provided with resources like snacks, beverages and information about quarantine procedures and how to remotely access university library services. Students receive all their meals in their rooms from MSU Dining, but they are allowed to order food from outside, and usually the food is delivered to the lobby for the desk staff to deliver to the students' rooms, Hyatt said.
OCH CEO: MSU students not likely to require hospitalization for COVID
Administrators at both OCH Regional Medical Center and Mississippi State University have been in contact as MSU has resumed in-person classes, but OCH CEO Jim Jackson said he does not foresee the hospital having to admit any students who test positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. OCH has treated a couple of students for the virus in the emergency room but has not admitted any for treatment, and the hospital should be able to handle the increased population of the area now that in-person classes have resumed for the first time since March, Jackson said. "If a student does require admission, they'll probably be going to their hometowns, but it would be rare for a student in that age group to require admission," he said. The hospital had six positive COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday morning, Jackson told the OCH Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting. Additionally, OCH and other hospitals in northeast Mississippi are in the early stages of forming a "regional collaborative" to ensure all COVID-19 patients can be treated somewhere in the region, Jackson said.
Annual ryegrasses anchor winter grazing
Annual ryegrass is one of those grasses that looks as good as it tastes. Livestock producers across the South heavily rely on annual ryegrass to feed cattle throughout the winter and early spring. "Ryegrass pastures have been the backbone of the stocker cattle industry in the southern U.S. for many decades," says Rocky Lemus, Mississippi State University extension forage specialist. "It is reliable and versatile; has a shiny, green appearance; and has tolerance to a wide range of soil types and conditions." Of its many desirable qualities, annual ryegrass is known for being a fast grower under ideal weather conditions. Lemus notes that its dense, but shallow, root system helps prevent erosion by enhancing water infiltration and improving soil tilth. One of the annual ryegrass' drawbacks is that performance declines under extended periods of high or low temperatures. Another disadvantage is that leaf rust can sometimes be an issue.
SOCSD's first day of 'new normal' comes with trials, triumphs
Erin Dawson was nervous. On her first day at Armstrong Junior High School, the ninth-grader stalled in the hallway and wondered which classroom she would go to. The COVID-19 pandemic caused some things to look different from what she was accustomed to. Students wore masks all the time and dined in their own classrooms. Everyone followed one direction on each side of the hallway. Only three people were allowed in the bathroom at one time. But differences like this made her feel safe and comfortable, Dawson said. Teachers guided her to her room and walked her through classroom rules, she said, and she soon made new friends. "Even though you are away (from your classmates), they just wanted to make sure you are safe," she said. "The whole day was good." Dawson was among the more than 4,600 students across 10 schools at the Starkville-Oktibbeha County School District who began their first school day Monday amid the pandemic -- a new experience for their parents, teachers and principals alike.
SOCSD purchasing devices for all students
All students in Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will have their own electronic device thanks to a grant from Mississippi Department of Education and a unanimous vote Tuesday from the SOCSD Board of Trustees at a special-call meeting. The state Legislature passed the Equity in Distance Learning Act in June, authorizing the use of $150 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to provide every student in the state with a laptop or tablet, since many students are learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SOCSD will use its existing supply of iPads for grades pre-K through 1 and use the grant money to buy 4,200 Chromebooks for grades 2-12 and 500 laptops for teachers, said Leanne Long, SOCSD's director of instructional technology and distance learning. "For pre-K through first grade, they have a really hard time using a Chromebook because it has a keyboard," Long said. "We have enough iPads in the district not to have to buy more of those." EDLA will provide $1.6 million through the grant, and SOCSD will shoulder a $600,000 match, for a total of $2.2 million.
Golden Triangle small businesses weathering COVID-19 storm
According to a study by Yelp cited in the Washington Post in mid-August, about 60,000 small businesses in the U.S. permanently closed between March 1 and July 25, casualties of COVID-19. Mississippi and the Golden Triangle area haven't been immune, but according to local and state experts, they've fared better than expected. Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Mike Tagert said the market during COVID-19 is somewhat reinforcing established trends within small businesses. "If you were a weak business before, then you're struggling like never before," Tagert said. "If you were doing relatively well, you're just having an average year." Tagert said sales tax revenue is actually up 3 percent from last year in Starkville, but food and beverage tax and hotel tax collections have taken the biggest hit. "People are still spending," Tagert said. "They're just allocating that in different categories."
Commodore Bob's restaurant and bar shares safe operating practices
While restaurants are hotspots for people to enjoy themselves and socialize, one restaurant in Starkville said it is no exception to the coronavirus safety regulations. Commodore Bob's Yacht Club is an ocean-themed restaurant and bar in Starkville. "We had to be a lot more cautious," said employee Caitlin Cade. Cade is also a senior at Mississippi State. She said she had only been working at Commodore Bob's for a week when the pandemic began. She said there is a procedure to keeping customers safe. "As soon as they leave, we wipe down the tables really well, we get the dishes off." Bartender and server John Hughes is also a student at Mississippi State. He said a menu gets much more attention now. "Once a customer gets done with it, you know, we'll take it back, we'll wipe it down," Hughes said. He added simply keeping the restaurant clean and making sure customers follow safety guidelines is part of the job nowadays.
Category 3 Laura to hit Texas, Louisiana as major hurricane as hundreds of thousands evacuate
Hurricane Laura, which grew to a Category 3 storm early Wednesday, is forecast to bring "potentially catastrophic" storm surge, fierce winds and flash flooding to eastern Texas and Louisiana on Wednesday night and early Thursday, the National Hurricane Center says. More than half a million people were ordered to evacuate as the storm approached, including the Texas cities of Beaumont, Galveston and Port Arthur. Even if Laura reaches Category 4 strength during the day on Wednesday, forecasters still expect the storm to hit near the Texas-Louisiana border as a Category 3 hurricane, as it's predicted to weaken slightly before landfall. The storm has already intensified a "remarkable" amount in the past 24 hours, the storm center says. Laura is growing in size, too. "Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles," forecasters said. The storm is also expected to bring as much as 15 inches of rain in some isolated pockets in Louisiana and Texas. A few tornadoes could also be seen in Louisiana, far southeast Texas, and southwestern Mississippi, the hurricane center says.
Hurricane Laura: Western, central Mississippi could see tropical storm wind gusts, heavy rain
Although Mississippi isn't taking a direct hit from Hurricane Laura, parts of the state -- including the Jackson metro area -- could feel the impact. Now a Category 3 hurricane, Laura had sustained winds of 115 mph as of 7 a.m. It has the potential to reach 140 mph -- a Category 4 -- later Wednesday. Western, northwestern and central Mississippi have a marginal risk of weather Thursday, with heavy rain bands associated with Laura and the possibility of damaging winds and tornadoes. The heavy rainfall threat and localized flash and urban flooding potential will continue northeastward into the middle-Mississippi, lower Ohio and Tennessee Valleys Friday night and Saturday. Mississippi will be on the east side of the storm as it makes landfall, when it is forecast to turn toward the northeast. National Weather Service Meteorologist Latrice Maxie said counties along the Mississippi River have the most potential for severe weather, especially in the southeast corner near Natchez. "It looks like right now, if there is going to be any impact, it won't be until early Thursday," she said.
MDOT develops app to help keep drivers informed of traffic updates
Drivers will now have access to Mississippi Department of Transportation traffic updates right in the palm of their hand through a new app. "A lot of times in the mornings, if you're wanting to commute to work or school, you can look at this before you get in the car and find out is there anything that's going to impact you journey to that location," said MDOT District 6 engineer Kelly Castleberry. The app, MDOT Traffic, provides real-time information to users and can be customized for specific areas. "It is map-based. It will have several icons show up across the state," Castleberry said. "You can click on that icon in that area and it will tell you exactly what's going on, whether that be road work, weather impact, welcome center or restroom facility. There is a lot of information carried on the app." Castleberry says the purpose for this app is to give drivers active information to help them decide what is best for them and their route. The app is available for download on Apple and Android systems
Silver Star to reopen this Friday
The Silver Star Casino at Pearl River Resort will reopen to the public on Friday, Aug. 28 at noon, it was announced. Upon reopening, guests can once again enjoy dining options at The Bakery, Stats Bar and Grill, Rally Alley and Phillip M's restaurant. "We are thrilled to be entering the final phase of reopening and proud to welcome guests back to our flagship casino," said William "Sonny" Johnson, President and CEO of Pearl River Resort. "Our team is trained, prepared and eager to provide an outstanding gaming experience in a safe environment." Guests are asked to adhere to social distancing protocols while waiting to enter. Thermal cameras will conduct automatic noninvasive temperature scans at all Guest and Associate entrances. Anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 or higher will not be permitted to enter. During designated times, sections of the gaming floor will be closed to allow for cleaning. The Silver Star s owned and operated by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Business dubbed 'Project Silver' to bring 200 jobs to downtown Natchez
A new business prospect code named "Project Silver" that is expected to bring approximately 200 jobs to downtown Natchez got a unanimous vote of approval during Tuesday night's Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen meeting. Aldermen voted to authorize Mayor Dan Gibson to enter into a grant agreement with the Mississippi Development Authority in order to receive no more than $260,000 in MDA grant money on behalf of the city for the purpose of completing infrastructure related to "Project Silver." In making the proposal to the board of aldermen, Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the funds would be used to demolish the old A&P building at Franklin and N. Wall streets and to upgrade a parking lot adjacent to an old Regions bank building on the block. In introducing the proposal, Russ told aldermen that Project Silver is "probably the worst kept secret in town but it still must remain confidential due to the competitive nature of that business."
Shield or magnolia? Mississippi flag commission narrows options to two after designs fly
Will it be the shield or the magnolia? A nine-member commission responsible for choosing a design for the new Mississippi state flag narrowed the field to two options on Tuesday after watching five finalist designs fly in front of the Old Capitol in downtown Jackson. One finalist bears a shield with red stripes and waves. The other features a magnolia flower surrounded by a circle of stars, bordered by red stripes. Both showcase the words "In God We Trust." The final designs were selected out of about 3,000 proposals submitted to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for consideration. Earlier this summer, lawmakers voted to remove Mississippi's previous flag, which featured the Confederate battle emblem, a symbol associated with white supremacy. The Commission to Redesign the Mississippi State Flag will meet again on Sept. 2 to choose a winner. The public will vote on whether to accept the final design as the new Mississippi state flag in November. The commission has steadily narrowed the number of design options. On Aug. 18, they selected five finalists, which were raised on a flag pole and flown in front of the Old Capitol Tuesday.
Final two Mississippi flag proposals: Shield vs. magnolia
As Mississippi replaces its former flag that had the Confederate battle emblem, five proposals were literally run up a flagpole Tuesday. A group then narrowed the choice to two designs: One with a shield and one with a magnolia. "When you fly a flag up a flagpole, it sure does look different than it does on paper," said the chairman of the nine-member flag commission, former state Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson. Commissioners will choose a single design next week, and that will go on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters to accept or reject. Each of the final designs contains a single star made of diamond shapes to represent the Native American people who lived in Mississippi before others arrived. The magnolia design has 21 stars, with one representing the Choctaws, Chickasaws and other tribes, and the others representing Mississippi as the 20th state. Jasmine Dennis, an architecture student from Jackson, watched as some of the proposed designs were flown. Dennis, who is African American, said she was pleased the state no longer uses the old flag.
Commission selects final two designs to become new state flag
After seeing five finalist designs flying over the Old Capitol on Tuesday, the flag commission on Sept. 2 will pick one of two designs to put before voters as a new Mississippi state flag. "I think I'm going to love whichever one they pick," said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who was among a small crowd outside the Old Capitol watching the five finalists hoisted up a flag pole one after the other. Voters in November will get a chance to accept or reject either a flag with a red-white-and-blue striped shield -- inspired by the state's territorial seal of 1798 -- or a magnolia blossom, the official state bloom, on a blue background with red and gold stripes. Both, as required by a new law, have the words "In God We Trust" on them. Felder Rushing, a noted horticulturist, radio show host and writer, was among the crowd watching the five finalists fly Tuesday. "They look better in person than on paper," Rushing said, a sentiment held by many attendees and commissioners on Tuesday. Rushing added that he is pulling for a design with a magnolia bloom.
Flag committee narrows choices, two remain
Ahead of a looming deadline next week, the nine-member commission that will propose a new state flag design has narrowed the available options down to a final pairing. Of the two flags remaining, one features a shield and a single star, both against a blue background. The other features a magnolia bloom surrounded by a wreath of stars, against a blue background with two bars of red at either end of the flag. "I think we are dividing up the votes amongst flags that are very similar," said Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill, who sits on the commission. Tannehill is one of two Northeast Mississippi residents to sit on the flag commission. The other is Betsey Hamilton, of New Albany, who also sits on the board of the Department of Archives and History. On Tuesday, some commissioners were eager to dive into the design details, while others seemed generally pleased with the entire slate of remaining flags. If voters approve the flag commission's final choice in November, the Legislature will formally adopt that design as the state flag sometime next year. If voters reject the commission's choice, the commission will go back to work and select another design for a new referendum election.
Dr. Thomas Dobbs: Biloxi High School closed because of 'unnecessary' gatherings
A Mississippi high school is shutting down for two weeks because of a coronavirus outbreak that happened after large "unnecessary" social gatherings where distancing guidelines were ignored, the state health officer said Tuesday. Dr. Thomas Dobbs said officials at Biloxi High School made the "exactly right decision" when they announced Monday that students would learn virtually until at least Sept. 8. Extracurricular activities were also temporarily suspended, including some of the first football games of the season, causing some negative reactions from athletes and parents. "If we want to have football, if we want to have school, we can't have social events that violate the executive orders that are on the books," Dobbs said during a news conference. Gov. Tate Reeves said the school made the decision to close after between one-third and one-fifth of all students were exposed, a situation he described as a "learning experience" for Biloxi and other districts in the state.
Gov. Tate Reeves: Biloxi High's COVID outbreak was result of students going to large parties
Gov. Tate Reeves says that the COVID-19 outbreak that led to Biloxi High School's decision to go to distance learning for two weeks was mostly the result of students being exposed while attending large parties. Reeves and the state's top health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, commended Biloxi Superintendent Marcus Boudreaux for his decision to take students out of the classroom until Sept. 8. A total of 15 BHS students tested positive for the coronavirus and another 234 were asked to quarantine due to potential exposure. "Some students went to social gatherings and there were a couple of instances where they went to very large social gatherings," Reeves said Tuesday. "There was an outbreak with a number of cases. As the result of contact tracing they found that there was somewhere between 1/5 or 1/3 of the entire high school was going to have to be quarantined because of one large social gathering." The Biloxi football team won't be able to practice until Sept. 8 and its season opener against Poplarville, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 4, has been canceled. A Sept. 11 game against Vicksburg in Clinton is still on schedule at the moment.
Auditor: MDE 'ignored state law' surrounding COVID-19 spending on technology
For at least the sixth time since last spring, State Auditor Shad White has formally warned the Mississippi Department of Education about their enforcement of rules and administrative spending. In this case, White sent a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves and legislative leaders voicing concern that MDE is forcing local school districts to buy their technology from only certain companies or risk losing reimbursement. "I have concerns that the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has ignored state law and made it more difficult for schools to purchase technology using the Coronavirus Relief Funds (CARES Act) appropriated by the Legislature," White wrote in the Aug. 24 letter. School districts are in the process of purchasing computers after the Mississippi Legislature this year passed a law enacting the "Equity in Distance Learning Act" as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many schools to pivot to online learning. State Superintendent Carey Wright called the letter "inaccurate and devoid of all context about the intent of this law," in a statement released by the MDE responding to White's accusations.
Mike Espy has built a robust and historic Senate campaign. Can he win?
Dozens of potential Mike Espy donors listened as Stacey Abrams, the Mississippi native and Georgia activist who was earlier tabbed as a possible running mate to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, spoke on a virtual fundraising call on May 29. "We know that if we do the work now, that if we invest now in Mike Espy and his vision for Mississippi, we don't just change Mississippi, we change the South. And when we change the South, we change America," Abrams said of Mississippi's Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. The Abrams fundraiser was one of more than 40 virtual events the Espy campaign has hosted in 2020, as campaigns across the nation scramble during the pandemic to engage voters and generate enthusiasm. Working to do just that and share his vision with Mississippians, Espy has built as large a campaign organization as any statewide Democrat in the state's history. As of this week, the campaign has hired 15 full-time staffers -- at least twice as many staffers as his opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. But even with the staffing and fundraising advantages over Hyde-Smith, Espy has his work cut out for him.
Business world braces for blue sweep
Wall Street and business groups are bracing for the possibility of a blue sweep in Washington that would leave Democrats in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Such a scenario could lead to sweeping policy changes affecting taxes, regulations, coronavirus relief and other economic policies. "I would say that's definitely a concern on a lot of investors' minds," said Judy Lu, CEO and founder of Blue Zone Wealth Advisors. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a lead in national polls and in key swing states over President Trump. Democrats are in control of the House and, if Biden wins the White House, would need to have a net pick-up of three Senate seats to gain control of that chamber. With one party controlling Washington, Lu says, businesses anticipate more sweeping policy changes, which makes it harder to plan. "The market doesn't really care if you're red or if you're blue, the market just doesn't like uncertainty," she said.
Four Residents of UM Tri Delta Sorority House Test Positive for COVID-19
Four residents of the Delta Delta Delta sorority house on the University of Mississippi campus have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement released by UM on Monday. The university stated that it is following guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health, which calls for other residents of a Greek house to enter quarantine for 14 days when three or more students living in the house test positive for the virus. The Tri Delta house, which is located on Sorority Row, is home to almost 100 women. UM Provost Noel Wilkin confirmed Friday that the university is currently investigating positive cases of the virus associated with two different Greek organizations.
UM professors awarded National Science Foundation award
Two professors with the University of Mississippi have received a National Science Foundation award for $550,000. Professors Jared Delcamp, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Nathan Hammar, Margaret McLean Coulter Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, required the award to further explore using lower-energy light to drive systems that will improve daily life. "This research could enable a digital display of the road and area around the road in front of us as clear as we see it in the daylight making this situation much less dangerous," Delcamp said. "The military has used these types of approaches for years. Unfortunately, the materials used are all very challenging to control and require impractical conditions with cryogenically frozen states. This has limited their use with the public. Replacing these materials with those like we are pursuing in our project would bring this technology into wide mainstream use."
HBCUs in Mississippi facing unique challenges reopening amid pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on Black communities at a disproportionate rate. Black men and women represent more than 50 percent of cases and deaths in Mississippi. And, that is partially why many of the state's historically black colleges and universities are taking a "wait and see approach" before returning campus life to business as usual. Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena is starting off completely virtual. But along with that comes one dilemma. "Our students need to have laptops in their homes and access to Internet in their homes," said Sade Turnipseed, an associate professor of History at Valley State. She says many students aren't able to attend class online for reasons beyond their control. "So sometimes that means going to a library. Sometimes it means pulling up into a coffee shop that has Internet or somebody else's parking lot," said Turnipseed. "You know, it's crazy that our students have to go through what they have to go through." Turnipseed says the digital divide in the state and its impact especially in poor Black communities across the Delta, leaves them no choice but to phase in in-person learning next month -- despite concerns over the coronavirus.
U. of Alabama named nation's No. 1 party school
The University of Alabama has regained its spot atop the list of the nation's top party schools. The Princeton Review recently released its annual listing of the top party schools in the country. The rankings are based on what students say about their college experiences, with the party school designation determined by student ratings on the use of alcohol and drugs, the number of hours they study each day outside of class and the popularity of fraternities and sororities. This year's survey included 143,000 students at 386 schools. Last year, UA was ranked No. 2 behind Syracuse University, which dropped back to No. 3 this year. UA is the only Alabama school among the top 20 party schools for this year. The party school designation comes just as Tuscaloosa officials announced they were closing bars in the college town for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The university announced Monday it had 531 confirmed cases between students, faculty and staff since classes resumed Aug. 19.
Black Republican freshman at Bama wants to run for Tuscaloosa mayor, criticizes COVID response
A Black Republican freshman at the University of Alabama today lashed out at Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox's crackdown on bars and said he may run against Maddox next year. C.J. Pearson, president of the Free Thinker Project, said he plans to put together an exploratory committee to run for mayor of Tuscaloosa. Maddox's pandemic-response measures include the closing of all bars, eliminating bar services at restaurants and mask mandates, which Pearson called an overreaction. He said he's been talking to business owners who are struggling to provide for themselves and their families. "We need to believe in the right of people to be self-responsible, to make choices for themselves," Pearson told Pearson, from Atlanta, recently moved to Tuscaloosa to attend the University of Alabama. Maddox responded to a request for comment from "My hometown continues to face a healthcare and economic crisis due to COVID-19 and my focus is on saving lives and livelihoods," he said.
Auburn limits in-person gatherings on campus, warns of threat to semester in email to students
A day after Auburn reported 207 new positive COVID-19 cases on campus for the week of Aug. 15-21, the university's vice president for student affairs sent a foreboding email to students. In the email, which was sent to students Tuesday evening and a copy of which was obtained by, VP for student affairs Bobby Woodard warns that "recent events across the country -- and across our campus -- have put our efforts in jeopardy." In the email, Woodard also announced that the university has implemented an additional step to try to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, limiting on-campus in-person gatherings to no more than 50 people, effective Aug. 24-Oct. 10. Woodard confirmed to on Tuesday night that the restriction was intended to address student events and gatherings, adding that it does not apply to athletics. The email from Auburn comes a day after the university reported 207 new positive coronavirus tests on campus, which was a five-fold increase from the previous week, though Auburn's medical clinic director Dr. Kam Ward said the increase in positive cases was anticipated as students returned to campus.
University officials address Auburn faculty COVID concerns
Faculty attending Tuesday afternoon's Auburn University Senate over Zoom had numerous questions for the administration regarding its guidance in navigating a semester defined by COVID-19. Among the biggest was what would drive the University to return to remote operations. The answer? It's contingent on a number of factors, according to Executive Vice President Ronald Burgess. Another question for the administration came from Susan Youngblood, associate professor in the Department of English. "I'm a little worried about the fact that [data is] aggregated by week, because we have a hard time seeing what's going on with trends as the week is aggregated," she said. "Is there any possibility that those could be parsed out more finely, like by day?" She was met with 20 seconds of silence from officials present that included Burgess, President Jay Gogue, Provost Bill Hardgrave, Dr. Fred Kam of the Auburn University Medical Clinic and Lady Cox, associate vice president of student engagement in Student Affairs.
Hurricane Laura: LSU to close campus Wednesday
As Hurricane Laura approaches the Gulf Coast, Baton Rouge colleges and universities have altered their class schedules for the following days. LSU announced Tuesday night that campus would be closed on Wednesday, Aug. 26 due to severe weather from Hurricane Laura. LSU Law Center and LSU Vet School will receive instructions from those schools. The Rapid COVID-19 Testing Center locations, residence halls and dining halls will remain open on Wednesday. LSU initially planned to keep campus open Wednesday, but changed the decision in light of increasing closures across the Baton Rouge area. LSU will continue to monitor the possible severe weather before making decisions on Thursday. LSU was also closed on Monday due to Tropical Storm Marco, but reopened Tuesday for the first day of classes.
More than 200 U. of Tennessee faculty and staff sign letter pushing health officials for online classes
In May, Jed Diamond planned to continue teaching at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in the fall, but he started to rethink his decision when COVID-19 cases climbed during the summer. Diamond, a theater professor, and many of his colleagues had the same idea in early August -- to transition fully to remote learning. Colleges across the country are choosing to go online using a hybrid model, learning remotely temporarily or staying home for the entire fall semester. Diamond sent a letter to Knox County Health Department Director Martha Buchanan, and shared a copy after it was sent with UT Chancellor Donde Plowman, with the help of the American Association of University Professors and United Campus Workers Knoxville chapters. He still hasn't heard back. UT spokesperson Tyra Haag confirmed that Plowman received a copy of the letter addressed to Buchanan. "We appreciate members of the AAUP forwarding a courtesy copy of the letter to the Chancellor after they sent it to the Knox County Board of Health," Haag said in a written response.
U. of South Carolina quarantining 2 sororities after COVID outbreaks: 'Kids are back and they are partying'
The University of South Carolina said Tuesday it is quarantining students of two sororities after several residents tested positive for COVID-19 during the first week of classes. The semester began Thursday but photos and videos of large parties inside homes and around pools at student apartment complexes have been circulating on social media showing hundreds of unmasked people crowded close together. Bob Guild, president of the Granby Mill Village Neighborhood Association several blocks from USC's Greek Village, said house parties have cranked back up in his neighborhood since students returned to rental homes. At night, Guild said he can again hear music and the steady din of voices from a rental house near his Pall Mall Street home. Small crowds of college students carrying cases of beer to nearby parties have again become regular sights. "The kids are back and they are partying," Guild said. USC did not name the houses placed under quarantine but they are Delta Delta Delta and Chi Omega, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the quarantine order.
Georgia colleges waive SAT/ACT requirements for upcoming admissions
Several dozen Georgia colleges and universities will waive SAT and ACT test requirements for upcoming semesters due to uncertainty about the scheduling of those exams amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Tuesday. The 26-member University System of Georgia will waive the requirements for the spring, summer and fall 2021 semesters. "USG made the decision after monitoring testing availability during the spring and summer when multiple test date cancellations have prevented thousands of students from having access to a testing opportunity," Tristan Denley, the system's chief academic officer, said in a letter to officials received by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the Georgia Open Records Act. Prospective first-year USG students must meet all other admissions requirements. Education experts warned that Georgia's public college system would lose students if they kept the testing requirement.
Gator masks and plexiglass: UF shows off COVID-19 safety protocol
Plexiglass shields surrounding desks. Buckets of hand sanitizer pumps in classrooms. Human sensors to alert when the library has reached its new maximum capacity. Life-size alligator stickers on the floor to promote distancing. One week before undergraduate classes begin -- and many graduate and law school classes already underway -- accommodations in place for the pandemic are coming together at popular hubs for students at the University of Florida. Flyers encouraging masks and distancing are a backdrop across the campus. The taped-up pieces of paper, with messages such as "Gators wear masks" and "Do not sit here," appear everywhere -- on walls, every other public computer monitor and desktop, and sometimes several back-to-back on tables so only one student can sit at a time. According to building and facility officials, The popular campus library will function at 25% capacity, or 320 people at a time. Typically, the library holds 1,500 students and staff. Sensors on the ceiling, installed pre-pandemic, have been adjusted for the new capacity limits. When the occupancy limit is reached, the light on the sensor will turn red.
Texas A&M launches COVID-19 dashboard; reports 358 positive tests Aug. 16-22
The Texas A&M University community is seeing an increasing number of COVID-19 diagnoses, according to the school's newly launched dashboard. A&M had 358 positive COVID-19 tests among students, faculty and staff for the week of Aug. 16 to Aug. 22. The first day of class was Aug. 19. Many students began moving back to the Bryan-College Station area early in the month. The dashboard reflects information related to the College Station campus specifically. Since Aug. 2, there have been 407 positive COVID-19 cases from A&M students, faculty and staff, according to the dashboard, which was posted Tuesday afternoon. In that span, the university has conducted 3,159 tests and has had a 12.88% positivity rate. Positivity, as explained in the dashboard, measures the proportion of positive test results out of the total tests collected. During the week of Aug. 16 through Aug. 22, A&M conducted 2,119 tests with a 16.89% positivity rate, according to the dashboard. Chief Risk, Ethics and Compliance Officer Kevin McGinnis said the numbers are not surprising.
U. of Missouri professor remains on payroll, no longer teaching, after comment to Chinese student
A University of Missouri professor told his students he has been relieved of teaching duties following an exchange with a Chinese student that has been described as xenophobic by some and a joke by others. Supporters have started an online petition to save the job of Joel Poor, an associate teaching professor in the Trulaske College of Business. "Today I was relieved of teaching duties, I apologize for any disruption this might cause for you. Best wishes, Joel," Poor wrote to students in his classes in an online message. The university could not confirm what disciplinary action has been taken or whether he stepped aside from teaching duties or was removed, spokesman Christian Basi said. But Poor remains on the payroll of the university and has other duties aside from teaching, Basi said. The university's Office of Civil Rights and Title IX is investigating the incident.
Missouri professor reassigned from teaching after comments to student from Wuhan
A professor of marketing at the University of Missouri at Columbia told students he'd been relieved of his teaching duties after comments he made to a student from Wuhan, China, about the need for a face mask during an online class meeting were widely circulated on social media. The virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, and the spread of the virus in the U.S. has brought with it a surge in anti-Asian racism. The university confirmed that the marketing professor, Joel Poor, remained employed and "has been assigned to other duties." Missouri referred the incident to its Office for Civil Rights and Title IX, which has opened an investigation. Some students have called for Poor's firing, while others have taken to his defense, saying his comments were meant jokingly and there was no malicious intent. Mark Moghadam, a junior at Missouri who said he has known Poor since his freshman year, started an online petition in support of Poor that had received more than 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
Cases spike at universities nationally
Most colleges and universities have now begun classes and brought students to campus all over the country. Several of those institutions, especially large ones, are now seeing outbreaks of COVID-19 among students. Many of the most visible and serious outbreaks are in the Southeast United States. The University of Alabama has had over 500 cases at its Tuscaloosa campus, for example, and Auburn University has seen over 200 cases this week alone. The University of Miami reported 141 after the first week of class, and the University of Kentucky has seen 250 cases so far. In some examples, the shock of those case counts is tempered by considering high enrollment numbers and a low positivity rate. The University of Kentucky, for example, enrolls over 30,000 students, and its positive results as a share of tests reach only 1.1 percent. Though case counts and community spread are worse in general in the Southeast, the high case numbers among some universities may also be related to the start of classes. Colleges in the South are more likely than those elsewhere to start the academic year early in August, in line with K-12 schools in the region.
Major public universities haven't always been forthcoming with statistical modeling in fall reopening plans
The question of whether administrators will release epidemiological modeling is bigger than any one college or university, and it's about much more than the modeling itself. It cuts to the heart of decision making by higher education leaders across the country. How administrators made the decision to reopen campuses for in-person instruction in the fall has been an important point of discussion for months. So too has been what they considered as they crafted plans for testing, reduced density on campuses, mask-wearing requirements and other efforts to combat the transmission of a virus that could easily incubate undetected among groups of young, healthy students concentrated around a college campus -- then leap to older, sicker populations like staff members, faculty members and local residents. Those considerations are in the limelight after last week, when several prominent research universities pulled the plug on in-person instruction and residence-hall living or locked down campus just a short time after undergraduates arrived earlier this month.
More Than 200 Ohio State University Students Suspended For Violating Pandemic Rules
Even before fall classes began on Tuesday, The Ohio State University temporarily suspended more than 200 students for violating COVID-19 safety protocols. Member station WOSU was one of several outlets to report that school officials had issued 228 interim suspensions tied to off-campus parties. On Tuesday, university spokesman Ben Johnson told NPR that suspensions were issued between Wednesday and Sunday. The suspensions were issued to students who hosted or attended parties of ten people or more, without practicing physical distancing or wearing face coverings as required by university COVID-19 policy. According to the Office of Student Life, suspended students are barred from campus without permission. There is a formalized process for appealing suspensions, and Johnson said an unspecified number of students have already been cleared. Officials warned students last week that those who did not adhere to requirements like wearing face masks, practicing physical distancing and limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people would face disciplinary action, regardless of whether misconduct happened on or off campus.
UC Berkeley chancellor calls reopening amid crises ‘hardest situation I’ve ever encountered’
The University of California's first two campuses to reopen this fall, Berkeley and Merced, begin classes Wednesday amid multiple crises: fear of COVID-19 spikes among students, shuttered classrooms that have forced online learning, and battered university budgets. The early reports from some college openings throughout the nation are unsettling. Despite months of careful planning and strict rules for testing, contact tracing, masking and social distancing, the virus is surging as students have begun gathering in groups large and small after months apart from friends. Now UC campuses face their own tests. This fall, UC Berkeley expects 1,600 students to move into campus dorms -- short of filling 3,000 available spots as many cancelled housing contracts after learning that almost all classes will be remote. At the same time, the pandemic has spurred Berkeley's worst ever financial crisis. The campus expects a financial hit of $340 million through next June, the result of less revenue from housing, dining, athletics and performances, along with higher spending for cleaning, testing and instructional technology.
Chinese Diplomats Helped Military Scholars Visiting the U.S. Evade FBI Scrutiny, U.S. Says
When Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell told China's ambassador that the Houston consulate must close within 72 hours, he delivered a related message: Remove all Chinese military researchers now in the U.S. The July 21 order on the researchers, which hasn't been previously reported, was the culmination of months of rising concern in the Trump administration over what U.S. officials depict as an intelligence-gathering operation aided by Chinese diplomats to collect cutting-edge scientific research from American universities. The alleged sources for that intelligence, according to U.S. officials and court documents filed in related cases, were Chinese postgraduate researchers in areas such as biomedicine and artificial intelligence who had, to varying degrees, hidden from immigration authorities their active-duty statuses with the People's Liberation Army. Investigations are in early stages, and much about the events leading to the consulate's closure remains classified and hard to assess. But U.S. officials say the interactions between researchers and Chinese diplomats spurred the action to close it.
After virtual national party conventions end, issues will ultimately determine election
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: With the Republican National Convention wrapping up this week and the Democratic National Convention just behind us, the stretch run has essentially begun in the 2020 presidential campaign. There are just 10 weeks left in this election. As one who covered national party conventions as a reporter, I found the pandemic-driven introduction of virtual conventions this year to be less enjoyable but perhaps more impactful in terms of the information conveyed. What was sacrificed was the color, the pageantry, and the decided lack of spontaneity in the "spontaneous" floor demonstrations and balloon drops. For Mississippians, the most notable aspect of the 2020 Democratic National convention was that it was presided over and chaired by Mississippi Second District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton. That designation made him the first Mississippian in history to preside over a national Democratic Party convention. ... The virtual conventions done, Americans will now focus on bedrock issues like abortion, gun control, religion, immigration, health care, and taxing and spending. They always do. The polling margins will likely tighten, as they did four years ago.

Why Mississippi State football offense will be 'totally different' in 2020
The new Mississippi State coaching staff doesn't mince words. Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett bluntly put where his unit stood just a few days into preseason training camp. "I would say there is not a guy on defense right now who looks like they're executing the defense as well as it needs to be executed for us to be any good," Arnett said last week. Outside receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. took his turn Tuesday night. "If you can't catch a football, you can't play receiver," Spurrier Jr. said. "If you can't get open, it's hard to catch the ball ... If you can't catch it, we'll send you to defense." Spurrier Jr.'s response came shortly after he was asked how he'll fix Mississippi State's dropped passes problem that has plagued receivers in recent seasons. He had a lighthearted initial answer. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said through a laugh. "We don't talk about drops." Sarcastic or not, Spurrier Jr.'s words ring true. The Mississippi State wide receiving corps isn't focused on drops as it prepares to play in coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense for the first time against LSU on Sept. 26. The conversations instead center on catches.
Mississippi State's tight ends-turned-wide receivers will offer Bulldogs size on the outside
For what Mississippi State's 2020 wide receiving corps lacks in experience, it makes up for in size. While the Bulldogs boast the towering twosome of senior Osirus Mitchell and junior Alabama transfer Tyrell Shavers, it's the broad-shouldered trio of converted tight ends Geor'quarius Spivey, Brad Cumbest and Dontea Jones that the Bulldog coaching staff are eager to experiment with come game time. "I'm excited about the aspect (of having) big guys out there," first-year head coach Mike Leach said. "Guys like that in the past were playing (defensive) end for me, but we had enough (defensive) ends here, so it's a luxury and one that I think is going to be really good for everybody." Speaking with the media Tuesday night, outside receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said Jones estimated he's weighed as much as 280 pounds during his time in Starkville but has gotten into the 220-pound range ahead of this fall in anticipation of his added route-running responsibilities. "I call 'em 'trees,'" Spurrier Jr. said. "We've got some guys that can run there. And again, as long as those guys play to their strengths, that's good. Big guys have got to know what their role is, and it's being big and fighting with people and fighting to come down with the ball."
What you need to know to attend Southern Miss football games during COVID-19 pandemic
With seating capacity set at 25 percent for Southern Miss football's season opener against South Alabama on Sept. 3, the USM athletic department released details Tuesday on how it plans to approach games this season during the COVID-19 pandemic. Season ticket holders will be allowed to attend games this season at 36,000-seat M.M. Roberts Stadium, but they will not be given assigned seats until further notice. USM will distribute general admission tickets that will allow those season ticket holders to sit in the section they usually sit in, but they will have to follow social distancing guidelines of at least 6 feet between all people who do not share a household. USM is currently not selling tickets to individual games in Hattiesburg and there are a limited number of season tickets still available. Parking will be limited to those attending games with instructions being delivered along with the digital ticket. RV parking on campus will be allowed for Eagle Club members who meet the minimum donation requirement and have an RV parking pass.
Investigation into LSU's Will Wade bribery allegations likely headed to independent panel: NCAA
The investigation involving LSU men's basketball coach Will Wade's alleged bribery of recruits may conclude within an independent group designed to handle complex NCAA infractions matters. No notice of allegations has yet been sent to LSU. The notice could spell the end of Wade's successful but controversial three-year tenure coaching the Tigers. An independent panel could make that ultimate decision if LSU's case enters the Independent Accountability Resolution Process -- a system formed in response to a Condoleezza Rice-led commission on college basketball. Two separate NCAA committees referred LSU's case to the IARP, according to documents obtained by The Advocate through public records request. The IARP's Infractions Referral Committee will decide whether to approve or reject the referral request. The NCAA's enforcement staff urged for the referral because it first issued a notice of inquiry to LSU on Sept. 11, 2018, and it wasn't until Jan. 31, 2020 -- "thirteen months after the information was initially requested," a letter writes in italics -- that Wade's complete cell phone image records, which totaled nearly 60,000, were submitted to the enforcement staff.
16 Vanderbilt students, including athletes, test positive for COVID-19
Vanderbilt had 16 undergraduate students test positive for COVID-19 last week, including football and lacrosse players, according to the university database of cases. The new positive cases included four undergraduate students living on campus and 12 undergraduate students who are living off campus but coming to campus. Vanderbilt declined to provide where its athletes are living. The new cases were reported Aug. 17-23, when athletic practices were being held on campus. Classes for the rest of undergraduate students started Monday. Four non-faculty university staff members also tested positive last week. Athletes and athletics staff are included in the overall data but not distinguished from other students and staff. By comparison, the University of Tennessee reported 126 active cases on Monday, including 120 students and six employees, without designating athletes or staff. UT started on-campus classes Aug. 19. On Friday, Vanderbilt paused preseason football practice after an undisclosed number of players tested positive for COVID-19.
Former Vanderbilt receiver Derrick Gragg joins NCAA to be 'part of a movement'
Former Vanderbilt football player Derrick Gragg is moving on to work for the NCAA as part of a movement. The social unrest brought by the death of George Floyd while in police custody inspired Gragg, 50, to leave his position as athletics director at Tulsa to become the NCAA's senior vice president for inclusion. "Three or four days after (Floyd's death), the world shifted and our nation in particular," Gragg told the Tulsa World. "What we're going through now ... it became a movement. One of the (NCAA) committee members said to me in my last interview for this job, 'Think of this not as your next job but as an opportunity to be part of a movement.'" Gragg, who grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, will also serve on the NCAA senior management team. "As a former FBS football student-athlete and longtime athletics administrator in roles in many segments of Division I, Derrick understands the intercollegiate landscape and will be able to formulate relationships where the NCAA can work with constituencies to build more inclusive environments," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a release.
Texas A&M Athletics Announces The Aggie Commitment
The Texas A&M Athletics Department has announced The Aggie Commitment initiative to further prioritize its standards and practices in support of Diversity and Inclusion. Led by Deputy Athletics Director and Chief Diversity Officer Kristen Brown, as well as Associate Diversity Officer Mikado Hinson, this initiative will aim to make significant progress toward providing new opportunities for personal and professional growth and development for student-athletes and staff. It will celebrate and honor Black History at Texas A&M and continue to provide student-athletes with an unparalleled experience, all while being a change agent in the fight against injustice. The Aggie Commitment will create a Committee on Diversity and Inclusion as a branch of the already existing CARE (Culture, Awareness, Respect, Equity) Committee. This group will work to review the department's hiring practices and ensure there is diversity among candidate pools for future employment opportunities throughout the department.
Friday night frights: The South braces for fall football crowds
Arkansas' famed Salt Bowl won't have its usual party this year. The Dairy Queen-sponsored tailgate festival is canceled, as is the hot dog giveaway and pregame luncheon. No tickets will be sold on game day. But this weekend's annual kickoff between top state high school football teams will have something the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have prohibited so far during the pandemic: thousands of fans in the stands. As many as 12,000 mask-wearing spectators may stream into War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock on Saturday night for a high-profile event at which Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to flip the pregame coin toss. More is at stake than high school rivalry. The match -- which promoters say will be the state's largest outdoor event since the pandemic began -- is a survival test for fall sports, as President Donald Trump and other Republicans cheer for football to play on. Packing thousands of spectators into a stadium may sound crazy to a lot of pandemic-worried Americans who have upended their lives for months and avoided public places. But this is the South. This is football. The region's cultural fabric is often built around Friday night lights.
As Stanford Cuts Teams, Olympic Hopefuls All Over the U.S. Feel a Chill
The decision by Stanford -- to dump men's volleyball, men's and women's fencing, women's lightweight rowing, men's rowing, field hockey, squash, synchronized swimming, wrestling, and coed and women's sailing -- didn't just break the hearts of the 240 athletes and 22 coaches directly affected by the decision. The move also sent chills through the Olympic community in the United States. All of the cut sports except squash are in the Olympics, and for generations, Stanford has been an unofficial Olympian factory. Stanford athletes have won nearly 300 Olympic medals over all, and at the 2016 Summer Games they won more than athletes from any other university. Stanford has been known for churning out national team members and stars. The cuts effectively chipped away at a key part of the Olympic development model in the United States. At universities like Stanford, which offers more varsity sports than nearly any other American university, aspiring Olympians have the resources to train, while intercollegiate competition prepares them for an international stage. That arrangement is one of the ways the United States Olympic team gets by without centralized training programs as robust as those in other counties.

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