Thursday, August 27, 2020   
10 Ways the Coronavirus Has Shaped Higher Ed and Its World
The coronavirus pandemic has shifted the way institutions of higher education operate, altered the college experience for students, and triggered protests by faculty members and staff against plans to reopen in the fall. It has also affected the economies and normal operations of the towns that rely on their local colleges. The data below paint a picture of the many ways that Covid-19 has tested higher ed, strained its students and work force, and spilled outward into surrounding communities, sometimes in unexpected ways, including: 155 -- Hotel rooms Mississippi State University rented to quarantine students. Colleges bringing students back to campus this fall are faced with a common question: Where will they quarantine students who test positive for Covid-19? Rather than housing those students in a dormitory on campus for 14 days, Mississippi State rented two hotels for the fall semester -- a Comfort Suites and a Hampton Inn. In an email to Mississippi State faculty members, the institution's provost said the university had talked about setting aside residence halls for students who needed to be isolated, but the hotels were more "effective and cost efficient."
Cooperation needed from students, public to ensure safety in Starkville
With college back in session, Starkville police are working to ensure students follow safety guidelines. Starkville Police Chief Mark Ballard said his staff has been working tirelessly to ensure the safety of Mississippi State University students and residents of Starkville. "If they are a student here at Mississippi State, they carry with them a certain responsibility," Ballard said. "While they might not be fearful of COVID-19, there are a lot of people in this population here that are at-risk." For students who ignore safety guidelines, Ballard said police officers aren't afraid to take action. "We will take action here within the city of Starkville," he said. "We take that role and responsibility very serious. You have to absolutely understand the responsibility that comes in the middle of a pandemic and that's why our officers are out there." Of the 170 compliance checks police have conducted on local businesses, police officers have taken 21 enforcement actions since the mandates began in July.
Mississippi Small Business Development Center and MSU Launch COVID-19 Video Series
The Mississippi Small Business Development Center is partnering with Mississippi State University to produce a nine-part video series for local small businesses about navigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty and staff in MSU's College of Business developed the series, which the Mississippi SBDC funded with money allocated through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The videos cover survival, growth and sustainability of family businesses during the pandemic and the particular needs of those businesses. The video series is MSU's College of Business' Family Business Education Initiative, which it established in 2018 to help small businesses become sustainable and grow. Production took place at MSU's University Television Center. Jeffrey Rupp, director of outreach for the College of Business, served as the host and interviewed business experts from the MSU faculty and local community.
Northeast Mississippi unemployment rate ticks up to 9.9%
After falling for two consecutive months, the unemployment rate in Northeast Mississippi has ticked up slightly. According to preliminary figures provided by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, July's jobless rate for the 16-county region was 9.9%, up from the revised June rate of 9.3%. In April, at the height of economic troubles caused by the pandemic, the unemployment rate for the region jumped to nearly 18%. But as businesses began to reopen, more workers got back on the job. The increase in July's jobless rate can be attributed to more people entering the workforce. In Northeast Mississippi, Alcorn County had the lowest rate at 8.5%, which was fifth-lowest in the state, followed by Tishomingo (8.7%), which was second-lowest in the region and sixth-lowest in the state. Seven of the region's counties had unemployment rates under double digits: Alcorn, Tishomingo, Itawamba (9.0), Lafayette (9.2), Prentiss (9.5), Union (9.6) and Tippah (9.7). The rest of the region's jobless rates: Calhoun (11.1), Oktibbeha (11.4), Lee (11.6), Marshall (11.6), Benton (11.8), Monroe (12.7), Chickasaw (15.2) and Clay (16.6).
East Mississippi development sites ready, but stalled by pandemic
About three miles northeast of Meridian, along I-20/59, sits an industrial park about 500 acres in size. When local government and economic development leaders look at it, they see potential. The Key Brothers Industrial Park is owned by Lauderdale County and marketed by the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation. It's one of several sites being offered for development in Lauderdale County at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed or halted business activity across the country. "Since March, the activity has really slowed down, as you would suspect," said EMBDC President and CEO Bill Hannah. Over the last four years, about 15 to 20 companies have visited the site and others in the county, such as the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Industrial Park-Phase IV near Lockheed Martin in Marion, Hannah said. Hannah envisions four to six companies using the Key Brothers Industrial Park for either manufacturing or distribution. When potential industry comes to town, Meridian Community College often has a seat at the table, said President Tom Huebner. "They're wanting to know about training," Huebner said. "That's something we do really well. We have a number of programs, obviously, and we can tailor programs to a specific industry."
Exclusive First Look at Mississippi's Aquarium set to open Saturday
The Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport is scheduled to open to the public this Saturday, August 29th on the 15th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The newest attraction on the Gulf Coast is situated along Highway 90 just east of Highway 49 across from Gulfport's small craft harbor. The nearly $100 million project has been under construction since 2018 when then-Governor Phil Bryant joined with state and Coast leaders to announce what Mayor Billy Hewes now calls "a jewel in Mississippi." Driving by the location today visitors would never know that the site was destroyed by Katrina in 2015, leaving behind a large blighted area in the heart of Downtown Gulfport. With the construction of the aquarium, Mayor Hewes told Y'all Politics on Wednesday that neighboring properties are now being revitalized and the city is seeing a rise in property values as a result of the investment, even before it officially opens. "We're counting on this being a catalyst from an economic development standpoint," Hewes said, adding that he believes this attraction will have a generational impact not only in Gulfport, but along the Coast and across the state. Hewes said he and those involved are committed to ensuring that the dollars spent to bring this facility to life have a real, tangible return on investment for years to come.
Hurricane Laura now a Category 2 storm on land; see initial damage reports from southwest Louisiana
First responders are discovering how much destruction Hurricane Laura inflicted on coastal communities after making landfall around 1 a.m. Dawn's first light in Lake Charles -- which took the brunt of Laura's winds overnight -- showed downtown building damage and lots of debris but no flooding downtown, Calcasieu Parish spokesman Thomas Hoefer said Thursday morning. "Power is out pretty much everywhere," he said at 7 a.m. "We may get water in but it's not here now. Cameron is dealing with the surge; we are dealing with the wind." The historically powerful storm made landfall in Cameron Parish as a Category 4 storm, bringing with it screeching winds, blistering rain and crashing storm surge. The maximum winds at landfall were 150 mph, and the storm's pressure was recorded at 938 millibars. Entergy Louisiana on Thursday was preparing to restore service for some 116,000 customers in Louisiana.
Hurricane Laura spares South Mississippi the worst, but tornadoes, flash flooding possible
South Mississippi and other areas of the state remain under storm advisories and watches as powerful Hurricane Laura moves inland through north Louisiana after making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane at 1 a.m. in Cameron, La. Coastal Mississippi has escaped the worst of Laura's damage, but emergency managers are cautioning residents to remain alert for hazards associated with the storm. The National Hurricane Center says Laura will move across Arkansas on Thursday night, the mid-Mississippi Valley on Friday and the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday. Maximum sustained winds were at 100 mph in the most recent update, downgrading Laura to a Category 2 hurricane. A tornado watch is in effect until 4 p.m. Thursday for a swath of western Mississippi from around the McComb area north to Cleveland. Rain bands could produce severe storms and damaging winds, the National Weather Service in Jackson says. Counties under the tornado watch are Adams, Amite, Bolivar, Claiborne, Coahoma, Copiah, Franklin, Hinds, Holmes, Humphries, Issaquena, Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Lawrence, Leflore, Lincoln, Madison, Marion, Pike, Rankin, Sharkey, Simpson, Sunflower, Walthall, Warren, Washington, Wilkinson and Yazoo.
Area hotels brace for potential influx of Hurricane Laura evacuees
Aaron Duncan stared at the TV in disbelief after flooding brought by Hurricane Katrina washed over New Orleans -- the city he had just evacuated from and once called home -- in 2005. "I was watching the news," Duncan said. "I was like, 'This can't be New Orleans.'" Having packed clothes that would last just a few days, Duncan left his home a day after Katrina made landfall, thinking the evacuation was temporary. Instead, he traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, stayed for a few months and moved to Atlanta, Georgia, afterward. Now, Duncan -- area manager of six hotels in Columbus and Starkville -- is expecting evacuees to come to him. Across the Golden Triangle, hotels are preparing to see an influx of evacuees from Texas, Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, several hotel managers told The Dispatch they have taken precautionary measures -- such as social distancing, deep cleaning and minimal in-person contact -- to welcome their guests, some of whom may come from the most dangerous COVID-19 hotspots among southern states. Jordan Gillentine, general manager for LaQuinta Inn and Suites in Starkville, said several guests from Lake Charles, Louisiana, have already booked rooms at the 90-room hotel. The hotel takes similar steps to slow the virus spread, he said. "With football season being shifted later in the year, it opens up the opportunity for us to accept large groups like that," he said. "We are ready to welcome them with open arms if they so choose."
New COVID-19 cases still high in Mississippi, but virus hospitalizations declining
Mississippi is reporting a higher number of new cases of coronavirus per capita each day than any other U.S. state, according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press. The data was evaluated over a 14-day period. However, data from the state Department of Health show the numbers of patients hospitalized in the state is steadily decreasing. The number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus in Mississippi peaked this month at 978 on Aug. 7. On Aug. 25, some 730 patients were hospitalized, or more than 200 fewer. "We do continue to see trends in decreasing hospitalizations. ... Certainly, all good trends, but we want to keep them that way," Mississippi's State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Tuesday. "I'm worried about our future obviously, and want to make sure we keep up the gains."
Mississippi reports 904 new COVID-19 cases, 58 deaths
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 904 more COVID-19 cases and 58 new deaths statewide. Of those 58 deaths, 44 occurred between July 21 and August 18 and were identified from death certificate reports. Among those deaths, one each was reported in Pontotoc and Union counties. Tishomingo County reported eight additional deaths. The statewide total of COVID-19 cases since March 11 now stands at 80,110 and the death toll is now up to 2,373. MSDH is reporting 62,707 people presumed recovered from the virus as of Aug. 23. Most counties in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's coverage area reported new cases. The additional case counts are: Alcorn (15), Calhoun (4), Chickasaw (4), Clay (2), Itawamba (19), Lafayette (42), Lee (25), Marshall (8), Monroe (12), Oktibbeha (27), Pontotoc (11), Prentiss (12), Tippah (7), Tishomingo (11) and Union (11).
'Wear a dang mask': Coast senator recovering from COVID pleads with Mississippi
"Wear a dang mask." That was the widely-circulated plea from Sen. Joel Carter of Gulfport after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the summer. Carter is now recovered from the virus and doubling down on that message. "It literally felt like I was being pressed between two cars and being crushed," he told WLOX. "That's how bad the body pain was. I couldn't sleep. I just laid in bed at night moaning. It was bad." Carter and his wife both tested positive after being exposed to someone during a dinner. "I caught it at a dinner," he said. "Somebody that was infected came to the dinner and spread it to everyone at the table." Within the first eight hours of symptoms, Carter was being treated with a combination of hydroxychloroquine and a viral steroid. He's feeling better now but says the virus knocked him out for days. While he's fully recovered now, Carter said he's an advocate for masks more than ever after his own experience. "It's very, very important. It's not fun to wear them. I mean, I don't enjoy wearing a mask but it would kill me if I was still infected and I gave it to my mother or I gave it to someone that's in the high-risk population by being in the same room," he said.
Democrats seek probe into DHS chief for possible Hatch Act violations
House Democrats are seeking a federal investigation into whether the head of the Homeland Security Department participated illegally in the Republican convention this week. In a letter sent Wednesday to U.S. special counsel Henry Kerner, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) suggested that Chad Wolf, the acting Homeland Security secretary, violated the Hatch Act by appearing with President Trump before the GOP's virtual convention Tuesday night, when he naturalized five new American citizens. The Hatch Act restricts executive branch employees from promoting political interests -- even those of their boss -- during their normal course of duties. Thompson said Wolf likely trampled on it by "engaging in political activity while acting in an official capacity." "This is an unprecedented politicization of the naturalization ceremony – an official function of the Department of Homeland Security," wrote Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn likens Democrats to 'communist China' at RNC while praising police
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn was among the featured speakers during Wednesday's Republican National Convention's primetime slot, praising law enforcement and the military while lambasting Democrats for purportedly attempting to "cancel" them. Blackburn, Tennessee's first woman to hold such a role, will soon become the state's senior senator upon the retirement of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is not seeking reelection this fall. While Blackburn has remained a fervent supporter of President Donald Trump, her five-minute speech Wednesday made little mention of the president, largely focusing on portraying Republicans as the party that honors police officers and soldiers. Blackburn spoke on night three of the four-day RNC event, which largely became virtual after originally being scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida. Long before Trump was president -- or even the party's presidential nominee -- Blackburn was among the first prominent Republicans to publicly support him.
RNC: What is QAnon and why is it causing GOP convention controversy?
QAnon, a debunked, right-wing conspiracy theory once on the political fringes, has seeped into the political landscape and into this week's Republican National Convention. The same day a bipartisan pair of lawmakers introduced legislation condemning the conspiracy theory, a speaker was removed from the RNC lineup for retweeting posts linked to QAnon. The QAnon conspiracy theory, which the FBI has called a domestic terrorism threat, is based on unfounded claims that there is a "deep state" apparatus run by political elites, business leaders and Hollywood celebrities who are also pedophiles and actively working against President Donald Trump. It includes the belief that Trump is secretly saving the world from a satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals and has been linked to some violent crimes across the country. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle have condemned the conspiracy theory. Vice President Mike Pence said on CNN's "New Day" last Friday QAnon was a "conspiracy theory" to be dismissed "out of hand." And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News last week, "There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party."
USM COVID-19 update: 9 coronavirus cases reported
The University of Southern Mississippi updated its new coronavirus positive test results processed by the Moffitt Health Center. The nine individuals tested positive during the first two-week period of students returning to campus Aug. 8-21, according to University of Southern Mississippi Chief Communications Officer Jim Coll. Classes resumed at USM Aug. 17. Moffitt Health Center has conducted a total of 151 COVID-19 tests of students, faculty, staff and immediate family members since Aug. 8. USM will post weekly COVID-19 test result updates every Monday afternoon. About 2,900 of the 14,000 enrolled at the university live on campus. A total of six individuals are under quarantine or isolation on campus due to possible contact with COVID-19 positive individuals. Two of the isolated individuals on campus tested positive while four are awaiting results. Other individuals returned to their respective homes for the quarantine period.
JSU Professor: Focus Police Reform On 'Community Policing' -- But What Is it?
Transitioning from traditional policing to "community policing" will engender more trust and cooperation between the people and the police, Thomas M. Kersen, Jackson State University associate professor of sociology, told the Jackson Free Press in a phone interview Monday. "If you are talking about community policing, which brings back power into people's hands and the community's hands rather than something outside of the community, I like that idea," he said. "I like that for communities not only for policing but for all sorts of things, where communities are more involved in their own lives and how well they do. Policing is (merely) a part of it." The U.S. Department of Justice defines community policing as a collaboration between the police and the community that identifies and solves problems together. Community policing is ultimately about the police learning to share power with those they serve and not treating residents as the enemy. Kersen said embracing this alternative to policing means the people are not treated as outsiders in their communities, with the police dictating to them, which is how traditional policing tends to work.
Jackson State grad puts mark on popular NPR Tiny Desk Concert series
Of all the celebrities Robert "Bobby" Carter has encountered as the producer of NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series, he counts meeting Big Bird of "Sesame Street" fame as his ultimate fan moment. "I mean he's a part of our childhood. When he walked out of the green room, I lost all professionalism. It went straight out the window. We've had a lot of stars, but when you're looking at Elmo and the Cookie Monster, that's a whole different level," says Carter, laughing. Aside from the big yellow bird, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Mac Miller, Lizzo, Coldplay and Michael McDonald are just a few of the musical guests featured on Tiny Desk. The online video series offers a stripped-down version of performances by emerging and mainstream artists for over 30 million viewers a month. A 2000 graduate of Jackson State University, Carter, 41, had no idea the three-month internship he secured fresh out of college would turn into a 20-year radio career at NPR's Washington D.C. headquarters. "I was interning at WJSU, the school's radio station, and a recruiter for NPR walks in. I rushed her and asked for a job. She told me to slow down," recalls Carter. "She said I couldn't have a job, but she could give me an internship."
William Carey School of Education breaks school's fall enrollment record
William Carey University's School of Education is touting a record-breaking start to the new school year this week. Dr. Ben Burnett, dean of education and executive vice president, said the highest number for fall enrollment was 1,300, but as of this week, the school hit 1,600. Burnett said that's good news not only for the school but for the state of Mississippi. "As you know, there is a critical teacher shortage in Mississippi," Burnett said. "So the more people we have on the roll, the more teachers we're training and the more leaders we are training for the schools of Mississippi." Burnett said the School of Education offers programs like the Alternator Route Certification program, which has been helping the school gain momentum. But oddly enough, Burnett said the pandemic has just as much to do with the school's boost in numbers. "Number one: people are looking for jobs who might have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and the School of Education is nothing more than workforce training with our Alternate Route Certification, our undergraduate's program," Burnett said. "We are putting people back to work." Burnett said COVID-19 forced the Mississippi State Department of Education to make some changes to licensure guidelines that potential educators are taking advantage of this year.
'This is such a massive screwup': U. of Alabama shuffles student housing amid rising COVID-19 cases
An entire residence hall of University of Alabama students is being cleared out by Wednesday night as the school continues to make adjustments following a rise in coronavirus cases on campus -- a response that has drawn the anger of at least one parent of a student in that dorm who said the university should shut down and go to online-only classes. Tee Quillin, a Huntsville actor and father of an 18-year-old freshman in the Burke West Residence Hall on campus, shared a letter his daughter received Monday from the university informing her and other students at Burke West that they would be assigned new rooms elsewhere and that they would have to move by Wednesday night. While the letter said the decision was made because of a "high vacancy rate" within the dorm, the university said in a statement to that the students were reassigned to make the dorm available "for expanded COVID-19 isolation facilities." UA's isolation capacity for COVID-19 students is at nearly 20 percent. The letter also said that the university could not guarantee that students would be assigned a room with their original roommate.
'There's no way': Masked students decry NY Times list ranking UAB as top COVID hotspot
Early Wednesday evening, several hours after the University of Alabama at Birmingham issued a statement accusing the New York Times of misinterpreting university COVID-19 infection data in a way that greatly overstated the virus's footprint at the school, students defended the university, saying it has enforced strict precautionary measures since they returned to campus earlier this month. The stories students told of the first days of the fall semester reflect a vastly different reality than the one suggested by its position atop a list published by the Times Wednesday morning that identified UAB as the American higher-education institution with the single highest number of COVID cases to date. The scene on campus Wednesday evening did not seem to support an assertion that the virus is raging out of control at UAB or students are failing to take it seriously. The percentage of people wearing masks outside was very high -- well over 90 percent -- and most followed social distancing guidelines, though some walked or ate outside together in small groups or came close to one another while throwing a Frisbee on the quad.
LSU to remain closed Thursday due to Hurricane Laura
LSU will remain closed through Thursday, Aug. 27 due to severe weather from Hurricane Laura. Classes, both in person and online, will be cancelled. Students in the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine should wait for directions from their instructors. All COVID-19 testing locations will remain closed. Students and faculty will not have to fill out the TIGER Check daily symptom checker, but should still report positive cases to the university. LSU was closed on Monday, Aug. 24 and Wednesday, Aug. 26 due to Tropical Storm Marco and Hurricane Laura before expending closures due to Hurricane Laura's increasing strength.
6 U. of Tennessee organizations on interim suspension for breaking COVID-19 rules
Six student organizations at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have been placed on interim suspension -- and will be investigated -- after being reports they broke COVID-19 guidelines for events. In a message to students, Chancellor Donde Plowman and Vice Chancellor for Student Life Frank Cuevas said the university had received "reports that they held or organized gatherings in a manner that endangered the health, safety or welfare of others." The university did not name the organizations that are being investigated. "These organizations did not comply with the Student Code of Conduct and the university's COVID-19 health and safety directives for events on and off campus," the message said. "These organizations are not permitted to host social events, either virtually or in person, while under investigation.They are not permitted to host any group meetings in person, even if those events are not social in nature." Plowman has repeatedly said she will not tolerate students breaking COVID-19 guidelines, including hosting parties off campus that do not follow social distancing or mask guidelines.
U. of Arkansas, Fayetteville setting aside 260 isolation beds
Space for 260 students has been set aside as quarantine and isolation housing at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, during the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesman said. The beds are in different parts of campus and include all of the dormitory Holcombe Hall. "No students are living in Holcombe Hall this semester" as typical residents, UA spokesman Christopher Spencer said in an email. UA on Wednesday reported a two-day increase of 15 positive virus test results for people who may have spent time on campus. Since Aug. 10, a total of 46 cases have been identified through campus testing, state Department of Health testing or self-reporting of off-campus testing, according to UA's website. Student-only positive case totals are not published by UA. The quarantine and isolation spaces are currently reserved for students with UA housing contracts, Spencer said. As of Wednesday, a total of 4,925 students had such contracts.
Lexington reports 102 new COVID-19 cases; governor calls U. of Kentucky cases 'a real concern'
Lexington reported 102 new COVID-19 cases and one new death Thursday morning. The city's total case count is now 5,289. There have been 54 deaths. New cases have declined for four consecutive days, according to data from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. The decreases have come despite the fact that University of Kentucky cases continue to increase with 37 added Thursday. The local health department has reported 423 cases among University of Kentucky students since students started getting tested by UK on Aug. 3. Fayette County includes students who are isolating in the county in its results. If students quarantine outside of Fayette County, those cases are included in other health department numbers. The Kentucky Department of Public Health reported 233 active cases among UK students as of Wednesday. "That is a lot of cases," Gov. Andy Beshear said Wednesday. "I would like to hear from the university, at what point do things become such a high level that you consider making major changes?"
U. of South Carolina disciplines students, steps up warnings after COVID cases rise in first week of classes
The University of South Carolina is ramping up warnings after disciplining students for holding parties and ignoring quarantines while COVID-19 cases rise at the state's largest college during the first week of classes. USC sent letters reminding students that they face suspension and expulsion for violating rules meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. "We are very serious about that," USC President Bob Caslen said during a virtual town hall Wednesday. "We ask students to take responsibility." The number of active COVID-19 cases at USC rose by 350 percent in the past five days to a total of 189, according to data released Wednesday. All but one of the cases involved students. There could be more cases since some students are asymptomatic and do not get tested. But a number of students reportedly are getting tested off campus and not reporting positive tests to the school. The university has placed a number of students on interim suspension after reports they violated gathering or quarantine rules, school spokesman Jeff Stensland said. He did not provide a total of the students facing discipline.
UGA COVID testing: Positive rate, cases increase in second week of surveillance testing
The University of Georgia nearly doubled the number of COVID-19 tests administered in its second week of surveillance testing, but the number of positive tests went up by a factor of more than 10. Out of 1,364 tests administered to volunteers who came to the testing site at Legion Field from Aug. 17 through Aug. 21, 32 came back positive, according to data posted on the UGA University Health Center website. In the previous week, three were positive for COVID-19 out of 793 surveillance tests administered. The surveillance testing approach "focuses on asymptomatic members of the campus community and is voluntary and at no cost to participants," according to the UHC website. The first day of UGA fall semester classes was Aug. 20; the university's goal is to test up to 300 people a day and a total of 24,000 by Thanksgiving, when students will go home to finish the rest of the semester online. Public health experts among UGA faculty and elsewhere have criticized UGA's testing goals as inadequate, saying the university should be conducting thousands of tests daily to have an effective surveillance program.
Texas A&M emergency vet team heads to coast as Hurricane Laura arrives
A squad of responders with Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine faculty, Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension and the Texas Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps is scheduled to head to the Beaumont area today to provide care to large and small animals injured by Hurricane Laura. "We try and deal with whatever issues are brought to us," said Dr. Wesley Bissett, associate A&M professor and director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team. "Elective things are not what we deal with. It's more injuries, illness, disaster-related problems that what we focus on. If an animal is in trouble, we try and help them." The VET was activated by the Texas Department of Emergency Management's State Operations Center on Tuesday, at the request of the coastal residents of Jefferson County. When team members arrive, they will remain approximately 14 days, depending on the level of need. The team of 22 will be riding in 10 to 12 large vehicles that will include three mobile animal hospital trucks. "We will see all type of animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cattle, and exotic animals," he said.
$3 million gift supports U. of Missouri's School of Journalism
Business-oriented journalism will get a boost from a $3 million donation by an anonymous University of Missouri alumna, the university stated in a news release Wednesday. The money create an endowment in the MU School of Journalism to provide scholarships, paid internships and mentoring for journalism students at Missouri Business Alert. Missouri Business Alert is a business journalism publication housed in the journalism school. It reports on Missouri business news with a daily email newsletter, weekly podcast and other multimedia content. "This generous gift will help one of the world's oldest journalism schools continue to educate world-class students," said Mun Choi, MU chancellor and UM System president. "Community support is what allows this institution to not only thrive but continue to innovate and create new opportunities for its students."
Groups petition for online classes at Missouri, bar shutdown amid virus resurgence
A growing number of community members have signed petitions calling for a return to virtual-only classes, mass testing of students at the University of Missouri and the shutdown of bars and restaurants. One petition, "Transparency, Testing, and Online Instruction to Prevent a COVID-19 Outbreak at Mizzou," has been signed by more than 300 community members since it was posted Sunday. It notes that Boone County's active cases already exceed the number that prompted the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to go to online instruction. It also calls into question the efficacy of MU's social distancing measures because students have already violated county health ordinances off-campus, specifically at the Brookside Midtown pool Saturday. The petition is authored by the anonymous "COVID Safety 4 MU," a group of three MU graduate students. It was then distributed through a broader network of MU graduate students, among them parents and instructors. The petitioners said they stand with the "#StillConcerned" movement and that failure to address COVID-19 on campus is also a racial justice issue.
U. of Memphis looking to build a new 523-bed student housing complex
The University of Memphis is looking to build a new student housing complex on Deloach Street that could house more than 500 students. Separately, Memphis developer Amin Zaki is looking to build a mixed-use development with office space and apartments on the east side of Union Avenue Extended, just south of Poplar Avenue. Both are asking the Memphis and Shelby County Board of Adjustment for zoning exemptions for the projects. The cases will come before board during a Sept. 23 meeting. U of M is seeking to build a gated complex of five, four-story buildings which would include two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom units for a total of 523 beds between 135 units. The housing complex would also have almost 10,000 square feet of amenities space, including a gym, a leasing office and a study area. The complex would also include a pool, a beach volleyball area and multiple gardens as well as 265 parking spaces.
College campuses face explosion of COVID-19 cases -- and challenges to get students to follow safety protocols
The exploding number of new COVID-19 cases on campuses across the country has left many colleges and universities grappling with the same vexing question: How do you get students to cooperate with new safety measures? While many students appear to be following social distancing guidelines, all too many are breaking the rules and putting their classmates at greater risk. Brian Higgins, an expert on crowd management security at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said the problem for universities is two-fold: The students don't take the COVID-19 threat seriously and the enforcement measures universities are taking don't have much bite. "What they're doing now is clearly not working," said Higgins, who previously was chief of police in Bergen County, New Jersey. "In addition to stricter guidelines, I think they need tougher penalties to get the students' attention. Like, give them a ticket for violating the rules and if they don't pay they don't get their grades or they can't matriculate." College students, like the rest of the country, have been feeding on conflicting reports about the severity of the pandemic, Higgins added.
COVID-19 makes medical students feel they're falling behind
COVID-19 is disrupting just about every student's education, but those in medical school have it particularly hard. "It's a nightmare scenario for the class of 2021," said Jake Berg, a fourth-year student at the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine. In March, students at the Pikeville, Ky., school were abruptly pulled out of the hospitals and medical offices where they normally learn how to treat patients. Over the space of less than two weeks, Berg said, medical students in "pretty much the entire country" transitioned from seeing patients in person to learning online. "Everyone goes along with the idea that we're all in the same boat together," he said. "But, really, it's like we're all on the Titanic and it's sinking." Megan Messenger, in her fourth year at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, figures she has lost about 400 hours of patient time as a result of the pandemic. "I feel very behind," said Messenger, who hopes to do a combined residency in pediatrics and psychiatry. She said she worries that "the class of 2021 is going to be the dumb class of interns."
Teaching this fall is not 'glorified Skype'
The spring semester and its full-throttle move to remote instruction proved brutal for many if not most faculty members. The summer offered little relief, as professors used the time to transition their fall courses to a fully online format or, more time-consumingly, to multiple formats for a range of reopening scenarios. In light of these ongoing demands, faculty members say they're working harder than ever to be effective instructors. Many have taken online teaching courses, gotten comfortable with new technology, revamped syllabi and course content, and been more available to students. So it's disheartening that critics inside and outside academe are questioning the value of a remote education, these professors say. "Like everyone I know who teaches in higher education -- at all ranks, including graduate students -- I've worked countless extra hours this summer to ensure that my fall courses offer the best possible experience for students, and I've done all of this without pay," said Rose Casey, assistant professor of English at West Virginia University. "Like my colleagues, I take teaching seriously, and that means putting in lots of extra time to make sure that students can take courses that are intellectually stimulating without being overwhelming during a pandemic."
'We're Living The News': Student Journalists Are Owning The College Reopening Story
On the morning of Friday, Aug. 14, The Daily Tar Heel newsroom got a tip: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was about to announce clusters of positive coronavirus cases in student housing, after only a week of in-person classes. The student-led independent newspaper broke the news before the university sent its campus-wide alert. Student journalists, like those at The Daily Tar Heel, have been tirelessly reporting on college reopening plans -- and their editorials haven't held back. One headline from students at the University of Kansas read, "KU must reverse course now on campus reopening;" another, from the student-run newspaper at the University of Notre Dame, declared, "Don't make us write obituaries." And the news stories haven't let up -- stories about reopening plans, testing on campus, hybrid or online learning, and of course, what all of this has been like for students. "There's too much happening right now, and I don't think that that's going to let up anytime soon," says Emily Hernandez, a junior at the University of Texas at Austin and a news editor for The Daily Texan. "The hardest part is just trying to keep up with everything."
United States establishes a dozen AI and quantum information science research centers
The United States aims to invest $765 million over the next 5 years in a dozen scientific centers dedicated to the study of artificial intelligence and quantum information science, such as quantum computing, the White House announced today. Numerous private tech companies such as IBM, Google, and Intel will also contribute to the twin pushes, which call for a total of more than $1 billion in research investment. Seven of the centers will be based at universities and focus on various applications of AI, which generally involves programming that enables a computer to learn to find useful patterns, such as the most effective moves in a board game. Each center will receive $20 million over 5 years, assuming Congress approves the funding, with a down payment coming out of funds already approved for this year. Five will receive support from the National Science Foundation and two from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
APLU Statement on the Police Shooting of Jacob Blake
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson [Wednesday] released the following statement on the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. "I am heartbroken and angered by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin and that our nation once again finds itself reeling from the tragic shooting of a Black man, this time as three of his children looked on in horror. Mr. Blake, who is now paralyzed with severe organ damage as he fights for his life, is just the latest in a long line of Black men and women who have been shot and severely wounded or killed by police. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. The list sadly goes on and on. We as a nation must enact reforms that stop this list of names from growing any longer. ... This coming Sunday we will celebrate the 130th Anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1890 and the extraordinary contributions to society made by the system of 19 land-grant, Historically Black Colleges and Universities that were designated under that act. The law represented critically important progress as it opened up the opportunity for a higher education to all people, particularly Black students who were previously denied access. It was progress for the nation, but that progress is not enough. As a public university community, we must embrace the struggle to stamp out racial injustice and inequity and advance opportunity for all."

College Football's Pandemic Playbook: Fewer Fans, No Tailgating, No Bands
At Texas A&M, the football stadium that normally holds about 110,000 people may allow fewer than 28,000 to start this season. Alabama and Auburn banned tailgating, and so did Mississippi's governor. Marching bands are forbidden on the Atlantic Coast Conference's fields, suites at Texas will not have self-service buffets and from Baylor to Boston College, hand sanitizer will be more common than printed tickets. Welcome to pandemic-era college football. No American sport has attempted such a widespread, open-to-anyone restart as the one college football is hurtling toward in about two dozen states. But with tens of thousands of coronavirus infections being reported nationwide each day and the first Football Bowl Subdivision matchups scheduled for next week, campus and government officials are racing to balance game day traditions with public health mandates. "I don't think there's any doubt that we are going to be under the microscope," Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, whose state will host a game next Thursday under government-imposed restrictions, said in an interview. Reeves said that he issued his executive order after consultations with university presidents and athletic directors, but that in his judgment, "it's the governor who has to sign the piece of paper," not campus leaders. The decision to outlaw tailgating, he said, provoked the deepest skepticism, hardly surprising in a state where pregame parties are as much a pastime as the competitions themselves.
Mississippi's GOP governor on Covid and college football
As states across the country continue to struggle to contain Covid, the pandemic has sometimes been discussed this week during the Republican National Convention as an event that already ended. Many speakers spoke as if the worst of the pandemic were in the past. Your host spoke with Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves [Wednesday] about whether Democrats can make any inroads in the South, why he feels college football is essential and where he stands on the state's new flag. This conversation has been edited: The SEC starts games next month. Other conferences have cancelled their seasons. Why do you say college football is essential? "College football is a way of life in the South. College football is a way of life in Mississippi. This gives these kids, the ones who aren't going to become professional athletes, the opportunity to be in a structured environment, where they are learning and hopefully preparing for life after sports. Then there's a large number of them who actually are going to play professional sports, and there are significant amounts of income riding on that. We believe that if you have these student athletes in a structured environment, that they are less likely to either contract or to spread the virus -- if they're playing football in between those lines, than if they're in a bar or a saloon."
Mississippi State football players react to NBA boycotts, Jacob Blake
Tuesday marked a historical day surrounded by historical anniversaries. Four years to the day after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand during the national anthem to protest police brutality and two days before the 65th anniversary of Emmett Till's murder in the Mississippi Delta, NBA players took another stand against racial injustice in America. They boycotted all three of the league's scheduled playoff games, three days after police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, multiple times. A day that was supposed to begin with one MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo trying to close out a playoff series and end with another in LeBron James attempting to do the same was instead a dark day in the league. But it could ultimately become a day that sheds more light on social issues in America. Mississippi State's training camp practice still took place Wednesday. The news of the NBA's postponements came out while players were preparing for another day in the life of a Mike Leach-led training session. Running routes, making tackles and scoring touchdowns didn't hide what's going on in America, however. It merely masked the country's strife for a few hours. "It's a problem," sophomore defensive lineman Nathan Pickering said. "It's definitely a problem."
'He's like a pit bull': What Charles Cross' development means for Mississippi State's offensive line
Charles Cross' time is coming at Mississippi State. A five-star recruit in the class of 2019 and the No. 27 overall player according to the 247Sports Composite, Cross arrived on campus last January with an heir of potential few players in the history of the program have possessed, but a body that wasn't college ready. After appearing in games against Southern Mississippi, Kansas State and Texas A&M a season ago, Cross is now slated to take over the left tackle spot vacated by third round NFL Draft Pick Tyre Phillips heading into the middle of fall camp. "He's like a pit bull," MSU offensive line coach Mason Miller said Tuesday night. "When he gets his hands on you, he doesn't surrender." Baby-faced and a slim 270 pounds when he arrived on campus a season ago, Cross has evolved and matured into a 290-pound behemoth in the trenches. Blessed with quick feet and an athleticism that far exceeds what a player of his size should be capable of, he earned rave reviews from former coach Joe Moorhead's staff.
Sources: Majority of LSU offensive line quarantined due to coronavirus exposure
All but four LSU offensive linemen are in quarantine after they either tested positive for the novel coronavirus or were determined to have high-risk exposure, multiple sources told The Advocate on Wednesday. Players who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for at least 10 days after their positive test, according to Southeastern Conference protocols. Symptoms have to subside for at least 24 hours without medication before those players can return to practice. Individuals with high-risk exposure must quarantine for 14 days. LSU's athletic department hasn't publicly released information on coronavirus cases and has declined to confirm specifics on outbreaks. The university started reporting aggregate positive coronavirus cases for the first time Aug. 15 when students began returning to campus. Since then, LSU has reported 47 total positive cases with 25 positive results in the last seven days. When reached for comment Wednesday, LSU senior associate athletic director Robert Munson said the athletic department reports all positive cases to the school's Emergency Operations Center.
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork says athletics department handling virus well
College football opens this weekend with a Football Championship Subdivision matchup between Austin Peay and Central Arkansas, giving fans a fix they have been anxiously awaiting. College administrators can't wait either. The days following Saturday's season opener will provide important COVID-19 data that other programs want to study, A&M athletics director Ross Bjork said Wednesday on the Studio 12 radio show. "They're playing on Saturday, but what happens next Wednesday and Thursday after they played each other and they'd test again?" Bjork said. "Did anything happen? Was there an outbreak because of that game? We need to be monitoring those things." While Saturday gives Bjork and others a first good look at a college football, numbers have started to compile as A&M students have made their way back to College Station. According to a COVID-19 dashboard run by the university, 407 people associated with A&M have tested positive since Aug. 2 with an overall 12.88% positivity rate. Bjork said despite the rise in numbers in the campus' general population, once-a-week testing has kept the virus at bay among student-athletes.
Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz on Jacob Blake shooting: 'There is a real problem'
Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz is extremely disappointed. Not with his football team, which completed its seventh fall practice on Wednesday, and not with his coaching staff or anything that happened in Columbia. The 37-year-old is fed up with having the same racial and social injustice issues repeat themselves one incident after another across the nation this year. Jacob Blake, an African American male, was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer Sunday while opening the door and leaning into his vehicle during an altercation with police over a domestic violence dispute. "Extremely disappointed that we're having to address these situations again," Drinkwitz said Wednesday night via Zoom. "It says in the good book, 'Don't grow weary while doing good, for in due time you shall receive your award if you do not lose heart.' And we've got to keep bringing attention, because there is a real problem in the United States of America. Abraham Lincoln said, 'We're striving to become a more perfect union.' And we're not there yet. The atrocities that have occurred on videotape in the last three months, it's not right. And no matter what justification was used, there was no reason for seven shots to be fired in that situation and that's my opinion."
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason on Jacob Blake shooting: 'As an African-American male, I want change'
Derek Mason had something to say, and it involved the shooting of Jacob Blake. Sure, the Vanderbilt coach answered football-related questions during a 15-minute media availability on a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon. He was asked about his experience on defense, depth concerns on the offensive line and his team's return to the field after a five-day pause due to players testing positive for COVID-19. But Mason used the last few moments to talk about Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot at least seven times in the back from close range by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about Jacob Blake, and what transpired this past weekend. Much like most coaches across the country, I'm sad. I'm tired. And as an African-American male, I want change. This has been hard. We're not just talking about the football. We're talking what was seen on Sunday and what's transpired since. It's hard; it's truly hard. Young men get applauded on Saturday (in college football games) and then you see something on Sunday that looks like this, it's extremely tough. These conversations have to be ongoing."
Milwaukee Bucks' Protest of Jacob Blake Shooting Stops Sports World
The National Basketball Association postponed three playoff games and much of the sports world ground to a halt on Wednesday after the Milwaukee Bucks' decision to boycott a playoff game in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wis. The Bucks' action quickly snowballed into the most widespread show of dissent yet by athletes aiming to leverage their stardom into social change. It led to cancellations of some games in Major League Baseball, the Women's National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer. A top women's tennis star, Naomi Osaka, pulled out of a tune-up for next week's U.S. Open. The remarkable decision from the Bucks, which prompted a unified show of force on social media from some of the NBA's biggest stars, followed days of renewed conversations among players about whether they should play during a convulsive moment across the country. The protest was the most significant action yet in a professional sports league that has embraced political statements in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that inspired a national reckoning on social justice and racial inequality.
Big Ten parents continue to show frustration
Continued frustration over the lack of answers from the Big Ten about why the conference chose to scrap plans for a fall football season has now prompted a group of parents to question the ability of commissioner Kevin Warren to lead. While parents groups from a number of schools, including Iowa and Illinois, have individually sent letters to Warren the open letter to the conference commissioner released Wednesday was the first collaborative effort by a group calling itself Big Ten Parents United. The group has been holding regular video conferences in recent days and parents from 11 Big Ten football programs had a hand in a letter critical of not only what transpired, but Warren's response to their previous questions. The letter went on to acknowledge that as the parent of a college football player -- Warren's son Powers is a tight end at Mississippi State -- that the group understands Warren knows "that there is nothing more rewarding than raising and caring for your child.'' It mentions that Warren's family was given the opportunity to assess how Mississippi State and the Southeastern Conference "were equipped to safely care for your son,'' something the parents group maintains they were denied by the Big Ten decision.

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