Wednesday, September 16, 2020   
How a new way of parsing COVID-19 data began to show the breadth of health gaps between Blacks and whites
David Buys, an associate professor in Mississippi State University's Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion and state health specialist with the MSU Extension Service, writes for The Conversation: Physicians and public health experts know that older adults are more susceptible to the flu than those in other age groups. We also know the health of Black Americans is worse than that of almost all other groups for not only flu, but for chronic conditions and cancer. These are two examples of health disparities, or health gaps -- when demographic groups show differences in disease severity. As we analyze the latest data from the COVID-19 pandemic, a more complete picture on infections, hospitalizations and death rates has emerged, along with new conversations about health disparities. The COVID data underscore what social scientists, epidemiologists and other public health researchers have long said: It is not enough to look at a lump sum of data about any health issue, including COVID-19, and think we have the full picture. By disaggregating the data -- that is, breaking the data down into subgroups, like age and race -- we can learn how to make the most of our limited resources. Do that, and we can better strive for a more equitable society and increased entry to a healthy lifestyle for all Americans.
2020's Best Real-Estate Markets
Whether you're joining the real-estate business or just looking for a place to call home, it's important to get a handle on the housing markets you're considering before investing in a property. This year, the housing market is in a unique situation as mortgage rates have hit record lows at a time when many Americans are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For those who have extra cash, buying a home now could be a golden opportunity. It is important to note that home prices have been rising on average throughout the pandemic as well, but home prices and rental rates vary widely across the U.S. based on supply and demand. To determine the best local real-estate markets in the U.S., WalletHub compared 300 cities of varying sizes across 24 key indicators of housing-market attractiveness and economic strength. Read on for expert insight from a panel of researchers, including Kenneth Roskelley, a professor of finance at Mississippi State University.
Brookhaven woman continues role as MSU alumni director
The director of the Lincoln County Chapter of The Mississippi State University Alumni Association has been welcomed into a second term as Mississippi South 2 Region director. Celeste Carty, of Brookhaven, has been active in the Lincoln County Chapter in various leadership roles, including past president, and has been active in the Alumni Recruitment Network. Carty earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing in 1979. The association has also welcomed a new national treasurer, Riley Nelson of Vicksburg, the former Mississippi Central Region 3 director. These individuals began terms July 1, representing the university's more than 149,000 living alumni and the 104 chapters and clubs of the association. The Alumni Association was founded June 17, 1885, by the first three graduating classes of then Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College.
Starkville city leaders to suspend recycling program indefinitely
Starkville city leaders will decide on suspending the city's recycling program indefinitely. Mayor Lynn Spruill said before the pandemic the city had a curbside pickup service, then it changed to drop-off only. She said the higher costs may end the recycling program for good. "It's going to start costing us $40,000 a year and as a part of that we find that there is some confusion about whether items are really getting recycled because there's no longer a market," she said. The Starkville Board of Aldermen is looking at a possible partnership with Mississippi State University.
Board of pharmacy agent warns of rising drug overdose rate among youth during the pandemic
As depression symptoms rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, students are now more at risk of drug abuse and overdose, said Sid Seal, compliance agent with Mississippi Board of Pharmacy. Seal, who worked as a pharmacist for 26 years and has been with the state board of pharmacy for almost 10 years, spoke to members of the Starkville Rotary Club during their weekly luncheon Monday at The Mill at MSU Conference Center. The board of pharmacy, formed in 1920 by the Legislature, works with law enforcement to regulate and control pharmacy practices, including drug and medical device distribution, according to its website. People often associate drug abuse with heroin and fentanyl, Seal said. But it can begin with more common drugs, he said, especially among youths. "People always think when you talk about drug addiction, it's the heroin, it's the cocaine, it's the meth," he said Monday. "But you'd be surprised at where it starts. So much of it starts as something simple as Adderall."
Circuit clerks brace for high absentee turnout for general election
As is common with presidential elections, area circuit clerks expect a big turnout on Nov. 3. It's how those votes are cast that may set this year's election apart. While many states are altering their election laws to allow for citizens to vote absentee in response to the COVID-19 virus, Mississippi has yet to change its absentee guidelines other than to provide for absentee voting by those under quarantine or are caring for someone with the virus. "There's a lot of confusion about whether you can vote absentee to avoid COVID," Oktibbeha County Circuit Clerk Tony Rook said. "We're still waiting for some guidance from the Secretary of State's Office, but we do expect there will be a very high demand for absentee ballots. We've always had a lot of absentee voting, but this year, I think it will be a record." Rook, meanwhile, said in-person absentee voting could be a slow process. "If the demand for absentee voting is what we think it's going to be, you have to wait longer to vote with in-person absentee than you would actually going to the polls on election day," he said.
Oktibbeha includes slight property tax increase to benefit schools
Oktibbeha supervisors unanimously approved the $44.5 million Fiscal Year 2021 budget Monday, raising property tax millage by 0.03 mills, from 123.57 to 123.60. The revenue from the millage increase will benefit the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, County Administrator Emily Garrard said. Mills are used to calculate property taxes, and the county determines each year how many property tax mills to levy. Residents of Starkville, Maben and Sturgis will pay a 120.20-mill rate -- up from 120.17 -- because residents of those municipalities do not have to fund Oktibbeha County Volunteer Fire Services. The county budget's decrease of about $4.6 million from the current fiscal year's $49.1 million budget came largely from a $5.2 million decrease in special revenue and agency funds, according to budget documents provided at the meeting. Special revenue funds pay for dedicated projects, while the general fund takes care of typical expenses. The supervisors also voted unanimously to extend the curfew, from midnight to 4 a.m., until the next meeting on Oct. 5.
Starkville juvenile charged with auto burglary
An early morning call to 911 led police to a juvenile with a weapon allegedly breaking into cars in east Starkville Sunday. The Starkville Police Department received a report at 2:20 a.m. Sept. 13 that individuals were entering a vehicle on Hogan Street. The officers of B-shift responded and made contact with two people in the area. One of the individuals, a 14-year-old juvenile, was in possession of a concealed firearm. Under state law, it is illegal for anyone under 18 to possess a firearm unless supervised by an adult or in a hunting situation. According to Starkville police spokesman Sgt. Brandon Lovelady, the juvenile has been charged with car burglary and grand larceny in the past. The juvenile was charged with possession of a concealed weapon. Despite the prior criminal history, the case will be processed through youth court.
Hurricane Sally lumbers ashore in Alabama with heavy rain
Hurricane Sally lumbered ashore in Alabama with 105 mph winds Wednesday, shoving a surge of seawater onto the coast and bringing torrential rain that forecasters warned will cause dangerous flooding from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi and well inland in the days ahead. Moving at an agonizingly slow 3 mph, the storm made landfall at 4:45 a.m. near Gulf Shores after raking the Gulf Coast with hurricane-force winds and rain from Pensacola Beach, Florida, westward to Dauphin Island, Alabama, for hours. Emergency officials in Alabama and Florida reported flash floods that pushed water into people's home. More than 2 feet of rain was recorded near Naval Air Station Pensacola, and forecasters said some coastal spots could get nearly 3 feet. Nearly a half-million homes and businesses had lost electricity by early Wednesday, according to the site. A curfew was imposed in Gulf Shores hours before the storm's arrival. Florida officials shut down a section of Interstate 10 near Pensacola because of high winds.
Canton Flea Market to happen after mayor's veto is snubbed
A central Mississippi flea market is scheduled to happen next month, despite a mayor's attempt to stop it because of COVID-19 safety concerns. The Canton Board of Aldermen voted Monday unanimously to overturn Mayor William Truly's veto of the Canton Flea Market, WLBT-TV reported. The event is usually held twice a year on the town square in Canton, about 35 miles north of Jackson. Officials canceled the one in May because of the pandemic. The next one is Oct. 8. The flea market typically attracts thousands of shoppers to the small town. Although the event is outside, it's common to see people crowded close together. Aldermen say they are working on a safety plan that includes requiring all vendors and shoppers to wear masks.
Mississippi revenues well above Fiscal Year estimates in August
Total Mississippi revenue collections for the month of August 2020 in FY 2021 are $18,019,004, or 4.05%, above the sine die revenue estimate. Fiscal YTD revenue collections through August 2020 are $64,627,246, or 6.89%, above the sine die estimate. Fiscal YTD total revenue collections through August 2020 are $258,718,083, or 34.79%, above the prior year's collections. The FY 2021 Sine Die Revenue Estimate is $5,690,700,000. As of August 31, 2020, total revenue collections for FY 2020 were $5,817,128,163. When compared to the total General Fund appropriations for FY 2020 of $5,760,078,578, the General Fund will end the fiscal year with an estimated excess of $48.3 million. August FY 2021 General Fund collections were $51,187,498, or 12.44%, above August FY 2020 actual collections. Sales tax collections for the month of August were above the prior year by $20.5M.
Top Mississippi health officials debunk COVID-19 rumors
Mississippi's top health officials separated fact from fiction regarding COVID-19 on Tuesday. More than 500 cases were reported by Mississippi Department of Health on Tuesday, with more than 90,000 cases in the state since March. Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers debunked some rumors regarding the virus, like masks being ineffective and hospitals getting more money for reporting more cases. Some also accused MSDH of manipulating its daily coronavirus case and death counts. The agency has made corrections from time to time, adding or subtracting cases and deaths after investigations confirm someone's county of residence or whether COVID-19 played a role in a death. "For the death numbers, we use multiple mechanisms. Some of them are from hospitals, and sometimes they come through Vital Statistics, or death certificates. Sometimes there is a delay in that process," Dobbs said. "We are very thorough. We try and make sure, with deaths, we're probably so thorough -- we have a pretty restrictive mechanism we're doing -- we feel like we're probably undercounting the deaths." Dobbs said people do not need to test negative before returning to work. He said if someone tests positive and isolates for 10 days, they will no longer be contagious but will likely continue testing positive, possibly for months afterward.
Decision in Gunn lawsuit over line-item vetoes could be coming as soon as September 28
A decision in a lawsuit brought by House leaders over a pair of line-item vetoes of $8 million in earmarks by Gov. Tate Reeves could be coming as soon as September 28. Hinds County Chancery Court Judge Tiffany Groves issued an order on September 10, setting the date for a hearing that will be held remotely. The plaintiffs will have to brief the court on the relief they seek Friday and Reeves' attorneys have a deadline of September 23 to explain the governor's objections. The original lawsuit was filed by House Speaker Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White on August 6 and an amended complaint was filed on August 14. The governor's attorneys are arguing that because the Legislature decided to take no action on Reeves' line item vetoes in House Bill 1782, that the lawsuit should be dismissed. The brief says that they seek a judicial override of a veto that they took no action. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on August 10 to overturn Reeves' partial veto on HB 1700, the K-12 education funding bill.
Medical marijuana will be on the November ballot, but it'll be confusing.
Mississippi voters will be asked on the November ballot whether they want to legalize medical marijuana in the state. But voting on the issue will be complicated thanks to a legislative addition to an otherwise simple question on the ballot. A group of Mississippians utilized the state's ballot initiative process to put the question on a statewide ballot. That process, completed in 2019, required about 100,000 petition signatures from Mississippians across the state. But after years of balking at the issue at the Capitol, lawmakers opted earlier this year to place an alternative to the citizen-sponsored medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. Under the complex laws governing the state's initiative process, there will be a question on the ballot asking voters whether they are for either the citizen-sponsored initiative or the legislative alternative, or if they are against both.
Mississippi medical marijuana rhetoric intensifies as Nov. 3 vote approaches
Mississippi is poised to legalize medical marijuana, depending on the outcome of a vote this November. But exactly what that will look like is the subject of increasing debate as the Nov. 3 election approaches. Supporters and opponents of legalized medical marijuana --- including well-known politicians -- are dialing up their campaigns. Mississippi would be the 35th state to legalize medical marijuana -- although regulations and programs vary widely from state to state. Proponents and opponents point to other states' programs as examples of what to avoid, particularly Oklahoma and Arkansas, which have similar population sizes to Mississippi. Some opponents of Initiative 65 acknowledge voter compassion for those who might benefit from therapeutic use of marijuana. But they say the devil is in the details of the proposed amendment and that it would create major problems. Mississippi doctors and medical officials appear divided. Initiative 65's more than 70-member steering committee includes many doctors and health advocates that support it. But the politically-appointed State Board of Health -- which would be tasked with regulating the marijuana program and overseeing the Health Department's running of it -- has passed a resolution opposing Initiative 65.
Crossroads adds more Lott, Breaux clients
Crossroads Strategies has signed two more lobbying clients that former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.) previously represented at Squire Patton Boggs: the City of Baton Rouge, La., and Nissan. Squire Patton Boggs abruptly ousted Lott in June. Breaux left the firm and the pair landed at Crossroads a week later. They'd previously migrated several other clients to Crossroads, including the American Shrimp Processors Association; the LHC Group, a Louisiana health care provider; and Sanderson Farms, a Mississippi chicken producer, according to disclosure filings
Trump HHS official faces firestorm after attacks on scientists
Michael Caputo, the top communications official for the Department of Health and Human Services, sparked a firestorm this week with comments attacking scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His comments brought to the forefront concerns over political officials interfering with scientists in order to paint a false picture on the pandemic that favors President Trump's public narrative. The controversy risks further undermining public health agencies and the Trump administration's efforts to convince the public a potential coronavirus vaccine will be safe. In a Facebook Live video first reported by The New York Times, Caputo said the CDC was harboring a "resistance unit" opposing Trump and accused government scientists of "sedition." The news came after Caputo and one of his top aides came under fire in recent days for pressuring CDC scientists over their weekly reports on the coronavirus pandemic. He admitted to trying to control the content and timing of many of the reports because they undermined the president's message. On Tuesday, Caputo apologized for his comments to HHS staff. He is reportedly considering taking a medical leave of absence. Caputo declined to comment.
Trump spent years trying to win over Indian Americans. Then Biden picked Harris.
Donald Trump has worked for years to make inroads with Indian Americans in ways Republican presidential candidates never have -- recruiting volunteers at Indian grocery stores, holding events in five Indian languages and paying for targeted digital ads. Joe Biden undercut those efforts in a matter of weeks. First, Biden selected Kamala Harris, the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, as his running mate. Within days, Harris was speaking to Indian Americans on India's Independence Day about her grandfather, who helped push for India's liberation. Then she was boosting the campaign's launch of a new Indian coalition. About 1.8 million Indian Americans are eligible to vote this year. "There is definitely going to be splitting of votes as some Indian Americans will have a tough decision to make, as their loyalty may be towards a so-called candidate of Indian heritage or a candidate of pro-Indian stance as President Trump," said Sampat Shivangi, an Indian American physician from Mississippi who was a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention.
People Are Spending More On Furniture, Clothes, Restaurants And Bars
U.S. shoppers spent more prudently in August and retail sales grew a tepid 0.6% compared to July, as tens of millions of unemployed stopped receiving extra federal jobless benefits and families faced a confusing back-to-school season. Still, retail sales continued to grow, now for the fourth month in a row as people spent more at restaurants and bars and bought more furniture, electronics, cars and clothes. And for the first time in months, online stores saw no growth. After a near-collapse in the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, spending at stores and eateries has been above last year's levels since June. August sales were 2.6% compared to a year earlier, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Retailers had braced for the moment when the boosted unemployment checks would stop arriving after July. That money was seen as a major force behind the summer's big upswing in retail spending, which includes gasoline, cars, food and drink.
State auditor investigating Ole Miss professor who participated in strike
State Auditor Shad White is pushing Ole Miss to fire one of its professors, James Thomas, saying Thomas illegally participated in a two-day strike last week. White sent a letter to Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn Boyce on Monday describing a "work stoppage" the sociology professor participated in on Sept. 8 and 9. The nationwide event was called "Scholar Strike," and involved professors and others in academia halting their classes and other duties to protest racism, police brutality and other racial injustice issues. In the letter, White, a Republican who attended Ole Miss for his undergraduate degree, described Mississippi code that bans strikes or any other "concerted work stoppage." He told Boyce the university should recoup money it paid Thomas for those days of work and pursue terminating the professor in court. Thomas was granted tenure last year, which gives him additional job security. Thomas declined to comment Tuesday about the situation. An Ole Miss spokesperson said the university does not comment on personnel matters. In the letter, White thanked Boyce and the university for being "very cooperative in this matter."
Ole Miss creates a new Office of Enrollment Management
The University of Mississippi is combining two administrative units that are currently in Financial Aid and Undergraduate Admissions to create the Office of Enrollment Management. The goal of this office will be to "show greater evidence of value for the cost of attendance before committing to enroll," according to an email from Chancellor Glenn Boyce. The university has been making plans to prepare for this change over the past few months. Enrollment numbers for the 2020 school year have not yet been released, but 2019 marked the third year in a row that enrollment at UM had dropped. "Earlier this year, Provost Noel Wilkin commissioned a review of our Admissions function, and we are now implementing several recommendations that resulted from that review," Boyce said in the email. He also stated that the Offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Information Technology are working together to implement a new software program that will make undergraduate admissions more efficient. University Marketing and Communications is also expanding the university's digital marketing efforts in order to generate interest in the university among prospective students.
COVID-19 at USM: 17 positive cases reported week of Sept. 8-11
The University of Southern Mississippi has reported 17 cases of the coronavirus in its latest weekly update. More than 70 students, employees or their dependents have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 5. USM shares weekly test results, processed by the Moffitt Health Center, every Monday. Here are the results for the week of Sept. 8-11: New positive tests results: 17. Negative test results: 94. Pending tests: 15. Number of tests conducted at Moffitt Health Center: 126. Moffitt Health Center has conducted 620 COVID-19 tests of students, faculty, staff and immediate family members since Aug. 5. About 2,900 of the 14,000 enrolled at the university live on campus.
Auburn changes COVID information platform, updates case count
Auburn University announced it had 109 newly reported COVID-19 cases for the week of September 7-13, with the data displayed on a new website. The original site that contained the newly reported cases chart now contains three hyperlinks to the "Covid-19 Health and Exposure Updates," "Previously Reported Campus-specific COVID_19 Data" and the "COVID-19 Resource Center." It is the latest in an ever-changing system for reporting the data. In the new location for the COVID-19 information, Auburn includes a graph that shows how the number of cases has changed over time. Below that, there is a chart with the number of cases at various Auburn sites as well as the total number of cases. Another graph, this one depicting Auburn's positivity rate for its sentinel testing, is below that, followed by links to other resources. The graphs do not include data from the week before classes or the first week of classes. This is the first drop Auburn has reported since its students returned for class. "It didn't just go down because testing went down," Auburn Medical Clinic Director Fred Kam said. "It went down because, again, all of the steps people have been taking and adhering to."
Dr. Deborah Birx at U. of Tennessee: Use new strategies when cases are spiking
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, said when cases are rising -- as they have been in Knox County -- community leaders should rethink pandemic strategies, including cutting off alcohol consumption, not just sales, at 10 p.m. "As long as cases and test positivity are going down they (leaders) can make the assumption that what they are doing ... is working." said Dr. Birx, "But if cases go up or test posititivity is stalled ... then they really need to reevaluate all their mitigation procedures." Birx stopped short of pushing Knox County officials to do one thing or the other, saying instead community leaders should push for restrictions that the community will support and follow. Birx made the comments inside the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's new Student Union building. She said she met with UT Chancellor Donde Plowman, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs as well as county health officials. Her visit coincides with a rapidly increasing case count, particularly on UT's campus. UT has 645 active COVID-19 cases and 2,087 people in isolation as of Sept. 14.
UGA suspends fraternity over COVID and conduct violations
University of Georgia officials have suspended an on-campus fraternity, and two other student groups are under investigation over violations of social distancing and other UGA conduct rules. UGA announced the suspension and investigations Tuesday but did not name the fraternity or the other two organizations. The fraternity was "interim suspended" Sunday pending completion of a university investigation for conduct violations "related to a gathering in which social distancing and public health guidelines were not followed and alcohol and other drugs were allegedly present," according to a UGA announcement. The suspension is UGA's latest effort "to preserve in-person education this semester," according to the announcement. UGA is also "appealing to local restaurants, bars and venues to adhere to state and local health guidelines."
2 U. of Missouri students expelled, 3 suspended for violating COVID-19 rules
The University of Missouri has expelled two students and suspended three for flagrant violations of rules and regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, school officials said Tuesday. The disciplined students committed acts that were willful and knowing threats to the safety of the campus and the Columbia community, according to an MU news release. The rules the students violated included requirements that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 isolate and comply with social distancing requirements. In an email to the campus, Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for student affairs, thanked faculty, staff and students for the generally good compliance with rules intended to limit infection on campus. "However, we are aware that parties and other blatant violations of the safety guidelines have occurred, and that is unacceptable," Stackman wrote. "Let me be clear: The university will not hesitate to hold those flouting the rules accountable."
U. of Memphis will delay partial return to campus Monday, citing health department investigations
The University of Memphis will delay a planned partial return to campus Monday, the school announced via email Tuesday. "As we work with the Shelby County Health Department to gain a full and accurate understanding of recent COVID-19 cases, and in an effort to guard against any potential spread, we will maintain campus density at current levels and not add additional face-to-face classes next week as originally scheduled," the email read. The health department said Tuesday that it was investigating two on-campus clusters. Additional cases brought the total number of COVID-19 cases at U of M to 36, the health department said. One cluster is among the football program and the other is among another group of students, David Sweat, chief of epidemiology for the health department, said Tuesday. "Two or more cases associated by time and place (or event) that have an epidemiological linkage" constitute a cluster, Chip Washington, spokesperson for the health department, said Tuesday.
Free college idea divides Trump and Biden, but poll finds Republican support
Campaigning at Florida Memorial University last week, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris emphasized the importance of going to college, including historically Black colleges and universities like the one where she was speaking. "It is the place where we nurture young people to see who they are and their role as part of leadership of our nation in whatever profession they choose," she said. And she said that she and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would make going to college free for most students. That went over well, because what's not to like about free, right? But less than two months before the election, one of the divisions between Biden and his Republican opponent, President Donald Trump, is over the Democratic plan to make attendance free at two-year colleges, as well as for those whose families make less than $125,000 at public four-year colleges, as well as public and private HBCUs. There's also the hundreds of billions of dollars that it would cost over the next decade.
Analysis finds CARES Act funding fell well short for many public colleges
A new analysis finds that the majority of the country's largest public college systems received significantly less coronavirus aid from the government than they needed, leading to massive budget shortfalls. The review, done by nonprofit government watchdog Accountable.US, highlights the notable financial problems that colleges and universities are facing as fall classes begin amid the pandemic. Included in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress in March was $14 billion allocated to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, or HEERF, to be dispersed to individual institutions. Accountable.US looked at the largest public university systems for undergraduate students in each state and said they received a total of around $1.75 billion from HEERF, roughly 2 1/2 times less than was actually needed to fill the revenue gaps institutions are facing because of COVID-19. The Education Department did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment, though a Sept. 9 update to its website signals that the period for colleges to apply for HEERF aid has been extended until the end of month.
Low-income and students of color in greatest need of pandemic relief
Students of color and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have been more likely to suffer hardships as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and are in need of support from their colleges, a new survey of students at large, public research institutions found. The Student Experience in the Research University Consortium conducted a comprehensive survey of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from May to July that asked a series of questions about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their academic and personal lives. The survey, which received responses from about 30,000 undergraduates and 15,000 graduate and professional students, measured student mental health, financial stability, food and housing insecurity, and their ability to adjust to online learning in the spring, when campuses shut down due to the pandemic. One of the most important and concerning takeaways from the data was the heightened impact that the pandemic has had on students of color, Indigenous, low-income and working-class students compared to their white and wealthier peers in most areas of the survey.
Graduate students, RAs at U. of Michigan on strike over university's COVID-19 response
President Mark Schlissel and Provost Susan Collins of the University of Michigan recently acknowledged growing tensions on campus over the university's response to the pandemic and an increasing lack of trust in the administration. "We write to you today out of a deep concern for our university community -- one that feels fractured, with some expressing frustration, anger and distrust," they wrote in an email to the campus last Friday. "We recognize that we must do more to engage with and include members of our community as we grapple with the complex decisions to be made going forward." Anger from faculty members, staff and students toward the Michigan administration had been brewing for months, but in early September, that anger bubbled up and over. The graduate employees' union went on strike Sept. 8, followed closely by student resident assistants. Student dining workers have engaged in their own actions, and faculty will have the chance to vote no confidence in the administration today.
COVID-19 cases have plummeted at Notre Dame since a two-week campus shutdown. Can that work for other universities struggling to contain the virus's spread?
Nicole Ludford should have been in art history class on a recent morning --- her only course meeting in person this semester --- but instead she stayed inside her apartment near the University of Wisconsin-Madison and reflected on the school's most sweeping attempt yet to combat rising COVID-19 cases among students. The day before, UW-Madison announced a two-week pause on all face-to-face courses and put two predominantly freshman dorms under quarantine as total infections linked to campus topped 1,400. In-person courses were canceled and set to resume remotely on Monday. Ludford, a senior from Chicago's River North neighborhood, isn't sure the strategy will work. Though cases could drop for a short time, she said she worries the actions don't address the underlying problem: students gathering, not wearing masks and breaking the rules. While its long-term success remains to be seen, more universities are trying the two-week pause to overcome outbreaks, as opposed to the more dramatic move of permanently sending students home. The approach has produced mixed results. It seems to have worked, for now, at the University of Notre Dame, which reinstated in-person classes in early September after a temporary shift to remote instruction.
U. of Chicago English faculty prioritizes Black studies graduate students for 2021
Departments have been having quiet conversations since the start of the pandemic about how graduate admissions will be affected: Will there be money to support new graduate students in COVID-19-reduced budgets? Even if there is money, is it ethical to admit new Ph.D. students amid widespread faculty hiring freezes? With the arrival of the 2021 graduate admissions cycle, these conversations are now becoming public. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's history department, for example, recently said that it is accepting no new graduate students for fall 2021. The English department at the University of Chicago made a similar decision, with a twist: the program will admit only those graduate students who plan to work in Black studies. "For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies," the program said in a statement on its website. The decision also has been criticized by those who see it as exclusionary, nondiverse or out of alignment with Chicago's relatively purist position statement on campus speech, known as the Chicago Principles.
'Deja vu all over again': Mississippi voters saw the 2020 U.S. Senate race in 2018
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: The late New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra would love this one. The 2020 Mississippi U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger and former Clinton administration U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy of Madison should seem like what it is to Mississippi voters – a case of political deja vu. State voters saw this race in 2018, when Hyde-Smith defeated Espy by almost 66,000 votes, 53.6% to 46.4%. In that race, Espy outraised and outspent the incumbent. Espy spent $6.97 million to Hyde-Smith's $5.16 million. There was another $10.3 million in outside money spent in that race. Hyde-Smith's 2018 campaign was bolstered by a massive campaign rally in DeSoto County in which Republican President Donald Trump strongly endorsed Hyde-Smith and then cut TV commercials backing her. In the 2016 presidential election in Mississippi, Trump claimed 57.86% of the vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton's 40.06%.

How Mississippi State quarterbacks K.J. Costello and Will Rogers earned their spots in their short time on campus
Mississippi State freshman quarterback Will Rogers has only been on campus since December. Stanford graduate transfer K.J. Costello arrived in Starkville even later, on June 1. Yet now less than two weeks shy of MSU's season opener against defending national champion and No. 6-ranked LSU in Baton Rouge, it's the Bulldogs' newest faces under center that sit perched atop the depth chart as they head toward a trip to Death Valley. Speaking with the media for the first time since arriving from Paolo Alto on Tuesday, Costello is thought provoking in his verbiage. He spent nearly four minutes giving a thorough breakdown of Leach's air raid offense that left onlookers mesmerized. The newest graduate transfer quarterback to team with first-year head coach Mike Leach, Costello has long had a distanced relationship with the latest leading man at MSU. The pair met annually as members of the Pac-12 North Division at Stanford and Washington State, respectively. At least four of Costello's high school teammates from Santa Margarita played for Leach in Pullman -- including receiver Kyle Sweet, who only moved to the outside from quarterback after Costello developed enough to necessitate a change during the latter's junior year.
Will Rogers to serve as Mississippi State's backup quarterback
Freshman Will Rogers has earned the backup quarterback spot. With less than two weeks until Mississippi State opens the season at defending national champion LSU, head coach Mike Leach said transfer quarterback KJ Costello will likely serve as the starter while Rogers is the backup. Garrett Shrader, who started four games last year, was pushed down to No. 3 on the depth chart and moved to slot receiver during fall camp. "Will is a good student of the game," Leach said after Saturday's scrimmage. "I think he's kind of a self-corrector. He can correct himself between plays, not just between practices. ... He understands what we're trying to accomplish. He's really gotten his arms around that." Rogers, who started three seasons at Brandon High School, was ranked a three-star recruit by 247sports and was a Top 20 player in the state of Mississippi. When asked on Saturday how much it helped Rogers in the quarterback competition since Leach was recruiting him at Washington State, Leach said he doesn't know if that helped him at all. He's earned the backup role since being on campus.
Ed Orgeron says 'most' LSU football players have caught coronavirus already; 3-4 are sick now
LSU coach Ed Orgeron told reporters Tuesday morning he thinks most, not all, of the football team's players have caught coronavirus already, and that the remaining players who haven't gotten sick have been told to be careful so they're eligible for games. Orgeron said, as of now, the team has "about three or four guys" who have COVID-19, and the team does not have "a lot of guys in quarantine." "I think most, not all of our players, but most of our players have caught it," Orgeron said. "So hopefully they won't catch it again, and hopefully they're not out for games." LSU's athletic department hasn't publicly released information on coronavirus cases and has declined to confirm specifics on outbreaks. Asked to clarify whether LSU's players contracted the virus before they arrived on campus or when they returned, Orgeron said "it's been a process." "I'm not going to say all of them," Orgeron said. "But some players have caught it. I don't know the percentage. Hopefully that once you catch it, you don't get it again."
UGA reveals tailgating plans for 2020 football season
Georgia fans won't be able to tailgate on campus at the Bulldogs four home football games this season. Sort of. The school announced its decision on Tuesday, following in line with other schools in the SEC who have already revealed their plans during the pandemic. "UGA Athletics reached this decision in accordance with public health guidelines and counsel provided by our own UGA health officials," the school said in a statement. "It is consistent with the approach taken by other SEC schools, including Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss." There is wiggle room for ticketed fans that could total around 21,000. Georgia says that it realizes fans travel a long way for the games and they will be permitted to "gather near their vehicle with family members or those with whom they traveled and plan to sit with in the stadium. Please remember to maintain 6-feet social distancing and to wear masks when around others who are not part of your group." Fans won't be permitted to set up tents, tables and grills, senior deputy athletic director Josh Brooks said.
No tailgating allowed for Texas A&M's first football game
No tailgating will be allowed on the Texas A&M campus for the Aggies' first football game against Vanderbilt on Sept. 26, A&M President Michael K. Young said at the university's Faculty Senate meeting on Monday. An A&M official confirmed the news after it was first reported by WTAW. A&M Provost Carol A. Fierke told the Faculty Senate an official announcement will come later this week. A&M will host five home football games this season in its revised 10-game, conference-only schedule. The Southeastern Conference announced in August it would allow individual schools to make decisions regarding tailgating this fall. Since then, 11 schools have banned tailgating: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
Auburn bars get game-day reprieve
Auburn's state of emergency was extended Tuesday, but the city council also gave downtown bar owners a break for game days. The city council voted 6-3 to grant Mayor Ron Anders' request to keep the order in place through Oct. 7. He made the request after conferring with Auburn University and East Alabama Medical Center officials, who urged him to extend the state of emergency. Anders said the order should stay in place a bit longer because it appears to be working -- reported cases at East Alabama Medical Center have stabilized and Auburn University had a precipitous drop in self-reported cases last week. The extension continues police monitoring of social distancing in downtown bars, as well as prohibiting customers from getting their own drinks inside bars. The council did vote 8-1, however, to allow downtown bars to serve walk-up customers outside for the first two Auburn football games of the season, as requested by downtown business owners. Anders said city officials would monitor the situation downtown for the Kentucky and Georgia games, then decide whether to continue with the relaxed outside restrictions.
Dabo Swinney defends Clemson players after helmet stickers promoting unity cause backlash
Clemson football players attempted to promote unity and acceptance. It had the opposite effect on some fans. The Tigers for Saturday night's season-opener at Wake Forest wore helmet decals that read "Love," "Equality," "Black Lives Matter" and "Put a Stop to Racism." The team's official Twitter page, @ClemsonFB, put out a photo showing all for with the words "Playing with a purpose." And it created quite a division on the social media platform, plenty of praise but also things like this: "Love I can support. BLM? No." "Done with Clemson football. This is (expletive deleted)." "Never watching again. Selling all my Clemson merch and donating it to the local PD. You can have the Marxism and lose a fan." Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has become the face and also the voice of college football on social issues. He and running back Darien Rencher from Anderson (T.L. Hanna High) helped organize a campus protest against police brutality and have joined with other student-athletes across the country in a movement they call #OurVoiceMatters. Lawrence and Rencher said last week that Clemson players were planning things for game days to bring awareness throughout the season. They aren't likely to back down because some don't agree.
Big Ten unanimously votes to return to play weekend of Oct. 23-24
The Big Ten schools' presidents and chancellors have unanimously voted to begin the fall football season the weekend of Oct. 23-24. Student-athletes, coaches, trainers and any other individuals involved in practices and games will have to undergo daily antigen testing, with results recorded prior to each game and practice. The vote comes after the Big Ten's Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) heard a presentation from three of the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force subcommittees -- medical, football and television -- on Sunday afternoon. A month ago, the COP/C voted 11-3 to postpone the fall college football season, with Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa voting to play. To resume play, 60 percent of the COP/C -- or nine members -- needed to vote to continue. The Big Ten will require daily antigen testing prior to practice and competitions, and it will monitor both positivity rates within a program and its community. Daily testing should alleviate some of the stress related to contact tracing, as teams will identify infected individuals sooner.
Promising results from initial use of the Covid-19 antigens tests central to Pac-12 football's return
By the end of the month, tens of thousands of rapid-response antigen tests will be delivered to athletic departments across the Pac-12. Manufactured by Quidel, the product uses a machine the size of a toaster, generates results in less than an hour and is the key to the return of football this fall. But one school began using the tests months ago. Arizona has run 25,000 Quidel tests on students, athletes, staff members and ICU patients since the spring. David Harris, who oversees the program, told the Hotline the results have been impressive. "It only seems to get better the more you do it," he said. But the importance of the Quidel antigen test for public health, he explained, is obvious: "It provides feedback on a large group of people rapidly." Dr. Kimberly Harmon, the head physician for the Washington football program and chair of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Board, believes the antigen tests will meet the standard for Covid-19 prevention set by the conference's medical experts. The next step for the Pac-12 is to convince health officials in Oregon and California to lift the restrictions currently preventing the six teams under their jurisdiction from conducting full-contact practices.

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: September 16, 2020Facebook Twitter