Friday, October 2, 2020   
Mississippi State's home opener has changes fans should know before kick-off
Mississippi State will kickoff against the Arkansas Razorbacks at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the Bulldogs' first home game of the season. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said fans can expect to see several changes to their usual game day routine. "All of this will be new. The way that we handle this, as far as our fans, friends, guests, there will be new procedures." Some of these new procedures include requiring fans to wear face masks while in the stadium and allowing entry only at the gate assigned on your ticket. Once fans enter the stadium, seats will be marked to create social distancing in the stands. However, according to Salter, one of the biggest changes to this season will be outside the stadium gates. "We've always prided ourselves on having a great game day experience in the Junction but there is no tailgating allowed," said Salter. "We're going to be kind but firm in enforcing that rule because that's the standard with which we're held by our colleagues in the conference."
Mississippi State plans condensed spring 2021 semester
Mississippi State University will end the spring 2021 semester a week early and eliminate spring break in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Wednesday press release. Classes will start Jan. 6 and end April 19, final exams will be from April 22-28 and commencement will be April 29 and 30. MSU will not have classes on Jan. 18 to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day or on April 2 and April 5, the Friday before Easter and the Monday afterward. The schedule matches this semester's schedule, announced in July, which eliminated the fall break initially scheduled for Oct. 8 and 9. Final exams for fall will be Nov. 18-24, and commencement will be Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw said in the press release that the condensed spring schedule will hopefully give students enough time to plan for summer courses or "co-op experiences, summer work, or making up other opportunities lost to the pandemic this past year."
MSU Homecoming Queen is WTOK's Weekend Meteorologist
WTOK Weekend Meteorologist Shelby Mason was elected 2020 Homecoming Queen at Mississippi State Wednesday. "I am in awe, said Shelby. "Mississippi State, thank you for the friendships I have made and the love that has been shown to me by making me your 2020 Homecoming Queen. I cannot wait to represent the student body and the Bulldog family". Shelby's nickname is "Mac." Her campaign platform was "Back the Mac, Mask up with Shelby Mac." Shelby believes it's important for students to continue to follow CDC guidelines when it comes to staying healthy and safe during the pandemic. Shelby said she ran for Homecoming Queen to remind students Mississippi State is a place they can call home, especially during the pandemic. "We can overcome the difficulties and challenges together," said Shelby. "Mississippi State is our home." Shelby is a senior Professional Meteorology student from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She is minoring in Broadcasting.
From Alpacas to Cocktails, Mississippi Agritourism Popular for Outdoor Entertainment
Dr. Rachael Carter, an extension specialist at Mississippi State University, said the topic of agritourism is broad, but it pertains to people coming to a farm for entertainment purposes. "You have everything from a U-pick operation to a rodeo (that) can be a form of agritourism," Carter told the Mississippi Free Press. "U-pick operation (is) when somebody comes onto a farm, and part of the fun experience they get to have is picking their own berries or peaches or something like that." When creating a facility for agritourism, Carter says farmers need to start with an idea and to think honestly about their own skill sets. "A rule is you need to have access to a market," she added. "It's fine to be in a rural area, but be able to be accessible for bigger towns to be able to travel to participate in your operation and be able to focus some of your marketing efforts towards communities where there will be enough people to come and keep it in business." Carter suggested having an operation where you can provide a variety of activities for people to do year to year so it's not the same experience, and you will have returning customers.
Corn posts solid harvest despite struggling start
A soggy planting season dissuaded some Mississippi producers from planting corn this year, but those who stuck with the crop have mostly been rewarded with a solid harvest. Initial planting forecasts at the end of February called for more than 700,000 acres of corn in the state. That figure was scaled back to 550,000 acres a few months later as a waterlogged March and April led some growers to shift some acreage to soybeans. At 90% complete, Mississippi's corn harvest progress is slightly behind where it usually is at the end of September. Most corn reached physiological maturity later than normal due to late planting. Good growing conditions, however, kept corn productivity strong. Erick Larson, Mississippi State University Extension Service grain crop specialist, said reports from growers indicate good yields in dryland fields and average results in irrigated fields. The current yield estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is at 180 bushels per acre. "Corn is responsive to early plantings, but this year, a planting window of more than a day did not materialize at all throughout much of the corn-growing portions of the state until late April. There were more opportunities to plant in the southern part of the state, but that comprises a small percentage of the growing area," Larson said.
New Historical Markers Unveiled for The Mill at MSU
Officials from Mississippi State University and the National Park Service unveiled two new plaques on Wednesday, Sept. 30, designating MSU's conference and event venue, The Mill, as a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The repurposed building has been listed on the registry since 1975. The building was once the John M. Stone Cotton Mill and was formerly called the E.E. Cooley Building on MSU's campus until the university held a groundbreaking ceremony to convert the building into a conference and meeting complex in 2014. The $40-million renovation project concluded in October 2015. The Mill at MSU hosts conferences, conventions, banquets, local meetings, bazaars and other events. For more information about the building and a timeline of its history, visit
Statewide mask order ends; Golden Triangle cities leave theirs in place
Although the state mask requirement expired Wednesday night, the mask mandate in the Golden Triangle will stay. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves ended a statewide mask mandate Wednesday, but said he will still require people to wear face coverings in schools to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, mayors in the Golden Triangle have issued statements that the local mandates will remain in place. Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill tweeted Wednesday afternoon that Starkville will not lift its requirement for people to wear masks in businesses and public buildings. "Our requirement was in place prior to the Governor's statewide order and remains in place," she said. The new executive order ending the statewide mask mandate, effective Wednesday at 5 p.m. and expiring Nov. 11 -- after the presidential election -- also limits group gatherings where social distancing is not possible to 20 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. These restrictions do not apply to voting precincts, religious entities and schools, according to the order.
Joe Max Higgins: 'Large processor' eyeing West Point industrial site
Work will begin soon to install sewer lines at 138 acres of the Prairie Belt Powersite. Selectmen, in a special-call meeting Tuesday, approved the low bid of $500,959 from DNA Construction LLC to lay sewer pipe to serve that portion of the industrial site south of Yokohama Boulevard. Two other companies, Perma Corp. and Eubanks Construction Company, submitted higher bids selectmen did not approve. Stanley Spradling, the city's contracted engineer who designed the sewer project, said site work should begin by early November and be finished by spring 2021. The site already has electric, water and natural gas service, meaning the sewer lines are all the infrastructure left to make the tract "shovel ready" for industry, according to Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins, who heads industrial recruitment efforts in the region. In an email to The Dispatch, he said the site is currently a finalist for a "large processor" that is expected to decide where it will locate in the "first or second quarter" of 2021. "Anytime you have a site that is ready, you are ahead of the game," Higgins wrote in the email.
Jackson native builds tech hub downtown
A Capital City native is bringing something new and innovative to downtown Jackson. Dr. Nashlie Sephus is an engineer for Amazon. "I was driving one day in December of 2018, and I passed by the barn building to my right, which I loved, even growing up, I loved the barn building. We got into some conversations, I found out who the owner was, and I found out that owner also owned both sides of the street," Sephus said. She bought a 12-acre lot along Gallatin Street worth $25 million. Sephus said, "I told them I want to create a tech hub in her hometown to advance economy, build financial stability, train young people for the workforce and bridge the gap between nearby Jackson State and the central business district." The Amazon engineer is a Murrah High School and Mississippi State University graduate. She started a tech company that she later sold to Amazon.
Taylor opens third international store
Taylor International has opened its third sales store, the latest in Colombia, South America as part of the Louisville, Mississippi-based company's expansion. Taylor International is a division of the Taylor Group of Companies, which also includes Taylor Machine Works and other operations. "Taylor de Colombia is ready to serve the heavy-duty material handling needs in that area through equipment sales, equipment rentals, and service and support," Hal Nowell, Director of Sales for Taylor International, said in a news release. International Business Development Manager Rose Boxx said in the release that "in a year of uncertainty, we are excited to place our third International direct store location on the map in less than a year's time, with the other two locations being in Monterrey, Mexico, and Manzanillo, Mexico." W.A. Taylor Sr. started the company with a "Loggers Dream" in 1927. His family, including CEO William Taylor Jr., owns and runs The Taylor Group.
Lawmakers approve funding for hospitals, landlords, farmers
Hospitals, veterans' centers, farmers and landlords in Mississippi would receive money to respond to the coronavirus pandemic under bills passed by state lawmakers Thursday night. Members of the Mississippi House and Senate returned to the Capitol on Thursday to reallocate some of the COVID-19 relief money the state received from the federal government. Like many other states, Mississippi received $1.25 billion from Congress to respond to the pandemic. Mississippi lawmakers initially put $300 million into a program to aid small businesses. Officials have said the state received fewer requests than expected for the business aid. Some business owners have said the state has been slow in responding to their applications. One of the bills passed Thursday would set aside $13 million for agriculture operations, including poultry farms that have lost at least one flock during the pandemic.
Virus relief money could go to farmers, hospitals, landlords
The Mississippi Legislature advanced a flurry of COVID-19 relief spending bills on Thursday to assist hospitals, veterans facilities, farmers and others, though a final vote to approve the legislation had not occurred by late afternoon. Legislators planned to work Friday as well. Their primary goal: reallocating tens of millions of dollars in federal CARES Act funding that hasn't been spent. Much of the money was originally intended to help small businesses, but hasn't been used. Thursday, the Senate was considering legislation that would provide $10 million in CARES Act funds to hospitals to improve and expand their intensive care infrastructure --- including adding more beds and negative pressure rooms. The Department of Health would divvy up the funds to hospitals under the plan. Meanwhile, senators easily passed bills that would assist farmers and the Mississippi Veterans Administration. The agriculture bill would give $13 million in virus relief money to farmers who faced losses due to the pandemic, with $3 million specifically for poultry farms and $500,000 for sweet potato growers.
Legislative leaders, once again, say they will not expand early voting during pandemic
Bills that would allow people to vote early in person to avoid crowed precincts on Election Day during the COVID-19 pandemic are not expected to be considered while the Legislature is in session Thursday and Friday. These bills are among several filed this year to make voting easier and safer during the pandemic. All those bills -- with the exception of one that provided limited early voting opportunities -- died after legislative leaders did not support their passing. The continued deaths of these bills come as most states passed robust measures in 2020 to expand early voting and to ensure safety during the pandemic. Two bills filed this week by Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, and three members of the House would allow no-excuse early voting in circuit clerks offices for people who want to avoid going to what are expected to be crowded precincts on Election Day. The three House members jointly filing the legislation were Reps. Jansen Owen, R-Poplarville; Kent McCarty, R-Hattiesburg; and Shanda Yates, D-Jackson. But late Thursday, it appeared the bills will not be considered while the Legislature is in session this week. This week is likely the last opportunity lawmakers will have to consider expanding voting opportunities before the Nov. 3 general election.
Sen. Roger Wicker to Judge Amy Coney Barrett: You will be an inspiration to my granddaughters
Sen. Roger Wicker told Judge Amy Coney Barrett that he thinks she will be an inspiration to his granddaughters. While meeting the woman who Conservatives hope will fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Wicker said that he is "delighted" with her nomination and that she shares a judicial philosophy that he appreciates. "I have seven grandchildren, five granddaughters, and I think you're gonna be an inspiration to those five granddaughters," the senator said. "I think the fact that you've been able to balance so many different challenges as a mom, as a professional... will be an inspiration to people like my five granddaughters." Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith also met with Coney Barrett, calling her a "brilliant legal mind" and "a true Constitutionalist."
President Trump and first lady test positive for coronavirus
President Donald Trump said early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, a stunning announcement that plunges the country deeper into uncertainty just a month before the presidential election. Trump, who has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of a virus that has killed more than 205,000 Americans, said he and Mrs. Trump were quarantining. The White House physician said the president is expected to continue carrying out his duties "without disruption" while recovering. Still, Trump's diagnosis was sure to have a destabilizing effect in Washington and around the world, raising questions about how far the virus had spread through the highest levels of the U.S. government. Hours before Trump announced he had contracted the virus, the White House said a top aide who had traveled with him during the week had tested positive. Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the virus on Friday morning and "remains in good health," his spokesman said.
President Trump's test shows how COVID-19 might threaten Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that President Donald Trump's positive COVID-19 case underscores that the coronavirus is the biggest threat to the confirmation of the current Supreme Court nominee. Democrats procedurally can't do anything to stop a confirmation vote on the Senate floor before the Nov. 3 presidential election, McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. But with a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, and two Republicans already saying they opposed a confirmation vote for Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett so close to the election, McConnell has a thin margin for a vote. "Our biggest enemy obviously is the coronavirus, keeping everybody healthy and well and in place to do our job," McConnell said of the confirmation vote. Barrett has tested negative for COVID-19, a White House spokesman said Friday morning, adding that the Supreme Court nominee is tested daily. McConnell suggested the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings, set to begin Oct. 12, could be done remotely, and said that some members have done their interviews and previous hearings remotely.
President Trump requires food aid boxes to come with a letter from him
The Agriculture Department last week began mandating that millions of boxes of surplus food for needy families include a letter from President Donald Trump claiming credit for the program. The USDA's $4 billion Farmers to Families Food Box Program has distributed more than 100 million boxes to those in need since May, with the aim of redirecting meat, dairy and produce that might normally go to restaurants and other food-service businesses. But organizations handing out the aid complain the program is now being used to bolster Trump's image a month before a high-stakes election -- and some even have refused to distribute them. "In my 30 years of doing this work, I've never seen something this egregious," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks. "These are federally purchased boxes." The move is the latest example of Trump using the levers of government and taxpayer dollars for self-promotion as he runs for re-election. The administration has denied that these moves are political or improper, despite outcries from Democrats and questions from ethics groups.
Diversity emerges as key challenge for coronavirus drug trials
The coronavirus pandemic has hit disproportionately hard in Black and Hispanic communities, where infection rates and death rates have reached staggering levels. But as scientists race to develop vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and treatments for the COVID-19 disease it causes, many trials are struggling to enroll people from those very communities. Government and private sector scientists trying to enroll tens of thousands of Americans in a handful of studies of potential coronavirus vaccines are working overtime to reach out to underrepresented communities. But they have reported running up against rumors and misinformation in minority communities in places like Seattle and New York City, where mistrust remains deeply rooted. Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in recent years have found both Black Americans and Native Americans are less trusting of medical doctors than are whites. On the scientific side, so little is known about the way the coronavirus attacks the body and the way COVID-19 manifests that diversity -- in age groups, ethnic groups and even socioeconomic status -- is necessary to learn who is at risk of serious or severe symptoms.
U. of Mississippi hosts first of five public hearings on Initiative 65
With five weeks remaining until Mississippi voters head to the polls to vote on several issues, the issue of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes was debated in Oxford on Wednesday. The University of Mississippi hosted the first of five public hearings on Initiative 65 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson is holding the hearings that will take place in all five Congressional Districts throughout October. Four speakers participated during Wednesday's forum. Two spoke on Initiative 65 and two spoke on the alternative option. Those speakers were Cody Weaver, a US Navy veteran; Jim Perry, a member of the Mississippi Board of Health; Lafayette County Sheriff Joey East and Jamie Grantham, communications director for the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign. The second hearing was held at Leflore County Civic Center in Greenwood on Thursday. The remaining hearings are scheduled for Oct. 7 at the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center in Hattiesburg; Oct. 8 at the Meridian City Hall Auditorium in Meridian and Oct. 13 at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.
Financial aid office adopts 'self-service' methods for UM students
COVID-19 has significantly impacted nearly every facet of daily life, from business to industry to academia. The University of Mississippi's financial aid office is one of many adjusting its workflow to service students at a time when some students see financial support as even more important than it was pre-pandemic. Laura Diven-Brown, the director of financial aid at the university, noted how unprecedented this time is for her department. "In the 25 years I've been here," she said, "I've seen other kinds of crises, like the Katrina hurricane and how that impacted Mississippi, but the pandemic is something completely different all together because of the fact that it impacted our operations internally -- how we can do business." When the university transitioned to online learning in March, financial aid operations went completely online just like classes. Overall, the office has worked as efficiently as it had before, Diven-Brown said, but she knew that the upcoming semester would be a challenge as the number of students seeking help would increase.
U. of Southern Mississippi releases condensed calendar for spring semester
The University of Southern Mississippi released a revised calendar for the Spring 2021 semester on Thursday. The condensed schedule will run from Jan. 20 to April 22, with exams taking place from April 23 to April 30. Changes have been made to the holidays and commencement ceremonies to limit travel and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The schedule eliminates the Mardi Gras and Spring Break student holidays while adding student holidays on Friday, Feb. 19 and Friday, March 19, as well as a universitywide holiday on Friday, April 2. Commencement ceremonies previously tentatively scheduled for December 2020 have been moved to May 2021 to be held with the ceremonies for 2021 graduates. Graduates from the spring, summer and fall terms of 2020 will be able to participate in the May commencement ceremonies.
Research Grants for USM and JSU, Historical Markers for The Mill at MSU
The Institute for Disability Studies at the University of Southern Mississippi recently received a $100,000 grant from the Administration of Community Living. The grant, known as Pine Belt Transition Together Enhancing young Adult services in Mississippi, will go toward creating a network of resources for young people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities during their transition to adulthood. Jackson State University recently received a five-year, $11.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to establish a new facility called the Research Centers in Minority Institutions Center for Health Disparities Research. The grant will help JSU researchers to research health issues of minorities and underserved communities, examine health disparity diseases and develop new prevention and treatment strategies and establish new infrastructure in the biomedical field, a release from the university says.
U. of Kentucky, Lexington police will jointly patrol for student parties this weekend
Both the Lexington and the University of Kentucky police departments will begin joint patrols of near-campus neighborhoods for large student gatherings that may spread COVID-19, university and city officials said in a joint press release Thursday. The patrols will begin Friday, and UK police will have the authority to intervene in student groups not abiding by the university's social distancing guidelines, the release from the mayor's office said . Guidelines requiring students to avoid non-sanctioned large groups and parties have been added to the university's Code of Conduct this year. The code applies to students both on- and off-campus. Students can face penalties ranging from a warning all the way up to suspension or expulsion for violating the code of conduct. Punishments are typically dependent on specific circumstances, university spokespeople have said previously. The joint patrols come just ahead of UK's first home football game on Saturday. College football season is traditionally a time for students to gather, and last week's season-opening game brought students out in droves in near-campus neighborhoods, drawing the ire of neighbors.
UGA should update or include 'more truthful context' on historic markers and statues, group says
Public art and historic markers on the University of Georgia campus contradict the stated UGA core values symbolized by the UGA Arch, according to the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission. The values are wisdom, justice and moderation, but UGA should examine the markers and art to "update a narrow, exclusionary history plagued by white supremacy and nurture the potential of a greater communal story," the commission wrote in an open letter to the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Community recently appointed by UGA President Jere Morehead. The Athens Cultural Affairs Commission is an advisory group appointed by the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission "to advise on cultural affairs and aesthetic development of the built environment." The UGA campus is not subject to Athens-Clarke ordinances and regulations, but the UGA task force is charged with "developing initiatives and actions that UGA can take to foster a more welcoming and supportive learning environment for Black and other underrepresented members of our campus community."
U. of Florida students inspect, certify businesses for COVID-19 safety
A group of graduate students at the University of Florida Warrington College of Business are looking to help local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic by showing customers they are following local and federal health guidelines. COVID Conscious Gainesville, a new project led by four UF business grad students, partners with local businesses who volunteer for the service. The business space is inspected for employee and customer safety, and those who pass are given a certification and promotion on social media to share their "COVID consciousness." "It's a way to help market these businesses to people who are maybe immunocompromised or older, who are afraid of getting sick," said Holly Bridwell, a 34-year-old UF entrepreneurship grad student involved in the project. "It shows that these businesses are still committed to keeping people safe." Bridwell said the health and safety guidelines on the COVID Conscious Gainesville inspection form have been developed from the CDC and Alachua County list of guidelines.
Texas A&M officials report COVID-19 cluster in Corps of Cadets' Squadron 4
A fourth COVID-19 cluster -- the second involving the Corps of Cadets -- has been reported on Texas A&M's campus, officials said. According to a report from the university through the Clery Act, Squadron 4 cadets will have to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. Students living on campus who test positive for COVID-19 have the option to go home or to an off-campus location, or be moved into self-isolation on campus, which is a temporary room set aside for students who have tested positive for the virus. Texas A&M reported clusters and initiated chapter-wide quarantines for sororities Delta Delta Delta and Kappa Kappa Gamma on Aug. 20. On Sept. 2, officials announced Corps Squadron 17 would quarantine as the result of a cluster. For the week ending Sept. 26, A&M reported 74 positive COVID-19 tests after administering a total of 1,934 tests. Since Aug. 2, A&M has reported 1,521 positive COVID-19 tests after administering a total of 16,070 tests.
U. of Missouri Faculty Council discusses COVID-19 dashboard, ongoing discrimination on campus
The University of Missouri's COVID-19 dashboard and a proposed statement about the fifth anniversary of the 2015 protests topped the issues presented at Thursday's MU Faculty Council meeting. The council discussed a resolution on making the MU COVID-19 dashboard more transparent by adding a few more data points, including the number of students living in Residential Life facilities who tested positive and the number of tests administered each day at each testing site. Biological sciences professor Anand Chandrasekhar said that increased transparency would allow the campus community to be more informed of the situation around them. He also pointed out that the current dashboard only lists data from the previous three days. "It would be helpful if the COVID dashboard could provide some information on the weekly and cumulative positive rates among the tests that are performed within University testing entities," Chandrasekhar said. "We really have no information on how many tests are being conducted on campus." Among the other topics discussed was a drafted letter, "We Remember," acknowledging the racism, sexism and inequities that prompted the protests of 2015.
New CDC guidance gives colleges more information on COVID-19 testing, but public health experts still want more details
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 testing guidance for colleges Wednesday. The new guidance includes fresh detailed information on how to prioritize testing for students, faculty members and staff members in the event of an outbreak. But it disappointed some experts who think the CDC's guidance on testing asymptomatic individuals for disease monitoring and surveillance purposes falls short of what's needed. While a previous version of the guidance recommended against testing all students, faculty and staff upon their return to campus -- so-called entry testing -- the updated version states that "a strategy of entry screening combined with regular serial testing might prevent or reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission." The guidance stops short, however, of recommending entry testing combined with regular serial testing as a strategy, recommending instead that colleges consult with local public health officials to determine optimal testing strategies in light of their individual contexts.
With students -- and covid-19 -- on campuses, college towns look on warily
As the novel coronavirus surged in Georgia this summer, aggressive efforts by the city of Athens to curb transmission -- with the state's first local shelter-in-place order and its second mask mandate -- looked to be paying off. Case numbers were among the lowest in the state, and hopes were rising that schoolchildren in one of Georgia's poorest counties might return to their classrooms this fall. Then in August, the biggest school in town reopened -- the University of Georgia. Coronavirus cases exploded among the 39,000 students, temporarily turning Athens-Clarke County into one of the nation's coronavirus hot spots and, in the view of many residents and local leaders, recklessly endangering the community. Campus outbreaks have fueled tensions in college towns and cities across the country, from San Diego to Morgantown, W.Va., even though there is little evidence so far of spillover into local populations. In many ways, these dynamics reflect enduring town-and-gown friction, characterized in recent decades by clashes over student behavior and land use by universities. But never before have the conflicts played out amid a global pandemic that is forcing colleges and local governments to balance life-or-death matters of community health against the financial solvency of higher-education institutions that may be their towns' biggest economic engines.
Should contact tracers notify in-person classmates?
Contact tracing has been a hallmark of college reopening plans, an essential part of any successful attempt. But on some campuses, faculty, staff and students have raised concerns that contact tracing at their universities isn't going far enough. Specifically, in many cases students and instructors attending in-person class together are not considered "close contacts" for contact tracing purposes. That means a student may sit next to a classmate for three hours per week, but they will not be alerted if that person tests positive for COVID-19. "Let's say you're teaching a class or you're in a class and someone in your class tests positive in person. You'd imagine contact tracing should talk to everyone in that class, right?" said Alex Wolf-Root, president of United Campus Workers Colorado and an instructor at University of Colorado at Boulder. "They don't. And the reason they don't, we're being told, is, the classrooms are set up where if you're following the rules, there can't be spread." Wolf-Root is skeptical. Students and faculty at other universities, including Boston College, Boston University, the University of Kentucky and Vanderbilt University have also raised concerns about who counts as a close contact at their universities.
U. of Iowa President Will Step Down Early After Controversial Tenure
Bruce Harreld, hailed as a corporate turnaround specialist, started his term as president of the University of Iowa five years ago with bold promises to help move the institution into a new era of innovation and an improved reputation. He announced his resignation Thursday as the university deals with the deep state budget cuts and revenue losses due to the pandemic, facing protests over his decision to open the campus and cuts to the athletics department, with several top administrative positions held by interim appointments, and never having fully overcome the shadow of a controversial search process. Harreld, who declined to be interviewed, is not leaving immediately, but will stay on until the state's Board of Regents can find a replacement. The news comes just a year after the regents had extended his term until 2023. While Harreld had accepted that extension, he said in a written announcement that it was time to move on. In announcing his retirement, Harreld joins several other high-profile presidents -- including those of Indiana University, Florida State University, and the University of Chicago -- in setting the stage for new leadership as it becomes clear that the pandemic and its effects will define the next several years in higher education. But he did not cite the historic challenge of Covid-19 as the reason for stepping down, even as the institutional stresses on the university have mounted.
FDA says U. of llinois' COVID-19 saliva test never had emergency use authorization touted by governor, university
With great fanfare, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced over the summer that a new saliva-based COVID-19 test developed by the University of Illinois had been granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calling this "some of the best news" since the pandemic began. The FDA, however, says the university's test has never operated under an emergency use authorization, as the governor and university leadership have repeatedly claimed. "The University of Illinois is not authorized under an umbrella emergency use authorization, and they have not had an emergency use authorization," an FDA spokesman said. The university can continue to administer its saliva-based test -- which has already been used to test tens of thousands on campus and in the university community -- but had to change the language it uses regarding FDA regulation. The university blamed the situation on confusion over FDA protocols. The university said it believed the saliva-based test had earned emergency use authorization through a study comparing it with a separate FDA-authorized test developed by Yale University researchers.
School Safety: A Viral Analysis
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in the Shackouls Honors College at Mississippi State University, writes: School safety in 2020 conjures dramatically different images than what one imagined from a security standpoint for the last twenty years. In deference to the COVID-19 pandemic, school safety now must also incorporate individual health and wellness from this latest viral pathogen. However, much like no two students are exactly alike in their abilities or interests or motivations, no two school systems are exactly alike in how to best reopen their institutions to ensure the maximum of safety for the students and adults within their confines. Much of this variance has to do with the positioning of the districts, whether they are within hotspots or exist in relatively minimally impacted areas of the United States. There are also considerations regarding the institutions' poverty and reliance upon bussing to transport major portions of the student body to and from school each day of attendance. These are just a few of the complex variables that school administrators face in attempting to organize and implement the best fit return to school for their students.

No. 16 Mississippi State seeks 4th straight win vs Arkansas
K.J. Costello's record-setting debut with No. 16 Mississippi State will be a tough act to follow. Arkansas counterpart Feleipe Franks is looking for an improved performance and a win. The quarterback transfers' prospects Saturday night may ride on their teams' ability to complement them in other phases during when they meet in Starkville, Mississippi. The Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) look to build on their remarkable start under first-year coach Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense. The pass-oriented scheme thrived early and often as Costello passed for 623 yards to upset then-No. 6 and defending national champion LSU 44-34 on the road last weekend. "The biggest thing is just do the same things over and over, but do them better," Leach said this week. "I feel like we have a long way to go." Costello threw five touchdown passes but also two interceptions, providing motivation to progress and keep the high-octane system humming.
What to expect with COVID-19 precautions at Mississippi State football's home opener
The cowbells won't be as loud at Davis Wade Stadium this year. When Mike Leach leads the Bulldogs onto Scott Field on Saturday for the first time ever as Mississippi State's head coach, there will be far fewer cowbell-carrying fans in the stadium seats. There will only be roughly 15,334 of them, at the most. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected how sports fans are able to support their teams. It will be no different at Mississippi State when the Bulldogs try to beat Arkansas for the fourth-straight season. Here are some of the game day guidelines Mississippi State has set to comply with government-mandated restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Game day is going to look a lot different before fans even enter Davis Wade Stadium. Tailgating is not permitted in The Junction or anywhere else on campus. Subsequently, the pregame tradition of giving players hugs and high-fives as they step down from the bus and walk toward the stadium, commonly known as the Dawg Walk, has been canceled this season.
California cool: Inside the process that brought about K.J. Costello's final act at Mississippi State
K.J. Costello never dreamed of concluding his college career in a tiny corner of northeast Mississippi. He's a California kid tried and true. Costello's hair is poetically bleached blonde, though not quite long enough to emit cliched comparisons to famed Golden State signal caller Ronnie "Sunshine" Bass. As a kid, he spent much of his childhood on the golf course at the Coto de Caza Golf and Racquet Club, even winning a junior tournament over a future University of Florida golfer. His demeanor too mimics the calm, cool and collected Californian in him. He's poignant in his wording, thoughtful in his breakdowns of questions from reporters and mature in the way he carries himself for a 23-year-old kid from north of Los Angeles and west of Bakersfield. But after a four-year career at Stanford, in the ever-buzzing town of Palo Alto where the next Thiels and Musks wander the collegiate grounds, Costello finds himself in the Deep South. Trading his Cardinal red for maroon, he now takes over at quarterback for a football-crazed program in Mississippi State that after a win over then-No. 6 and defending national champion LSU might be just good enough to drop a bomb on the seersucker-clad, bow tie-wearing Southeastern Conference fraternity. "I think from Day 1, the effort and attitude of this team is something that's inspired me and I've respected, as well," Costello said at his first press availability Sept. 15. "I've definitely seen coming to the SEC, you know, the slogan they always say, 'It means more.' I've seen it just in the day-to-day practice."
Hogs must contend with Bulldogs' bite on offense
Mike Leach and his celebrated Air Raid offense at Mississippi State were the talk of the college football world after last weekend's 44-34 upset of defending national champion and No. 6 LSU. Transfer quarterback K.J. Costello passed for an SEC-record 623 yards in leading the Bulldogs to the Football Writers Association of America's team of the week honors. Yet, if Leach and his offensive staff watched clips of Mississippi State's 54-24 win at the University of Arkansas last season, they might consider hitting the ground running with star tailback Kylin Hill against the Razorbacks on Saturday. Hill chewed the Razorbacks up for a career-high 234 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Bulldogs won for the seventh time in their past eight games against Arkansas. Hill earned SEC offensive player of the week honors for that effort, which included 11.1 yards per carry. The Bulldogs (1-0) are 17-point favorites and would seemingly have their choice of weapons to unsheathe against the Razorbacks (0-1). "Man did they look good on film," Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman said. "They had an outstanding game against LSU. They have a great running back, great quarterback, great wideouts." Mounting a pass rush vs. Costello is paramount, Pittman said.
Catching up with the Arkansas Razorbacks
Bob Holt has covered Arkansas and the Southeastern Conference for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette for many years. He took some time to speak with The Dispatch ahead of Mississippi State's home opener against Arkansas on Saturday. In a conversation with The Dispatch that also will appear on the newspaper's podcast, Bully Banter, Holt discussed the Razorbacks' performance against Georgia last week, what can be done to get running back Rakeem Boyd going and more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Soccer's Magnolia Cup Match Set for Friday in Oxford
The Mississippi State soccer team heads to Oxford, Mississippi on Friday, October 2 to face Ole Miss for the 18th installment of the Magnolia Cup and the 26th matchup in the series overall. Kick is set for 7 p.m. at the Ole Miss Soccer Complex and will be broadcast on ESPNU. The Magnolia Cup game originated in 2003 from an exhibition between the two and blossomed from there. In the Cup series, the trophy has stayed in the hands of the Rebels for the last six seasons despite two draws. The last time out, State landed in a double overtime draw, 1-1, on their home turf in Starkville. "These ladies know all about what the rivalry means and are excited for the game," said head coach James Armstrong. "It's important that our preparation and focus remains consistent and that we grow between each game. Last year's games against Ole Miss were typical rivalry games with lots of emotion and adversity. We know that we have to be prepared for anything, compete, and execute the game plan."
Mississippi State Cross Country Earns Sixth-Place Finish At FSU Invite
The Mississippi State cross country team set seven personal bests Friday en route to a sixth-place finish at the FSU Invite held at Apalachee Regional Park. For the second time this season and seventh in her career, Sylvia Russell was State's top finisher. Russell jumped to fourth in MSU's record book and crossed the finish line ninth with a personal-best time of 17:13.6. After Russell's finish, Audrey Honiotes (25th), Silvia De La Pena Garibay (41st), Ashley Melcherts (46th) and Breja Hooks (47th) rounded out the top five for MSU. All five scorers for the Bulldogs set career bests in the 5K, including Melcherts who shaved 1:03.7 off her previous mark. Mary Beth Woodward (18:42.6) and Caroline Mattox (19:49.5) also set career bests on Friday. Next, the Bulldogs will turn their attention to the UAB Blazer Classic, held Friday, Oct. 16 in Hoover, Alabama.
Men's Tennis Set To Usher In 2020-21 Campaign In Baton Rouge
With the 2020 spring season being cut short, the Mississippi State men's tennis team has been eager to get back to action and the Bulldogs will do just that this weekend by kicking off fall competition in Baton Rouge, La. Seven Bulldogs will represent the Maroon and White to open the 2020 fall campaign at the LSU Invitational. Six returning faces will take the court for State, with one new Bulldog ready to make his first collegiate appearance. "We want to thank the SEC for all of their hard work to allow competition for Men's and Women's tennis this fall," head coach Matt Roberts said. "Our team has gained a perspective that makes us feel very fortunate to be able to compete and develop, which as a coach is something special within our team. A big thanks to LSU for hosting the first of 3 SEC events. This week is a great opportunity to improve with competition vs. Arkansas, LSU, and Texas A&M. With 9 of our 10 players here this fall, we are excited to grow and build with each week and prepare for the spring season." The tournament, which runs from Oct. 2-4 at the LSU Tennis Complex, will also feature players from SEC foes Arkansas, Texas A&M and host LSU.
Extra Table kicks off Tackle Hunger Giving Challenge to feed Mississippians
With the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Extra Table -- a Hattiesburg nonprofit organization that works with a variety of food distributors and brokers to provide nutritious meals to food pantries around Mississippi -- has scrapped its calendar of events for 2020 and replaced them with the Tackle Hunger Giving Challenge, a football-related fundraising competition designed to ensure Mississippians have food throughout the fall and into 2021. The launch of the virtual fundraiser, which will feature various initiatives during the next two months, was announced Oct. 1 during a news conference at the University of Southern Mississippi. There's also Helmets for Hunger, in which eight famous Mississippi artists will decorate helmets for an upcoming silent auction, and a Text to Give Campaign that will allow participants to donate on the Tackle Hunger website. Every dollar donated will count toward the participant's favorite college football team in Mississippi. Fifteen college athletic programs across the state -- including Southern Miss, Mississippi State University and Ole Miss -- will challenge fans, staff, faculty, alumni and students to raise money during the Tackle Hunger Giving Challenge.
'Coach Prime' draws big JSU football ticket sales nearly 5 months from kickoff
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: When Jackson State snagged Deion Sanders as its football coach, the theory was: If we hire him, the fans will come. Thursday morning provided overwhelming evidence JSU officials were correct. When ticket sales opened for the unusual 2021 spring football season at 8 a.m., the line of fans numbered in the hundreds and wrapped around the parking lot at the south end of Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. Many in line were multiple ticket buyers. ... The hiring of Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer was announced Sept. 21 and has ignited an unprecedented buying spree for JSU season tickets. Yes, Jackson State often has played before home crowds of 50,000 or more, particularly during the W.C. Gorden coaching era in the 1970s and '80s when the Tigers were perennial SWAC champions. But those were mostly walk-up crowds. There have never been lines, months ahead of time, to buy season tickets. Not five months before the season. Never. "This is why we made this move," Thomas Hudson, interim JSU president, said, taking a break from greeting the ticket buyers. "People have been here since 6 a.m. I can't say I expected this, but we knew there was a lot of excitement. Today has been amazing."
Jackson State unveils facility upgrade plan
Thursday Jackson State unveiled plans for phase one of their facility upgrades. The JSU football practice facility will get a new turf field. There will be a new outdoor track with a covered roof for the football and track and field teams. The men's and women's basketball teams will get renovated locker rooms that include player lounges. The exterior of the Lee E. Williams Center will also be upgraded for a modern look. Facilities are the big divide between HBCU's, FBS programs and the Power 5 so JSU is making the effort to close that gap. Jackson State plans to hold a press conference next Thursday to explain the upgrade plans in detail and future facility plans.
U. of Missouri plans virtual events for Homecoming
Homecoming on Oct. 17 will be a mix of live and virtual events this year for the University of Missouri. There won't be a parade, but the organizers at the MU Alumni Association are planning to decorate downtown businesses along the traditional parade route as well as the columns on the Francis Quadrangle. Instead of a parade, organizers are asking university supporters to participate in a Parade 5K run, walk and wheel event in their communities. The traditional parade route that includes Ninth Street and Broadway is five kilometers, a news release noted. The university decided soon after the semester opened that it would not hold a parade, or host a Family Weekend, two events that bring large numbers of people together in dense crowds. Seating in Memorial Stadium is limited to 25 percent of capacity and the university has banned tailgating before games. "We will host a few of our well-known traditions and add new virtual events that we hope can become future traditions for our Tigers who cannot make it to campus every year," said Robin Wenneker, president of the Mizzou Alumni Association and a member of the UM Board of Curators. The Tigers football team will play Southeastern Conference rival Vanderbilt at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in this year's Homecoming game.
COVID-19 changes Texas A&M football's travel, study plans, starting with Saturday's game against Alabama
When Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher arrived in Aggieland two seasons ago, he made a major change to the in-season travel itinerary -- traveling to road football games on Thursday evening instead of Friday. While the added time gave players an extended period to adjust after a plane flight, the primary purpose was to get ahead in rest and in the classroom. As COVID-19 has changed many aspects of the fall football season, with players and coaches operating in a semi-bubble, travel plans have been adjusted, including time spent studying. Before the pandemic-related changes this season, Friday mornings on the road began at 9 a.m. in a mandatory study hall. Academic advisors and tutors traveled with the team to give one-on-one instruction to student-athletes in an even more contained environment than on campus. Football-related activities, including walk-throughs and meetings did not begin until approximately 1:30 p.m. Assistant athletic director for academic services Dan Childs said, in his 12 years in Aggieland, Fisher is the first coach that has taken academic services on the road with the team. Due to COVID-19 testing protocols, A&M will depart from Aggieland on Friday this season, starting with the trip for Saturday's 2:30 p.m. bout at Alabama.

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