Friday, September 18, 2020   
MSU holds more drive-thru testing, sees decrease in coronavirus cases
While testing opportunities have increased on campus, Mississippi State University (MSU) has seen a decrease in the number of positive coronavirus cases. MSU hosted another round of testing Thursday outside the Palmeiro Center, the multi-purpose facility in which MSU football and baseball teams practice. Students, faculty and staff attended. "We planned to do this just for the people who were worried, or maybe they weren't showing symptoms but thought possibly they had COVID," said Jeremy Baham, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs. MSU partnered with OCH Regional Medical Center to allow a fast and easy way for people on campus to receive testing. MSU saw a major decline in the number of cases on campus. Baham said the school is pushing to keep students and staff safe. Baham also credits students' commitment.
MSU Hosting Fourth Annual Suicide Prevention Symposium
Mississippi State University's Department of Psychology is partnering with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health to host the fourth-annual Suicide Prevention Symposium from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29. The theme of the event is "Fitting Suicide Prevention into Our Changing Time." The virtual training symposium is designed for parents, caregivers, educators, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, social workers, nurses and mental health professionals. Conference registration is free. Participants can register online at Michael Nadorff, associate professor and director of the clinical doctorate training program in MSU's Department of Psychology, and MSU assistant clinical professor and psychology clinic director Emily Stafford will give a presentation on The Alliance Project. MSU's Department of Psychology developed the program, trains parents, caregivers, educators, mental health professionals and others on how to identify, connect with and help distressed individuals.
Local businesses optimistic after governor loosens COVID restrictions
Two days after Gov. Tate Reeves issued an executive order relaxing some restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, executives with Eat With Us Group met to discuss how the order would affect policies at the company's restaurants. The biggest change the governor's order will bring about for those restaurants will only have a moderate impact, sales and marketing director Peyton Scrivner told The Dispatch Wednesday -- employees can allow a few more customers and seat up to 10 customers in one party to a table instead of six. Since the pandemic began, restaurant employees had to split large parties between multiple tables, if they were allowed indoor dining at all. But the company and restaurant employees were still excited because the relaxed restrictions are another step toward the "old normal" for industries that have struggled since the pandemic came to the Golden Triangle, Scrivner said. Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said she's sure local business owners are "delighted" with the loosening of some restrictions. The order was also a good sign for city officials, who have been concerned about the decrease in sales tax revenue since the start of the pandemic.
Dave's Tavern To-Go opens
For more than 25 years, Dave's Dark Horse Tavern has never closed for more than a two-day stretch. That all changed when March brought COVID-19, when the Starkville bar's owner, Dave Hood, shuttered for more than six months. As of Wednesday night, Dave's is officially open, at least for to-go. Though the tavern has been closed, Hood has not spent the past six months sulking. He has taken the time off to renovate the bathrooms, dining room and improve the kitchen. "Being closed for so long has been an extremely strange experience," Hood said. "... At first the emptiness of the place haunted me as I renovated up here alone, but after a while I started seeing this as an opportunity to make the tavern better." Hood plans to eventually add a patio with outdoor seating soon so he can see his customers face to face once again. Dave's to-go is officially open for all you pizza lovers to pick up some classic Dave dishes. It will be open Wednesday through Sunday for orders.
$156K poured into race for District 15 Senate seat
With less than a week left before the special election, the four-way race for the vacant Senate District 15 seat has attracted more than $156,000 in contributions, campaign finance reports show. In District 15, four candidates are vying for the Senate seat vacated by former Sen. Gary Jackson (R-French Camp), who retired June 30. The special election is set for next Tuesday, and the nonpartisan election will not include party primaries. All candidates filed their mandatory campaign finance reports before the Sept. 15 deadline. Oktibbeha County District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller, who first announced her candidacy in June, leads her fellow candidates in fundraising efforts. Her campaign raised $65,140 as of the Tuesday filing deadline, including $25,000 from herself and $1,350 from her brother-in-law, William Daniel Miller and his company, Miller Cattle Company. Miller said she is running a "different" race than when she ran for the county supervisor seat. This time, she said she wanted professional help. "This campaign is very different from a supervisor race, which I did not have professional help for," she said. "I definitely needed help in it." Compared to Miller, however, Starkville businessman Bart Williams' campaign is mostly self-funded. The owner of Security Solutions Inc. poured $50,000 into his own campaign, which accounts for most of the total $56,725 he had raised by Tuesday.
Mississippi State Fair to be held amid COVID-19 pandemic
The Mississippi State Fair will be held this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson tips his hat to the COVID-19 prevention regulations at the Mississippi Trademart and around the fairgrounds, like social distancing. "We're utilizing the same counting technology that for example Disney World does," Gipson said. "We have a maximum number of people who be on the 105 acres at any one time." Gipson said he would bet big bucks on Mississippi State Fair this year being the cleanest state fair in the country. That's because of the new precautions that they will be taking to keep attendees safe. "Rides are going to be misted and sanitized between every single ride," Gipson said. Rickey Thigpen with Visit Jackson said they've looked at what other state fairs have done amid the pandemic. "We've been able to learn from other fairs' mistakes," Thigpen said. "I think the Mississippi State Fair Commission has worked really hard to try to correct those problems and other cities, other states have experienced." Gipson and Thigpen agreed that not having the fair would be a big blow the city's, county's and state's economy.
Mississippi State Fair to go on despite Covid-19 concerns
It's a yearly tradition that will go on despite the pandemic. Organizers of the Mississippi State Fair say they plan to hold the event next month despite the governor's executive order limiting gatherings. The fairgrounds sits on 105 acres. Fair Commissioner Andy Gipson says that's enough space for fair goers to stay safe. Gipson said, "We've been operating on the assumption that the governor's order will stand and, under the way it operates right now, for outdoor events people have the option to social distance at least 6 feet or wear a mask. If they can't do those, some requirements will apply but we're encouraging everybody to bring a mask to the fair just in case you get an a tight situation." This week, Dr. Thomas Dobbs stated he won't be attending the fair or a football game for that matter. It's his personal decision to mitigate risk. But does he think you'll be safe at the fair? Dr Thomas Dobbs said, "We've been working with the Agriculture Commissioner and his team and ways to do it safely. As far as diminishing size, masks are required. If you can keep people far enough away from another with a mask outdoors, it's going to be essentially safe." The decision to open the fair is also about money. Officials say it brings in $80 million in revenue every year.
Group OKs $15M for Mississippi coast restoration projects
A Mississippi group has approved four projects to restore coastal areas damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday. The projects were approved by the Mississippi Trustee Implementation Group, which has representatives from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. The state environmental department will administer the projects. The largest project is $10 million to restore or create oyster spawning reefs in up to six spots in the Mississippi Sound and areas, including St. Louis Bay, Heron Bay, Back Bay/Biloxi Bay, Graveline Bay, Pascagoula Bay and Grand Bay. The next-largest project is $3.1 million for habitat management in the Wolf River Coastal Preserve.
Mississippi absentee ballot rules challenged amid pandemic
Voting rights groups filed papers Thursday asking a federal judge to temporarily lift some limitations in Mississippi's absentee voting process. They said doing so would ease some safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic. Mississippi requires absentee ballot applications to be notarized. The state also requires most people to provide an excuse to vote absentee, such as being out of town on Election Day. The groups are asking a judge to block those two requirements, which they say are unconstitutional. They are also asking a judge to provide a clear process for what happens when election officials say they see inconsistencies in a voter's signature. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Southern Poverty Law Center made the new request Thursday in a lawsuit they originally filed Aug. 27 on behalf of three Mississippi residents, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi and the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP.
AT&T to provide records to Mississippi after subpoena
Major telecommunications conglomerate AT&T has agreed to provide the state of Mississippi records detailing how it used the almost $284 million it was paid by the federal government to expand internet access in the state. AT&T originally denied requests last week for records related to work it completed in the state to provide fixed wireless service access through the Connect America Fund, Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said. The company agreed to comply after it was served a subpoena from the Mississippi Public Service Commission on Sept. 11. Presley said Thursday afternoon he was told by AT&T that he would be receiving the records by the end of the day. "This victory goes to show that when you are willing to stand up to these Goliaths, they'll back down," Presley said.
Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson still practicing law, representing companies before a state agency
Despite holding a full-time, statewide elected position, Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson continues to practice law and is representing companies before another state agency. Gipson, a longtime former state lawmaker who was appointed in 2018 by then-Gov. Phil Bryant as agriculture commissioner, remains an employee of the law firm Jones Walker, one of the largest 120 law firms in the U.S. with offices in multiple states including Mississippi. His position is listed as special counsel. Among Gipson's clients is Frontier Communications, a Connecticut-based nationwide telecommunications company that provides internet and cable service to about 1,800 customers in rural north Mississippi. The company has filed bankruptcy and is asking the Mississippi Public Service Commission to sign off on its restructuring plan. The company has generated numerous complaints from Mississippi customers, and Gipson's representation of it prompted recent calls to Mississippi Today. Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley represents people in Tishomingo, Rienzi, Guntown and New Houlka served by Frontier. Presley said he respects Gipson, but that his representation would not influence him or the commission.
Senator Cincy Hyde-Smith says Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown Must Help Farmers, Ranchers
U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) Thursday warned that key agriculture and conservation programs will "come to a screeching halt" on Oct. 1 if Congress fails to include a key provision in legislation to avoid a federal government shutdown. Hyde-Smith and fellow Senate Agriculture Committee and Agriculture Appropriation Subcommittee members delivered speeches Thursday to stress the need for Congress to replenish the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation and continue 2018 Farm Bill safety net programs before the end of the month. "This is not a situation to be taken lightly. In recent years, America's farmers and ranchers have experienced unfair foreign tariffs, depressed prices, catastrophic flooding and other natural disasters, market disruptions, and now COVID-19," Hyde-Smith said. Mississippi farmers and ranchers are among the more than 1.7 million farmers and ranchers enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs, which the 2018 Farm Bill authorized to help the American agriculture sector weather financial and market disruptions.
Mike Espy wants a Senate debate, but Sen. Hyde-Smith still hasn't committed
With the Nov. 3 election quickly approaching, Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is not giving any indication that she plans to debate her Democratic opponent Mike Espy. Espy has publicly accepted one debate invitation from WJTV in Jackson and most likely will accept a similar invitation in coming days from WLBT, another Jackson television station. But it takes two to debate. The Hyde-Smith campaign has not responded to questions from Mississippi Today about whether she plans to participate in a debate. In earlier interviews with Mississippi Today, Hyde-Smith spokesperson Justin Brasell said the campaign had received an invitation to participate in a debate but had not decided whether it could be worked into the senator's schedule. In 2018, Hyde-Smith and Espy debated when they were vying in a special election to replace longtime Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned for health reasons. Hyde-Smith was appointed by then-Gov. Phil Bryant to replace Cochran in the interim before the special election. She is now vying for a full six-year term, and Espy, who captured more than 46% of the vote in 2018, is challenging her again.
Southern states lagging in census amid pandemic, hurricanes
Southern states have lagged behind the rest of the country in census counting amid the pandemic -- and now a historic hurricane season may hamper last-ditch efforts to finish in a shortened timeline, census experts warned Thursday. The Census Bureau has counted about 93 percent of households nationwide, but a handful of Southern states have as little as 85 percent of households counted heading into a Sept. 30 deadline to wrap up. Flubbing the count there could shift the distribution of congressional seats as well as federal spending for major programs like Medicaid, according to a study released Thursday. The Census Bureau's associate director for the decennial census, Al Fontenot, acknowledged the risk during a Census Scientific Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday. The agency had trouble getting operations up to speed in several Southern states because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, and enumerators have already shifted some counting to temporary shelters for people displaced this week by Hurricane Sally.
President Trump Calls for 'Patriotic Education' to Defend American History From the Left
President Trump escalated his attacks on "left-wing demonstrators" and "far-left mobs" on Thursday, portraying himself as a defender of American heritage against revolutionary fanatics and arguing for a new "pro-American" curriculum in the nation's schools. Speaking at the National Archives Museum, Mr. Trump vowed to counter what he called an emerging classroom narrative that "America is a wicked and racist nation," and he said he would create a new "1776 Commission" to help "restore patriotic education to our schools." The president reiterated his condemnations of demonstrators who tear down monuments to historical American figures, and he even sought to link the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to the removal of a founding father's statue in Mr. Biden's home state, Delaware. William R. Ferris, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina and a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, criticized Mr. Trump for “treating historians just as he treats scientists -- by disregarding our very best voices who have written on American history and race.” Mr. Ferris said that creating a new commission to promote American history makes little sense.
Judge issues nationwide injunction against Postal Service changes
A judge issued a nationwide injunction to temporarily halt changes to U.S. Postal Service policies that have delayed mail delivery across the country ahead of a presidential election expected to see record numbers of mail-in ballots. Judge Stanley Bastian, an Obama appointee, called the changes "a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service" that created "a substantial possibility many voters will be disenfranchised," according to The Associated Press. Bastian, who is based in Yakima, Wash., concluded that harm to the public "has already taken place" and said the 14 states that sued showed "this attack on the Postal Service is likely to irreparably harm the states' ability to administer the 2020 general election," The Washington Post reported. The Postal Service endured nationwide criticism after implementing changes in July that many blame for slower mail delivery. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a donor to President Trump, announced the suspension of some changes, like the removal of blue mailboxes and mail processing machines, but other adjustments remained in place, prompting 14 states to sue the administration and the Postal Service.
'Scientific American' Breaks 175 Years Of Tradition, Endorses A Presidential Nominee
Scientific American has been in print for nearly two centuries, but it has never endorsed a presidential candidate -- until now. This week, the magazine announced its endorsement of Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president. "We took this decision very seriously. You don't give up 175 years of tradition for nothing," Laura Helmuth, the magazine's editor-in-chief, said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition. Helmuth said the decision to break the magazine's tradition this year was both unanimous and quick. "This year, we need to tell what we know about the consequences the Trump administration has had for science, health, the environment, for using evidence, for really understanding and accepting reality, and show that this time the choice is just so important for science," she said. Helmuth said staff members at the magazine were aware that wading into political waters could alienate some readers. "Yeah, we definitely worry about that," she said. That's why the endorsement was written to be "as inclusive as possible," without the use of the words Republican or Democrat.
Trump administration bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores beginning on Sunday
The Trump administration said it is banning China's TikTok and WeChat from mobile app stores beginning this Sunday, Sept. 20, in a move that will sharply raise tensions with Beijing. The White House will take other action to curb WeChat's use beginning Sunday, and will give TikTok until Nov. 12 until further bans kick in. Western companies and bankers are still wrangling with TikTok's owner, the White House and Chinese authorities to try to arrange a sale of some of TikTok's business. TikTok has enjoyed explosive growth in the United States, where its users number in the tens of millions. "Today's actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party," U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. "At the President's direction, we have taken significant action to combat China's malicious collection of American citizens' personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations."
Lenoir Dining to close for fall semester
Lenoir Dining, the University of Mississippi hospitality department's on-campus restaurant, is halting business for the fall semester because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. "It was a hard decision because of the meaningful experiences for the students, but really it was the best option," Melinda Wells Valliant, the hospitality department chair, said. The Lenoir Dining restaurant is a part of the hospitality training program that offers students "real-world experience by providing a laboratory setting in which students work every aspect of a restaurant," according to Valliant. To fulfill degree requirements, students must complete the quantity food production and service lab and perform all roles within the establishment, from dishwashing to management. Instead of operating Lenoir, students are working in local restaurants to earn the class credit. Though Lenoir Dining will be closed for the remainder of the fall semester, the department hopes that the restaurant will open again in the spring. Meanwhile, the hospitality management program, like many on-campus, is offering remote classes, as well as some face-to-face sections of food preparation labs.
Alabama chancellor touts COVID response, reveals new testing numbers
With the impacts of COVID-19 peppered throughout Thursday's quarterly meeting of the University of Alabama System's board of trustees meeting, Chancellor Finis St. John's report praised the campuses' handling of the reopening process. The meeting, held over video conference instead of in person, highlighted some of the challenges while noting successes in curbing the high numbers of COVID-19 positive tests in Tuscaloosa. "A problem arrived on our doorsteps in March," St. John said. "It was not expected. It was not our fault and it brought with it serious short- and long-term impacts on our country, our state and our system." The long-range financial impact is still to be determined but trustees revealed Thursday that tuition revenue is down $29 million on the Tuscaloosa campus mostly because fewer out-of-state students were enrolled this fall. "The significant financial impact of this pandemic has been weathered," the chancellor said, "so far." St. John said he was proud UA "trusted our plan and our people and had the courage to see it through." He also noted the other colleges and universities who either bailed on in-person learning before the semester started or soon after returning.
Alabama trustees cite racist language while renaming Morgan Hall
A second University of Alabama campus building has been renamed as part of the effort to remove names associated with a racist past. The home of the English Department will no longer be known as Morgan Hall after the UA Board of Trustees voted Thursday. It will now be just English Building, following the model of changing Nott Hall to Honors Hall as approved in August. Trustee John England said they plan on naming the building "for an appropriate individual." The working group of trustees charged with examining the building names said it looked at the contributions of John Tyler Morgan, for whom the structure was named in 1910. It acknowledged that as a U.S. Senator, Morgan helped secure 46,080 acres of land for the University of Alabama. The school still owns 22,000 of those acres. The working group also examined Morgan's actions and views on race when making the decision. The board voted unanimously to change the building name.
U. of Arkansas says land sale to fund research
Mark Cochran, vice president of the University of Arkansas System's Agriculture Division, on Thursday defended the planned sale of a portion of its research station in St. Francis County, saying proceeds would be vital to research programs across the state. "While we know this proposed sale has encountered some opposition, we are extremely disappointed to see that what were healthy expressions of concern have turned into a stream of challenges to the integrity of our reputation as researchers and educators," Cochran said in a written statement. The UA System board of trustees on March 11 approved the sale of 6,300 acres at the Pine Tree Research Station for at least $16.5 million. An attorney for the buyer, Lobo Farms LLC in Poinsett County, on Wednesday said the acreage subsequently has been appraised for $17.6 million, or $2,800 an acre. A $1 million donation to a UA endowment also is part of the deal. Sen. Ron Caldwell, R-Wynne, said Wednesday that the FBI had visited with him about the sale, though he declined to characterize the FBI's interest in the matter or elaborate on the interview. The sale, according to the UA System, requires the approval of Congress, because the land that became the Pine Tree station had been federal property in 1960, when 11,850 acres were deeded to the university system.
U. of Florida's March Spring Break canceled, Winter Break extended by a week
The University of Florida's initially planned 2021 Spring Break has been canceled. The Spring semester will now run from Jan. 11 to April 21, with no break aside from Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18. The change was made during a UF Faculty Senate meeting Thursday afternoon, where the 160-member group voted to extend Winter Break by a week and eliminate the March Spring Break entirely. The amended calendar shifts the start of the Spring semester from Jan. 5 to Jan. 11. To compensate for that, six additional instructional days would be added from March 8-13. Of the senators present at the meeting, about 79% voted for the motion while about 21% voted against. The purpose of the change is to give additional time at the beginning of the year to let the COVID-19 pandemic potentially subside, said UF's associate provost for undergraduate affairs Angela Lindner. It also allows students time to get a COVID-19 vaccine, if one is available by then. Eliminating the original week of Spring break will prevent a potential surge in cases from students who originally planned to travel during that time, Lindner said.
U. of Tennessee pushes back start of spring semester and cancels spring break
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has pushed back the start of the spring semester to Jan. 20 and has canceled spring break in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes will now start on Jan. 20, one week later than originally planned. Classes will now be held during the previously scheduled spring break and on April 1, which was scheduled as a no-class day. Classes for the semester will end on April 20, with finals held April 22 through April 29. "The changes will help reduce the potential for travel-related spread of COVID-19 while maintaining the required number of instructional days and meeting accreditation and federal aid requirements," UT said in a news release. While UT did not announce dates or plans for a graduation ceremony, the university said it is developing plans to honor 2020 and 2021 graduates in the spring. "Decisions will be shared as soon as they are finalized," the university said.
U. of Kentucky, like other universities, cancels spring break 2021 due to COVID-19
The University of Kentucky will not have a spring break in 2021. Citing the need to keep students on campus as much as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, UK announced the change Thursday, which is on par with decisions from multiple universities around the country. UK wants to make sure students don't travel around and bring more coronavirus cases back to Lexington. It cancelled the fall break as well and required testing for all on-campus students this semester. Other universities to cancel spring break include the Ohio State University, Purdue University, California State University, The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "We appreciate the patience of our community as we plan, once again, for reinvented operations this spring," said an email sent to the campus community from President Eli Capilouto. "This is not how we envisioned this year, but together, we can -- and we will -- get through this together. We will be positioned to thrive in the future and assured that we did everything we could to protect the health, safety and well-being of the UK family."
UGA's Stegeman Coliseum approved for advance voting
The University of Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum is now approved as an advance voting site for November's general election. "We are pleased to announce that Stegeman Coliseum at the University of Georgia has been approved by state and local officials to serve as an early voting site on the UGA campus," said UGA spokesman Greg Trevor in an email. "Social distancing protocols will be followed in this large, indoor venue." Details such as dates and hours have not yet been announced. The university offered Stegeman as a voting place Thursday morning in the wake of a statement issued Wednesday by UGA Votes, a student-led voting rights group. In its statement, UGA Votes noted that the UGA administration had decided not to allow on-campus voting for the 2020 presidential election in UGA's Tate Student Center, citing social distancing and other COVID-19-related concerns.
U. of South Carolina trustee who voted against President Robert Caslen, cursed at GOP leader's wife set to be ousted
State lawmakers plan to boot veteran University of South Carolina trustee Chuck Allen from the school's board next week, citing revelations that the former Gamecocks football star cursed at a legislator's wife and son at a 2013 football game and still hasn't apologized, The Post and Courier has learned. But Allen, a 61-year-old attorney from Anderson, says the real reason he is in danger of losing his board seat is because he voted against the controversial hiring of school President Bob Caslen last summer. The process that led to Caslen's selection divided USC's student body, faculty and alumni based along mostly partisan lines and drew an accreditation investigation into political meddling in the decision. "There's retaliation for the presidential vote going on right now," said Allen, a former Democratic lawmaker who first joined the USC board in 2008. GOP leaders in the Republican-controlled General Assembly say that's not true, though they don't doubt the Caslen vote is a factor. They plan to replace him with Seneca attorney Emma Morris when the Legislature votes on appointments to college boards next Wednesday.
Texas A&M: First round of random COVID-19 student testing produced 94 positives
Texas A&M University released results of the first round of its random COVID-19 testing program Thursday, and it announced that 94 -- or 3.2% -- of 2,868 students tested positive for the coronavirus through the initiative during the first week of school, which ended Aug. 29. According to an article from Texas A&M Today, 6,236 A&M students were invited to participate via email after the program was announced near the start of the fall semester. The second round of random testing is underway now, the article states. "To date there have been only three identified clusters, all of which are resolved, and quarantine completed," the article reads. The Kappa Kappa Gamma and Delta Delta Delta clusters were reported Aug. 20, and the Corps of Cadets Squadron-17 cluster was reported by A&M through the Clery Act on Sept. 2. In all, between early August and Sept. 14, 1,289 individuals at Texas A&M tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Texas A&M's COVID-19 online dashboard. The weekly numbers peaked the week of Aug. 22, with 371 cases reported that week, and have since declined. There were 202 positive tests reported out of 2,500 tests administered the week of Sept. 12.
U. of Missouri School of Medicine awarded nearly $3M grant for rural health care
The University of Missouri School of Medicine has received a $2.8 million grant to continue working on the problem of the physician shortage in rural Missouri. This funding is in addition to the nearly $5 million grant the School of Medicine received last fall. The grant extension will be administered by the School of Medicine and MU Extension. The Missouri Hospital Association released a 2018 study that projected by 2030 there will be a shortage of up to 49,300 primary care physicians in the state. The report also noted 69 of the 143 licensed hospitals in Missouri are located in rural counties, leaving 32 counties without a local hospital. Kathleen Quinn, associate dean for rural health in MU's School of Medicine, said the funds will make a significant contribution to "a long-term, statewide impact in Missouri." It will help fund the development of new rural programs and the upgrading of software and equipment, like the purchase of "a state-of-the-art mobile simulation truck equipped with top-of-the-line clinical equipment to quickly provide on-site training for physicians, students, nurses and first responders in rural communities," Quinn said.
Investigation sheds light on U. of Memphis COVID-19 clusters
At the University of Memphis, 135 students tested positive during August and September, according to information reviewed by the health department, David Sweat, deputy director of the health department, said Thursday. The cases among athletes are included in the 135 student cases reported to the health department, but the total includes other cases as well. The cases had already been reported by laboratories, Sweat said, as is required by law. "What we did not realize was their affiliation with the university. That was not apparent -- you can't tell from a laboratory report that that's the case," Sweat said. He then stressed the importance of organizations to help the health department "connect the dots." "Now, as we've gotten that information from the University of Memphis digging into the clusters and investigations that were going on there, we got an expanded spreadsheet that lists the affiliations of these students with the university and that makes it easier for us to follow up and hone our questions in our interviews with our students," Sweat said.
As Sen. Lamar Alexander prepares to leave, a final push to simplify FAFSA
As he nears retirement, Senator Lamar Alexander, the chair of the Senate education committee, is making a final push to bring about what he's been trying to do for at least seven years -- simplifying the form students have to fill out to get federal financial aid for college. The Republican from Tennessee devoted the last scheduled hearing of the committee on education before he leaves office to a proposal that would reduce the number of questions asked on what he called the "dreaded" Free Application for Federal Student Aid from 108 questions to 33 as well as end the Education Department's lengthy verification process. Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, said at the hearing that she supports the idea. And though it wouldn't be the same as giving Alexander a gold watch for his retirement, an education lobbyist said Murray may be willing to drop her insistence that she'd only support simplifying the application as part of a larger reauthorization of the nation's higher education law, which has not been able to find support in the Senate. Alexander, as he has done for years, stood at the hearing and held out the long application, and then held out a much shorter sheet of paper with only 33 questions.
More Colleges Are Responding to Covid-19 Surges With 2-Week Quarantines. Do They Work?
Just one week after starting classes, the University of Notre Dame saw a worrying jump in coronavirus cases among students. In response, the president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, announced a two-week pause in campus life. Undergraduate classes would all be held online, public spaces would be closed, and students living off campus would be asked to stay away and interact only with their housemates. Now, a month later, Notre Dame's numbers are back down. As of Thursday, the university estimates, there were 51 active infections on campus, down from the total of 191 cases over two days that had prompted the university to move classes online. "The two-week return to virtual class only helped in a number of ways," said Paul J. Browne, a university spokesman. "It was those factors that led us to getting to a better place once we returned to in-person classes." Those temporary, campuswide quarantines are a standard public-health measure and a smart idea to try, experts say. As long as institutions can support students during the lockdowns, they're a good alternative to sending students home, a step that risks spreading the infection to students' families and their home communities. "Having a two-week pause is a very reasonable strategy," said Howard K. Koh, a professor of public-health leadership at Harvard University and former commissioner of public health for Massachusetts. A pause, if strictly followed, breaks the chains of transmission.
Students Accused Of Breaking College COVID-19 Rules Fight Their Punishments
As colleges around the U.S. are facing COVID-19 outbreaks and crackdowns on students engaged in coronavirus-risky behavior, campuses are also facing a new threat: legal challenges from the students they're punishing. Some are brazenly breaking rules, like the hundreds of Syracuse University students who risked everyone's safety -- and everyone's semester -- by partying like it's not 2020 in late August. Twenty-three students at that party got interim suspensions and were kicked off campus for what Syracuse officials described as "incredibly reckless behavior." The same thing is happening to students at smaller, more "chill" gatherings. At Northeastern University, 11 students were caught hanging out together in one room, in violation of bans on having guests in campus housing and on participating in crowded gatherings. "I was just, like, come on -- that's really irresponsible and selfish," junior Avery Collard said about the students who were all kicked off campus and out of their program for the semester. Collard said they had it coming. But for all the scorn directed at students who flout the rules, the colleges meting out the discipline are taking heat as well.
Colleges look for lower-risk ways for students to socialize
One hallmark of the fall semester so far has been the recurrent theme of college administrators pleading with students to stop partying -- and threatening and imposing punishments on those who do -- to try to tamp down the spread of COVID-19. But as college administrators try their hardest to stop students from attending crowded indoor parties and bar hopping, the question arises of what they can or should do to help students socialize in lower-risk ways. To this end, some colleges are creating new outdoor gathering and performance spaces, erecting tents that limited-sized student groups can reserve, and holding film screenings and other student life events in oversize venues like the football stadium. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that all-virtual events pose the lowest risk, outdoor gatherings with physical distancing and mask wearing are lower risk than indoor ones. Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, said there's a lot of emphasis in the student affairs field on creative outdoor programming and recreation.
2021 Best Colleges in America: Harvard Leads the University Rankings
The more things change, the more they stay the same -- at least at some of the oldest, most prestigious universities in the U.S. That's one of the takeaways from this year's Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, which award Harvard University the top spot for the fourth straight year, followed by its next-door neighbor, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in second place, and Yale University in third. In fact, the eight private universities traditionally known as the Ivy League are all among the top 15 schools. In addition to Harvard and Yale, the Ivies dominated with Brown University tied for fifth place, Princeton University tied for seventh, Cornell University ninth, Dartmouth College at No. 12, the University of Pennsylvania at No. 13 and Columbia University tied for No. 15. Experts on higher education say the continued success of the Ivies has a lot to do with their deep pockets. "Metrics used around academic resources, graduate student debt, the diversity of the faculty and the salary of graduates certainly favor institutions with large endowments," says Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Those are all key indicators in the WSJ/THE rankings, which are based on 15 factors across four main categories.
Renting the World
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in the Shackouls Honors College at Mississippi State University, writes: While 2020 has delivered a quagmire of complexities from fires to hurricanes to the present pandemic, it also begs to question humanity's role. While mankind is often considered to have inherited the Earth, many people do not recognize that the inheritance is more of a legacy rental agreement. It was previously held by historic generations and will, eventually, be passed along to today's children. What is critical in this custody of the Earth is recognizing that much like the Hippocratic oath, the goal of caring for the planet is "to do no harm." Today's children are set to inherit an environment much more impacted than the world of their grandparents or especially their great-grandparents. Today's children will inherit many lands which have been over-used and under-nurtured. They will face a society which aims to find a way to both blend cultures and customs while celebrating each for its individuality. According to the projections published by the United Nations in 2015, population statistics anticipate a continued growth pattern, with a global population density estimate at $8.5 billion people by 2030.
Senator Wicker rightly takes aim at Section 230
Mississippi newspaper publisher and columnist Wyatt Emmerich writes: Kudos to Mississippi U. S. Senator Roger Wicker for sponsoring a bill to amend Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1996. I know most readers are scratching their heads wondering "what the heck is Section 230?" Sounds rather technical and minor. What if I told you that all the rioting in our streets and the polarization of American culture is a direct result of Section 230? What if I told you that the most powerful monopolies in the history of the world were a direct result of Section 230 -- monopolies that threaten the foundations of our republic? What if I told you that Russia and China are actively destabilizing the political and cultural fabric of our country as a direct result of Section 230? ... Section 230, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton, stipulates that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." This innocent sounding piece of legislation deemed "interactive computer services" as not "publishers." As a result, Facebook, Google and Twitter are exempt from 400 years of libel and slander common law designed to protect citizens.

What Mike Leach wants from Mississippi State football leading up to LSU
The effort isn't all the way there yet. Five weeks into training camp, Mississippi State's Mike Leach and his assistants are still coaching against taking plays off – something the Bulldogs can't afford to do when they open their 2020 season at No. 5 LSU on Sept. 26. "A few of them, their motors don't run as fast as you would like," Leach said. "In football, the urgency has to be a little more important to them." Leach has preached consistency since camp opened the week of Aug. 17. Turning the motor off for a bit while Leach expects it to be fully revved up does not live up to Leach's desired model of play. "Some of the others will really do something, make a great play and then cruise it a little bit," Leach said. "We've got to get rid of that. It's very important to us to make the next play no matter how good the last one was." It hasn't been all bad for the Bulldogs, though. Leach said a lot of the freshmen arrived "ready to play." He hasn't seen much lollygagging out of the newcomers, and he was assertive in saying many of them will play right away.
Mississippi State men's basketball notebook: Season start date; Bulldogs plan to play 27 games; fan capacity undecided
On Wednesday, Mississippi State men's basketball coach Ben Howland felt like a kid on Christmas. The NCAA officially cleared Division I basketball teams to begin their seasons starting one day before Thanksgiving on Nov. 25, 15 days later than originally scheduled. Howland said the Bulldogs are tentatively scheduled to begin their season Nov. 25 against Clemson in the Cancun Challenge in Melbourne, Florida, and then face either Illinois State or Purdue the next day depending on the result. "I think it's very prudent what they did," Howland said at his media availability session on Thursday. "I think it's smart because 75 percent of all students will be gone because of Thanksgiving, so it forms a safer environment for your players moving forward. "I'm just excited for basketball again. I think it was devastating and heartbreaking that we finished our season without a real finish. I'll always regret we didn't get to play those (final) games." MSU has been conducting offseason workouts for eight hours a week starting in the summer and will be able to extend that to 12 hours a week on Monday. The Bulldogs will officially start practice Oct. 14.
Sidney Cooks, Caterrion Thompson offering leadership for Nikki McCray-Penson, Mississippi State women's basketball in uncertain year
All Nikki McCray-Penson has is a start date. Speaking with the media Thursday afternoon, McCray-Penson noted that the only sliver of information she had regarding the upcoming season and Mississippi State's schedule is the Nov. 25 start date the NCAA announced earlier this week. But in a season that's slated to be anything but normal, the first-year head coach will have the luxury of battle-tested seniors to guide her inaugural squad in Starkville through its ledger. Leading the charge is one-time Michigan State transfer Sidney Cooks. Switching iterations of MSU ahead of last season, Cooks is a former McDonald's All-American and a stretch five who can knock down perimeter shots with consistency. Having sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, fans got few glimpses of Cooks beyond her shagging rebounds for teammates on game days. Despite that, the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native earned rave reviews from her teammates for her work in practices. Heading into a year in which junior Jessika Carter is likely better suited to play the four rather than a true five, Cooks should shoulder the load at center this winter.
State Soccer to Kick Off Season at Auburn
Mississippi State Soccer heads to Auburn to kick off the 2020 season, the Mississippi State athletic year, as well as the Southeastern Conference slate. The match is set for Friday (9/18) at 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on the SEC Network. "We've had a great deal of time in preseason to fine-tune some things and not rush through what we've wanted to work on," said Head Coach James Armstrong. "We're excited to finally play a different team other than ourselves. It's a really difficult team to prepare for to be honest. They have a really good 2020 class coming in which I know they're excited about. I have familiarity with them since I helped recruit a number of those players, but just like with any freshman, you never know until you see them play in a meaningful game." This will be Armstrong's second time meeting his former team on the field, but this time he has a win under his belt. State defeated the Tigers at home last season in a 3-1 win.
'Excited' Tigers ready for the return of Auburn soccer
The absence of sports from Auburn's campus since March finally comes to an end this Friday as Auburn soccer makes its long-awaited debut as the first athletic event on campus this fall. Soccer is usually the first fall sport to play each year, but this season is different. Head coach Karen Hoppa, entering her 22nd season as head coach of the Tigers, understands that it's a season opener like no other. "It feels really magnified and different," Hoppa said Tuesday. "It's opening week, and this is my 28th season as a head coach. There's always a similar feel in opening week, and there's anticipation and excitement and all that; I feel that, but I also feel the weight of everything extra that COVID brings." Now the time is here. The Auburn Tigers will face the Mississippi State Bulldogs Friday night at the Auburn Soccer Complex. Not only is this the first game on campus, but it will also be the first SEC soccer game of the season. Last season, the Bulldogs got the better of the Tigers with a 3-2 win over Auburn.
Tigers open season with Mississippi State
Sarah Houchin kept hoping. And she kept training. Even when Auburn soccer's future seemed in doubt this year, Houchin and her teammates kept running, she says, and kept working out to keep fit in the offseason even without a schedule set ahead -- hoping it would somehow all still be for something. Tonight is that something. The Auburn soccer team kicks off pandemic play when the Tigers host Mississippi State at 6 p.m. in front of limited attendance in the Auburn Soccer Complex. Gates will be closed to the general public, but the game will be aired on the SEC Network. And the game will mark the first Auburn athletics event in 191 days, since the sports world stopped in March when COVID-19 first spread across the United States. The virus is still a threat but that sports world has adjusted. Auburn and Mississippi State will both go through team-wide testing before kickoff today, and masks plus distancing will be required for the select team invites and the few current Auburn students allowed in the stadium bleachers. Finally, with these plans in place, the teams are comfortable kicking off -- and competing again.
LSU baseball delays fall practice after majority of players enter coronavirus quarantine
LSU's baseball team delayed the start of fall practice after the majority of its players entered quarantine because of coronavirus exposure, multiple people with knowledge of the situation said. Players quarantined because they either tested positive for COVID-19 or came in close contact with someone who tested positive. LSU didn't confirm the number of players in quarantine. It hasn't publicly released information on coronavirus cases within the athletic department and has declined to confirm specifics on outbreaks, citing student privacy laws. Coach Paul Mainieri said fall practice is now scheduled to begin Sept. 27, a week later than originally planned, but LSU may have to further push back the start date. Players must quarantine for 10 days after a positive coronavirus test, according to Southeastern Conference protocols, and symptoms have to subside for at least 24 hours without medication before those players can return to practice. Those who quarantined because of high-risk exposure must isolate for 14 days. "We're following proper protocol," Mainieri said. "The most important thing is the young men under our care."
Paul Finebaum calls Big Ten playing 'a lot of cya'ing,' says it shows what public pressure can do
Paul Finebaum, as you know, has a way with words. So, on Thursday, when the ESPN analyst was asked his thoughts on the Big Ten's decision to reverse course and play football this fall, Finebaum said he saw a lot of "cya'ing." "It shows you what public pressure can do," said Finebaum, who joined Lee Shirvanian and me on "The Opening Kickoff" on WNSP-FM 105.5 in Mobile. Roughly a month after the Big Ten indefinitely postponed its fall football season, the conference -- amid public backlash from coaches, players and fans -- reversed course on Wednesday and decided to play after all. "I think the idea that Notre Dame, in the state of Indiana, played a football game Saturday, successfully, seen by millions of people on television may have helped push them over the top," Finebaum said. "They can say whatever they want about rapid testing, but that was in their sight a month ago, five weeks ago. What I heard yesterday was a lot of cya'ing on a very poor decision on Aug. 11." Not that Finebaum is against the idea of playing fall football. Quite the opposite, but the way in which the Big Ten got to this point is laughable.
Auburn announces gameday guidelines for 2020 football season
Following policies established by the SEC, state and local officials and Auburn University, Auburn Athletics has announced new procedures for the 2020 football season designed to create a safe and healthy environment while maintaining the gameday experience. "Everyone who enters Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall will participate in a shared responsibility for the health and safety of our campus community," said Allen Greene, Director of Athletics for Auburn University. "We're counting on all attendees to do their part by practicing physical distancing, personal hygiene and wearing face coverings. Adherence to these guidelines will lead to the safest possible gameday for everyone." One notable change includes the suspension of the pre-game eagle flight due to SEC mandates prohibiting live animals from being present on the field. Other suspensions of gameday activities include the Coca-Cola Fanfest, the Tiger Walk, the Band Walk Around and the Tiger Transit Game Day Shuttles. As announced on Aug. 19, under the direction of state health officials, Jordan-Hare Stadium capacity will be reduced to 20% to begin the 2020 football season.
U. of Arkansas gives protocols for game-day fans
The University of Arkansas has set seating capacity at 16,500 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium for at least the early portion of the season, which starts next Saturday against Georgia. UA athletic department senior staff members Rick Thorpe, Chris Pohl and Kevin Trainor met with the media on Thursday to discuss game- day procedures from parking, fan entry and exit and everything in between, and there are a bundle of changes based on covid-19 protocols. Thorpe touted the first on-campus event of the fall, the Razorback soccer team hosting LSU on Saturday, before launching into the presentation. "We're reaching the culmination of the last five or six months of preparation and planning with all of our partners to get to this point," Thorpe said. "Everything we've done has been about the primary tenets of health and safety. It's not about revenue generation. It's not about attendance. It's health and safety first." Thorpe said the UA has worked in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Health, the SEC, the Centers for Disease Control and campus constituencies to put together a plan from "doorway to doorway" for attending an athletic event.
Kirby and Mary Beth Smart donate $1M for social justice program, scholarships and UGA football expansion
Kirby and Mary Beth Smart are contributing $1 million to the University of Georgia to go towards the Athletic Association's new social justice program, scholarships for senior athletes whose seasons were affected by the pandemic and the expansion of the Bulldogs football program. The Georgia football coach and his wife are both UGA graduates. Mary Beth Smart played basketball for the school and Kirby Smart was an All-SEC safety before launching his coaching career. Georgia expects to have a $55 million budget shortfall due to the impact of COVID-19. The Smart's donation will help with the costs or returning spring and fall athletes whose seasons were impacted. A portion of the gift will go to the $80 million expansion of the Butts-Mehre building that is bringing a new football operations center with a team locker room, weight room, meeting rooms, coaches' office and a sports medicine facility." The Smarts earlier donated $125,000 to endow the social justice program with former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford to bring changes in diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice for UGA athletes, coaches and staff.
'A Scene Out of Gladiator': Big Ten Football Players Get Daily Coronavirus Tests, but Other Students Don't
More than a month ago, the Big Ten Conference announced that the fall sports season would be postponed because of the risk of exposing athletes and others to the coronavirus. "Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty, and staff," Morton O. Schapiro, chairman of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors and president of Northwestern University, said in a news release. This week, the conference reversed that decision, announcing new medical protocols -- including daily, rapid testing for the virus -- that officials say will allow athletes and team staff members to practice and compete more safely. The new steps for football are the "platinum standard," said Mercedes R. Carnethon, vice chair of Northwestern's department of preventive medicine and a professor of epidemiology and pulmonary and critical care. But the plan has raised questions among public-health experts and those who study college athletics. If universities are willing to adopt the "platinum standard" for some of their students, why not do so for all students, especially as cases climb on many campuses? And what does that discrepancy say about a system that claims athletes are just like their classmates and are primarily to be considered students, not unpaid performers?
Donald Trump says Joe Biden ad prompted his intervention on Big Ten football
President Donald Trump said Thursday that it was a television ad aired by his presidential election opponent that spurred his successful intervention in the Big Ten's decision to restart its college football season. In an interview with Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis, the president described his anger at being shown an ad crafted by Joe Biden's campaign that aired across several swing states where schools with high-profile football programs had canceled their seasons. Iterations of the Biden ad tailored for specific swing states showed sweeping shots of empty college football stadiums at the universities of Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona as well as Michigan State, Penn State and Arizona State universities. With the National Anthem playing in the background, on-screen text reads "Trump put America on the sidelines" and "let's get back in the game." "I saw the ad and that's actually what got me into gear," Trump said, arguing that he felt the ad insinuated that he didn't care about whether college football was played this fall.

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