Wednesday, October 21, 2020   
STEM activities at public universitiesĀ build future workforce
Technological advancements, the coronavirus pandemic and the changing ways we live, work, learn, and shop have highlighted the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. STEM activities at Mississippi Public Universities help train the future workforce, highlight advancements in these fields and conduct research that improves the lives of all Mississippians. Mississippi State University has a decades-long legacy of solving real-world problems through technology and ingenuity. Housing the 4th fastest academic supercomputing system in the U.S., MSU's students have an edge in research and hands-on experience. This "Orion" supercomputing expertise benefits not only the state of Mississippi, but the nation and world by enabling innovation-driven advances in such high-tech STEM fields as autonomous vehicles, cybersecurity, biological engineering and geosciences. In addition to NASA and NOAA, MSU's high performance computing capabilities have led to critical partnerships with the U.S. departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy and Agriculture, with the latter housing its "Atlas" supercomputer at MSU for carrying out the most sophisticated food security and crop production research possible.
MSU police searching for thieves who stole scooter from disabled veteran
Mississippi State University Police in Starkville are searching for the bandits who took a scooter from a disabled veteran. The group of people suspected in the crime were caught on camera. One of them was seen riding the red Hoveround Mobility Scooter into the parking lot at the Davis Wade Stadium during the MSU vs. Texas A&M game this weekend. If you have any information call MSU police at 662-325-2121.
Longview Road project likely to begin before the end of the year
The first stages of the long-awaited paving of Longview Road will most likely start in the next few months, after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the movement of utility wires along the roadway. Residents along the gravel road southwest of Starkville have been waiting decades for the road to be paved, and the board of supervisors awarded the project to Columbus-based Phillips Contracting in June 2019 for $2.2 million. The paving has not yet started, and Phillips Vice President Blake Hill told supervisors Monday he wanted to make it clear that the company is not avoiding the project. Construction crews have cut down trees along the length of the road in preparation for paving, but Phillips has been waiting for utility companies to finish moving wires, Hill said. "4-County (Electric Power Association) was supposed to have the power (lines) moved by March 1 and that was completed in July, and AT&T was supposed to be working simultaneously with them and they completed theirs in mid-September," Hill said. "What that has forced us to do is a lot of dirt work, and a lot of construction work is not suitable to do in the winter."
Ribbon cutting held for Meridian Symphony Association's new location
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the Meridian Symphony Association Tuesday morning. The event was put on by the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation to welcome the Meridian Symphony Association to its new downtown location. "Meridian Symphony is thrilled to be downtown where we can connect with our community and be right next door to our concert hall, the MSU Riley Center, wonderful partners of our," said Carra Purvis, executive director for the Meridian Symphony Association. "We can really help our community restart, restore, and recover." The new location is 2120 5th Street. Purvis says that having a symphony in Meridian means a lot to the community. "I believe it really helps our community have a better quality of life," Purvis said. "It infuses into our community a wonderful sense of the arts, which really makes this better for everyone."
Mississippi expands curbside voting, sets absentee 'cure'
Mississippi is expanding access to curbside voting for people with symptoms of COVID-19 and setting a new process to let voters correct, or "cure," minor discrepancies with signatures on absentee ballots. The changes are being made after voting-rights groups sued the state in federal court. U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan signed an order Tuesday that ends the lawsuit. The plaintiffs obtained some of the changes they sought, but not all. A new rule issued by Secretary of State Michael Watson says curbside or open-air voting must be made available to people showing signs of COVID-19, including coughing, vomiting, headaches, fever, sore throat, congestion, or loss of taste or smell. Also, election officials must notify a voter about any problem with his or her signature on an absentee ballot, and the voter must be given a chance to correct it, according to groups that sued the state. Officials must offer the voter an "absentee cure form" by mail, email or fax within one business day. The voter has 10 calendar days after the election to correct the issue so the ballot can be counted.
New rule ensures election officials will inform Mississippians of problems with mail-in ballots
Mississippians who vote by mail will be notified of problems with their ballots and given an opportunity to correct them under a new rule adopted by Secretary of State Michael Watson after a federal lawsuit was filed against him. The federal lawsuit, which was filed in August and sought to expand early voting opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic, was dismissed Tuesday by U.S. Judge Daniel Jordan III. But before the lawsuit was dismissed, Watson, who oversees state elections and was a defendant in the suit, adopted the rule. Voters must receive correspondence from election officials about problems with the signature verification on the absentee ballot, and the voter will have 10 days to correct it. The voter should be provided an "absentee cure form" to correct the problem. In addition to the absentee rule, election officials must provide curbside voting opportunities for people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Chris Wells named permanent Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality head
On Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves announced Chris Wells will serve as the permanent Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Wells served as the Chief of Staff at MDEQ for six years, and the Senior Attorney for the department prior to that. He has served as Interim Executive Director since the Governor's inauguration. Wells is a graduate of Mississippi State University and the Mississippi College School of Law. "Chris is a dedicated public servant who has spent the bulk of his career working for the people of Mississippi. He knows what it means to put their priorities first, and he has been a steady hand in this vital role since I took office. I have the utmost confidence in him, and I know that he will continue to serve the people well," said Governor Tate Reeves.
Trump camp: Stop using his name in medical marijuana effort
President Donald Trump's campaign is telling a Mississippi group to stop saying that Trump supports a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. Mississippians for Compassionate Care is a group promoting Initiative 65. It paid for a letter signed by several prominent Republicans, and the outside of the envelope said: "Join President Trump and 3 out of 4 Mississippi Republicans who support medical marijuana." The letter said: "President Trump Supports Medical Marijuana ... and allowing states to decide on that issue." Michael Glassner, chief operating officer of the Trump campaign, sent a "cease and desist" letter to the group Oct. 12, and opponents of Initiative 65 released Glassner's letter Tuesday. Jamie Grantham, communications director for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, said in a statement Tuesday that the group had accurately portrayed Trump's position on medical marijuana. She said that "politicians and bureaucrats" opposing Initiative 65 "clearly orchestrated this letter from the Trump campaign."
Trump campaign tells Mississippi marijuana advocates to 'cease-and-desist' after Initiative 65 mailer
President Trump's re-election campaign has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a group pushing to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi, saying its mailers falsely claim Trump supports a ballot initiative in the Magnolia State. "The President's campaign has learned that your organization, Mississippians for Compassionate Care, has been circulating misleading communications using the President's name, image, or likeness in support of Mississippi Initiative Measure No. 65 and your group's efforts to legalize medical marijuana in your state," Trump campaign Director Michael J. Glassner wrote to Jamie Grantham, spokeswoman for Mississippians for Compassionate Care. "President Trump has never expressed support for Initiative 65, and his campaign demands that you immediately cease and desist all activities using the President's name, image or likeness ..." One major issue being debated in Mississippi is putting medical marijuana in the state Constitution, and the wording of the initiative that would not allow the state Legislature to set regulations or tax its sale.
Five more states voting this fall on legalizing marijuana
Marijuana legalization advocates, afraid that efforts to win ballot initiatives would go up in smoke given the challenges of a pandemic, are fired up about chances in five states this fall. The difficulty of safely getting signatures in person helped doom marijuana legalization efforts in some states, like Idaho and Missouri. But voters will decide next month whether to legalize recreational marijuana in four states, only one of which is reliably Democratic: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota. Mississippi will also consider a pair of ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. If successful, as is likely in all the states this year except possibly Mississippi, the new legalization efforts could altogether bring in hundreds of millions in tax revenue, which could help blunt the impact of states' plummeting revenue due to the economic collapse. In Mississippi, after a medical marijuana initiative qualified for the ballot, the Republican legislature added a competing initiative restricted to terminally ill patients. In order to be successful, the citizen-led initiative must garner 40 percent of the vote, according to the state.
Bill Walker must pay or go to jail. Scott Walker's spending 'out of line,' judge says
Former Department of Marine Resources director Bill Walker will spend 30 days in jail unless he pays $16,500 in restitution by Jan. 1, Judge Keith Starrett ruled Tuesday in federal court, adding that the state should investigate Walker's son, Scott, for exploiting vulnerable adults, namely his parents. Starrett said, after examining the financial records of Bill Walker and his wife, that Scott Walker has spent thousands of dollars of his parents' money and set up his family for a nice payday when his parents die. Both Bill and Scott Walker were convicted in 2014 of defrauding the government and served prison time. Both were ordered to pay restitution. Bill Walker was already hauled back to court two years ago for failing to make his monthly payments of $5,000. Starrett sent him to jail for 11 days, then released Walker after he promised to cut his expenses and pay. "You steal half a million from the taxpayers, I'm not really sad to see you suffer a little pain and the pain is reasonable lifestyle adjustments," Starrett told Walker. "Come on, people."
McConnell warns White House against making stimulus deal as Pelosi and Mnuchin inch closer
Prospects for an economic relief package in the next two weeks dimmed markedly on Tuesday after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) revealed that he has warned the White House not to strike an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the Nov. 3 election. In remarks at a closed-door Senate GOP lunch, McConnell told his colleagues that Pelosi (D-Calif.) is not negotiating in good faith with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and that any deal they reach could disrupt the Senate's plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week. Republicans have voiced concerns that a stimulus deal could splinter the party and exacerbate divisions at a time when they are trying to rally behind the Supreme Court nominee. The comments were confirmed by three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss them. McConnell's attempted intervention came as Pelosi and Mnuchin continued negotiating over the roughly $2 trillion economic relief package.
Coast priest called Joe Biden 'an embarrassment to Catholicism.' Did he break IRS rules?
On Sunday, a Bay St. Louis priest took the pulpit at Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church to deliver a homily entitled "Joe Biden is an embarrassment to Catholicism." The Rev. Michael O'Connor argued that Biden "masquerades as Catholic" and that his stances on abortion and gay marriage are incompatible with the teachings of the church. The homily was posted to the church's YouTube page. By taking such an explicit stance on one of the two major-party candidates running for president, the priest toed a legal line: the Internal Revenue Service prohibits churches, as tax-exempt organizations, from endorsing or opposing candidates for office. The agency's rules say that if churches intervene in political campaigns, they risk losing tax-exempt status. A religious leader's political activities are attributed to their organization if they are undertaken during worship services, as O'Connor's remarks were. In an interview with the Sun Herald, O'Connor said he knew his remarks might be controversial, but he wasn't concerned. He invoked the example of Jesus Christ, who was "crucified for speaking the truth." Though O'Connor says he was speaking only about Catholic moral principles, coming just two weeks before Election Day, the homily sounded distinctly political to many who commented on Facebook.
President Trump's broadsides against science put GOP governors in a bind
Republican governors are pleading for basic public health precautions as their states face a new wave of coronavirus cases, even as President Donald Trump downplays the pandemic's severity and tells people to move on with their lives. The clashing messages come as large swaths of the country experience uncontrolled spread that state officials fear could swamp their already strapped health systems. They're putting out calls for volunteers to help staff hospitals, placing new limits on public gatherings and urging, or in some cases mandating, the wearing of masks. Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves on Monday said that hospitals in his state must be able to reserve at least 10 percent of their beds for coronavirus patients or cancel elective procedures. He also issued a mask mandate and limited indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 people in nine counties. "We're trying to prevent so many individuals from getting the virus at once that our health care system cannot respond," Reeves said. The push by Republican governors whose states are in danger of being overrun by a new wave of infections and hospitalizations reflects the disconnect between politicians who are fighting the virus' real effects on the ground and Trump's reelection campaign, which is trying to project optimism that the country is turning the corner on infections, even though the statistics don't back him up.
After being her own boss, Kamala Harris embraces new role as Joe Biden's No. 2
Throughout her career -- as San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and a U.S. senator -- Kamala Harris managed to call most of her own shots. Now, as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, her role is different: Talk up Joe Biden, attack President Trump, raise gobs of money and do nothing to upstage the top of the ticket. It is no small adjustment. But she has, by many accounts, acquitted herself well, easing the concern of some in the Biden camp who worried about Harris' ambitions and ability to subsume her personal interest and apply her skills wholly in the service of someone else. She did, after all, make her own unsuccessful run for the White House. "She came in willing to assume whatever role necessary," said Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond of Louisiana, an early Biden supporter and co-chair of his campaign, who notes that he was not among the Harris skeptics. "She is delivering everything from fundraising to voter contacts to engagement with leaders." While Harris has dutifully lowered her profile -- she declined to be interviewed for this article -- it is Republicans who keep turning attention her way. Last week, it was Georgia Sen. David Perdue, warming up a Trump rally in Macon, who conspicuously mispronounced her first name, in what has become a familiar Republican trope. (Perdue and Harris have served together for more than three years, including on the Senate Budget Committee.)
Judge Carlton Reeves speaks on perspective and justice at UM Honors College Convocation
The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College hosted U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves to discuss civil liberties and the U.S. justice system on Tuesday as a part of the second installment in the Honors Convocation series. Reeves said civic duties such as voting and serving on a jury are critical to the justice system, especially in the current political climate. He also encouraged students to vote if they are able and to use their voices no matter their backgrounds. "No matter who you are, your vote is an equalizer," Reeves said. When emphasizing the importance of voting, Reeves quoted Martin Luther King's "Show Us The Ballot" speech and autobiography. Reeves referenced King's "Mississippi challenge," a challenge that pushes for Mississippi to have a more-representative government. Reeves claims this is why it is so important to exercise one's right to vote.
Millsaps College keeping coronavirus cases low on campus during fall semester
Millsaps College was one of the first schools from all levels in Mississippi to announce its fall semester plans in May. "Our faculty did a dual classroom," Marketing Vice President Annie Mitchell explained. "They planned for both online instruction and in classroom instruction." So far, Millsaps leaders said they have not dropped the ball, and the college kept its coronavirus cases to a bare minimum. "We have not had any active cases since we came back of faculty or staff," Mitchell explained. "Cumulatively since we came back to campus this fall we've had about 41 cases." With or without a pandemic, leaders said the college aims to keep classes small. Mitchell said that that's been a huge factor in helping them contain the virus, along with face masks. "We have a really hardworking and dedicated group of faculty and staff here that understand the importance of education for our students," Mitchell said. "We have a really smart group of students here that are doing everything they can." In-person education wraps up at Thanksgiving Break. After that, students will learn virtually to prevent any out-of-staters from bringing the virus with them back to school.
Auburn University reports 11 new COVID-19 cases
Auburn University reported a total of 11 new COVID-19 cases for the week ending Oct. 18. The University's COVID-19 Resource Center updated its weekly data on Thursday afternoon, which has continued to decrease. This is the lowest number of cases reported since the beginning of the fall semester and a continuous decline since the week ending Sept. 6. All 11 cases were recorded on Auburn's main campus. A total of 419 sentinel tests were conducted during the week ending Oct. 18 as part of the GuideSafe Sentinel Testing Program, with 0.48% of these tests returning a positive COVID-19 result. This was a greater number of tests conducted than in the previous week. In a weekly update video released by the University, Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, said he believes the end of in-person fall classes on Nov. 24 is "very doable [and] very reachable" with the pattern of case numbers seen this semester.
An LSU hazing investigation, one student hospitalized, another dead: How the 3 are connected
After an evening of late-night revelry, the stories of two LSU underclassmen took a tragic turn on Monday. One was hospitalized with alcohol intoxication early that morning. His fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, has since been suspended from chapter activities amid a criminal hazing investigation. The other student took her own life later that day. Her family and friends are now searching for answers. As colleges have struggled to bring students back to campus this fall amid the pandemic, the chain of events at LSU raises additional concerns about substance abuse and mental health -- two issues that already pose a challenge for many students, even under normal circumstances. It has also thrust LSU into familiar territory after years of fraternities being investigated, kicked off campus and, in some cases, criminally implicated. East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Tuesday that his office is awaiting the results of an investigation by LSU Police into a potential hazing incident involving the hospitalized member of Phi Kappa Psi. "This case looks unbelievably similar to the Gruver case. There are a lot of parallels, with one exception: Everyone who has been questioned so far is cooperating with the investigation," Moore said.
UF faculty, graduate assistant unions ask to halt in-person classes next spring
Faculty and graduate assistant groups are asking the University of Florida to back down from its push to bring in-person classes to pre-pandemic levels next spring, and continue teaching courses online if feasible. "We're just not ready for it," said Paul Ortiz, history professor and president of UF's faculty union. "We have not turned the corner on COVID." Last month, UF administrators told college deans that by next semester, the institution intends to hold the same level of in-person sections as spring 2020. UF officials said at the time that each of the state's public universities were being "encouraged" by their state overseers, the Board of Governors, to increase face-to-face classes. Leaders from the state university's faculty union said Tuesday that no other institution in the state appears to be taking up the initiative quite like UF. UF officials referred to President Kent Fuchs' Oct. 9 announcement when asked for comment about faculty's safety concerns and the university's comparatively strong push for in-person classes. In his message, Fuchs said increasing in-person courses is the next step UF must take and students "deserve" such an opportunity, while the past several months have allowed health officials to understand how to teach safely in classrooms.
Why U. of South Carolina's student newspaper is taking a break during a never-ending news cycle
An unprecedented global pandemic continued to swirl around them, one of their classmates was just found dead in a quarry, midterm exams pressed down on them, and they had news to gather day after day. And classes to attend. And jobs to work. And sleep --- no, very little sleep. The staff of The Daily Gamecock, the University of South Carolina's flagship student journalism organization, was, in their own words, "not OK." And this week, they announced an unheard-of decision to take an intentional break from reporting the news, as the never-ending news cycle continues to rush forward, for the sake of the journalists' mental health. Their announcement in a widely read editorial published Monday drew both support and criticism, generating a widespread conversation about work and health under the pressures of 2020. "We are the ones that want to cover the news. We've made a commitment to that," said Erin Slowey, The Daily Gamecock's 22-year-old editor-in-chief, a senior studying business. "But ... we realized we were not OK, and the only solution we felt like we could offer our staff in an attempt to help them was to go dark." Reactions to the student journalists' decision have varied from empathy and support to stern criticism, particularly from current and former professional journalists.
Education Department issues report finding noncompliance with foreign gift reporting requirements
The Department of Education issued a report Tuesday accusing colleges of failing to comply with a law requiring biannual disclosure of all foreign gifts and contracts totaling $250,000 or more. "We found pervasive noncompliance by higher ed institutions and significant foreign entanglement with America's colleges and universities," Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said at an event marking the report's release. "Our initial investigations catalyzed disclosure of approximately $6.5 billion in previously unreported foreign funds." The report, which was published with redactions, states that fewer than 300 institutions have historically reported foreign gifts and contracts to the department as required under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Since 2019 the department has launched investigations into compliance with foreign gift and contract reporting at 12 universities: Case Western Reserve, Cornell, Fordham, Harvard, Georgetown, Rutgers, Stanford, Texas A&M and Yale Universities; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the Universities of Maryland and Texas. The report also raises concerns about the risk posed by colleges accepting gifts or entering into contracts with governments or nongovernmental entities, including businesses, in countries with adversarial relationships with the United States, including China, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Scholars talk about being Black on campus in 2020
As colleges and universities issued statement after statement this year affirming that Black lives matter, many Black faculty members remained unimpressed with mere words of support -- at once dubious and hopeful that this moment might lead to real, lasting change for themselves and their Black colleagues. "There has never been a golden age for Black faculty in the United States," said Douglas M. Haynes, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and professor of history and African American studies at the University of California, Irvine. "Too often people assume that there was after the Civil Rights Act, that the door was opened, that there was no more resistance. On the contrary, there has been and will likely continue to be resistance." Richard Reddick, associate dean for equity, community engagement and outreach in the University of Texas at Austin's College of Education, said, "I'm an optimist, but I am very skeptical about permanent change." That said, Reddick added, if an institution "fixes its mouth to state that they are committed to a diverse faculty, they'd better bring the resources, mentoring, releases, grant opportunities and senior-scholar partnering that will make these scholars viable for promotion and tenure." In interviews with Inside Higher Ed over the past several months, Black scholars, including some who study race, expressed dissatisfaction with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that Black people often are expected to lead -- without compensation, on top of their already disproportionate duties mentoring students of color -- and often without their recommendations being adopted.
Where Are Most International Students? Stranded Here, Needing Colleges' Help
Mindy Trieu sometimes feels the loneliness most acutely when she talks with her family back in Vietnam. Everyone is together, while she is "stuck in the U.S.," said the M.B.A. student at San Jose State University. Trieu's dream was to study in America, and after five years here, she is used to being on her own. Still, the isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty of when she will get to return home gnaw at her. She worries especially about her elderly grandparents and when -- or if -- she'll be able to see them. "I know my struggle is just emotional, and there are many people in a way worse situation," Trieu said. "But I feel really sad that I can't go back home." This fall, much of the focus on international students is on the ones Covid-19 has kept from American campuses. International undergraduate enrollments have fallen by nearly 14 percent, according to the most-recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse, while at the graduate level, they are down 8 percent. No other demographic group has experienced such steep enrollment declines. But like Trieu, most international students who were enrolled when the pandemic began are still here. They never left, in fact. As many as nine in 10 international students remained in the United States, a survey this spring by the Institute of International Education found.
Colleges sue over new rules on eligibility, wages for H-1B visa holders
Colleges joined with major business and industry groups in filing a lawsuit challenging new Trump administration rules that would narrow the eligibility requirements for H-1B skilled worker visas and increase the wages employers would have to pay visa holders. Colleges use H-1B visas to hire international professors and researchers, and the visas are a common route international graduates of U.S. universities use to stay in the U.S. and work after completing their degrees. Trump administration officials have framed the new rules as intended to "restore integrity" to the H-1B visa program and protect American workers. In announcing the rules two weeks ago, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, the senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, said he expected the changes to cut the number of petitions for H-1B visas by one-third. The lawsuit describes the economic consequences of the rules as "staggering." "Although its own data is mistaken in several important respects, DOL itself calculates that its Rule alone will result in at least $198.29 billion in costs imposed on employers over a 10-year period. This is not a wage increase designed to protect workers. It is the imposition of astronomically high wages -- increasing pre-Rule wages by 35 percent to 200 percent or more -- in order to destroy the H-1B program," the lawsuit alleges.
Clemson likely leads US colleges in COVID cases. Required testing, tracing slows spread.
At 8:30 a.m., Clemson freshman Douglas Harmon of Greenville donned his face mask and headed for Littlejohn Coliseum for a COVID-19 test. "I'm OK with it," Harmon said Monday of the mandatory testing. It was the first time he and fellow students -- some of whom, he said, balked at the requirement -- had to start reporting for weekly testing. Few university students nationwide face such a strict routine. "It's just how the world is going right now," he said. "They need the data to fix it." Based on recent trends, Harmon has a one-in-25 chance of testing positive for the coronavirus. Based on Clemson data dating back to June, there's a one-in-six chance he's already had it. Clemson officials know at least 4,379 students have been infected -- a tally that puts it at worst in the state and among the worst in the nation. But the response from Clemson-area residents, students and faculty has been mixed. Some express cautious optimism that the situation will improve, and already has. Others worry over the potential impact of so many sick students on the wider Clemson community. Clemson leaders, meanwhile, remain focused on keeping the campus open. A decision on whether students will return after Thanksgiving for in-person exams is still pending.
'It's Negligence': U. of Michigan Students Ordered to 'Stay in Place' After Covid-19 Cases Surge
Faced with a steep rise in Covid-19 cases, the local county health department has issued an emergency "stay in place" order for all undergraduates at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, effective immediately. The decision by the Washtenaw County Health Department -- which was supported by university officials -- comes after a series of dorm outbreaks that fueled a dramatic increase in cases of the virus on campus. The surge in infections on the campus contributed to a "critical" situation overall in Ann Arbor, according to local health officials, who noted that university students now represent more than 60 percent of local cases. Some of that Covid spread is a result of Michigan students partying irresponsibly. But university leaders have also been roundly criticized for failing to take enough precautions when reopening. The 14-day health-department order allows students to attend class, but they cannot socialize. The order will not affect the University of Michigan Wolverines' football schedule. This latest effort to control Covid at Michigan may or may not work. But in the meantime, frustrations on campus are growing.
Passions high, but state's presidential voting numbers have remained reliably 'red'
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: Like everything else in 2020, the election cycle seems to have been going on for WAY too long. In less than two weeks, the never-ending campaign will have ended. The bitterness, rancor, and division in the country may not end on Nov. 3, but hopefully, the election itself will be behind us. That, of course, assumes no recounts or other electoral funny business. But one gets the sense that the traditional "orderly transfer of power" after the election may be the source of some held breaths and whispered prayers. Vote for whomever you please. That decision is between you and your conscience. But here are some observations about the upcoming elections in the Magnolia State. In my lifetime, political passions have likely never been higher or more deeply divided than in this election. On both sides, there is genuine anger and mistrust.

Playing fast: What Nikki McCray-Penson wants from Mississippi State women's basketball
Time flies when you're working hard. Nikki McCray-Penson's first official practice as Mississippi State's women's basketball coach went by in a hurry. "I looked up and like practice was over," McCray-Penson said. That's representative of the way McCray-Penson wants the Bulldogs to play in games. She said she could tell some of the players had never gone through a practice as up-tempo as hers. They better get used to it because that's the way it's going to be. McCray-Penson said one of the first things she noticed is that her players are not in the shape she wants them to be in to execute her style of play. "We were nowhere where we needed to be," McCray-Penson said. "I would probably say everybody was in that situation." Once they get there, though, they could be fit to run the floor with anyone. McCray-Penson said 6-foot-5 junior center Jessika Carter gets up and down the court "like a deer." She said 6-foot-4 junior forward Sidney Cooks can also handle the ball up the floor. Gone are the days of forcing the ball to a guard and making her do all the heavy lifting.
Mississippi State football's Garrett Shrader enters NCAA transfer portal
The Garrett Shrader experiment at Mississippi State is over. The former quarterback turned wide receiver entered the NCAA transfer portal this week. Matt Zenitz of first reported the news. Sources confirmed Shrader's entrance into the portal with The Clarion Ledger. Shrader tweeted about his decision Tuesday afternoon. "I would like to thank my teammates, coaches and Mississippi State fan base that has supported me during my time at MSU," Shrader tweeted in the first of three tweets. "I have had the opportunity to develop friendships that will last a lifetime. Starkville is a special place. "This is not an easy decision, but I am a QB and it's the skill set that got me here and fortunately I have been blessed to play in the SEC. With this being said I have 3 years of eligibility and have entered the transfer portal. I wish nothing but the best for Mississippi State University and especially Mississippi State Football. My recruitment is 100% open. Please respect my decision."
Starkville High School pausing football activities due to positive COVID-19 tests
The Starkville High School football team is shutting down for two weeks. According to head coach Chris Jones, a handful of positive tests will force the Yellow Jackets (6-1) to forfeit their game against Warren Central scheduled for Oct. 30. WCBI first reported the news. Under current guidelines, three positive tests is considered an outbreak. In a letter Athletic Director Greg Owen sent to parents that The Dispatch obtained, the school confirmed that five members of the varsity football team received positive tests. All members of the team will quarantine for 14 days beginning immediately. Should things hold as they are, the Yellow Jackets will next take the field Nov. 6 against Clinton. Starkville is currently ranked No. 5 in the state among all six MHSAA classifications and No. 4 in 6A following a loss last week to Madison Central.
Louisiana football: Cajuns to honor D.J. Looney with name on jersey at UAB
The Ragin' Cajuns will honor late assistant coach D.J. Looney in a special way when they travel to play UAB on Friday night in Looney's hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Looney was an offensive line coach for the Cajuns. "Each one of our players this week will wear Coach Looney last's name on the back of their jersey," UL coach Billy Napier said Monday morning. "So our entire travel roster will have 'LOONEY' in their nameplate on the back of their jersey this week to honor Coach Looney." Napier said he expected "a big contingent" of Looney's family members to be at Legion Field when the Cajuns (3-1, 2-1 Sun Belt Conference) face the Blazers (4-1, 2-0 Conference USA) in Friday's nationally televised game (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network). Looney, 31, died on Aug. 1 of a heart attack that occurred during a mini-camp practice at Cajun Field a few days prior to the start of preseason camp. He was a Mississippi State offensive lineman from 2007-10 and a former Bulldogs tight ends coach who at the time of his passing was heading into third season on Napier's UL staff.
Hugh Freeze, building an impressive Liberty program, now faces his alma mater Southern Miss
Mississippi sports columnist Rick Cleveland writes: Nearly 14 months ago Hugh Freeze made his coaching debut at Liberty University, watching the game from a hospital bed in the Liberty press box. He was experiencing excruciating back pain that all but paralyzed him. Making matters all the worse, the Liberty Flames were pretty much doused 24-0 by Syracuse. That's right: Liberty scored as many points as you and me. Now then, fast-forward to his past Saturday. Freeze's Flames traveled to Syracuse to play the Atlantic Coast Conference Orange in a return match. Freeze's back has long since healed. Final score: Liberty 38, Syracuse 21. It was not that close. Liberty, missing its starting tailback and two starting wide receivers, rolled up 520 yards, 338 of that on the ground, in controlling the clock and the game. The victory moved upstart Liberty to a perfect 5-0 record. It was Liberty's first-ever victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference team. ... Next on Liberty's schedule: a home game with Southern Miss this Saturday, and there are more angles at work here than in an octagon.
Southern Miss football coach Scotty Walden tests positive for COVID-19
Southern Miss interim head football coach Scotty Walden tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday morning. The diagnosis came one day after he said the Golden Eagles had 20-plus players who would've missed last week's game against UTEP because of COVID-19 and contact tracing. "Earlier this morning, I tested positive for COVID-19," Walden said in a school release. "I am fine and have mild to no symptoms. I am quarantining back home until it is safe to rejoin the team. I want to thank Golden Eagle Nation for all of their support for our program during this difficult period." Walden will be retested Wednesday to confirm his status. Until then, he will oversee the squad's activities remotely. "Everybody's dealing with (COVID-19)," Walden said. "When one person gets it, it can spread like wildfire in terms of knocking players out."
Prime Time and Country Time: Deion Sanders goes on Brett Favre's radio show
On Tuesday morning, you could tell no time was lost between former teammates and longtime friends Deion Sanders and Brett Favre. Jackson State's newest football coach appeared on Favre's weekly radio show on SiriusXM to catch up and tell stories. Sanders' son, Shedeur, also made an appearance on the show to talk to "uncle" Favre. Favre and his co-host asked Deion if he was recruiting Shedeur, a senior quarterback at Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas. Before that, Favre also joked with his "nephew" that he should still come to Southern Miss, where Deion was in the background yelling "Recruit him, Favre!" That can't make Florida Atlantic happy as the three-star recruit committed to them in July. "You're a great kid and a heck of a player," Favre said, "and I was hoping he would come to Southern Miss." As for Coach Prime and Jackson State, Deion took a modest approach to his answer about recruiting his son. "I personally can't recruit him because I don't feel right, but my whole staff is," Sanders said. But in typical Prime Time fashion, he added his own flare to his humility: "I had Jackson State draws on his bed this morning!"
Three Tests, a Private Jet and a New Rule: How Nick Saban Made Kickoff
A private jet, the crimson "A" of the University of Alabama painted on its tail, lifted off from Tuscaloosa, Ala., around daybreak Saturday with extraordinary cargo: cellular debris collected from the nose of Nick Saban, the football coach. Three days earlier, Saban had announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Now, still in isolation hours before second-ranked Alabama was to play third-ranked Georgia, Saban knew the specimen aboard the plane was his diagnostic lifeline to the sideline. If a laboratory in Mobile, Ala., reported that the sample was negative for the virus, Saban, who had asserted that he had no symptoms and had repeatedly tested negative after his initial result, would be allowed to leave isolation a week early and coach in the prime-time game. And so it was. Hours after a final negative result -- and with no small help from a rule change that Southeastern Conference leaders approved six days before the positive test that shocked Alabama -- millions of people watched on television as Saban led the Crimson Tide to a 41-24 victory. The episode underscored two aspects of the response to the virus: Even the most rigorous tests --- in this case a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., widely considered the gold standard of infectious disease diagnostics --- can falter. And, more than seven months into the nation's coronavirus crisis, access to testing remains inconsistent, except among America's elite.
Vanderbilt athletic director Candice Storey Lee discusses COVID-19 testing, Derek Mason's future and facility upgrades
Student-athletes receive three COVID-19 tests per week, according to Candice Storey Lee.Vanderbilt athletics director Candice Storey Lee addressed the media on Tuesday following head football coach Derek Mason's weekly press conference. Lee, who had the interim label removed from her title in May, discussed a variety of topics including COVID-19 testing, Coach Mason's future and facility upgrades. Lee had not previously disclosed information on the COVID-19 testing process for student-athletes, but on Tuesday, she said that they receive three PCR tests per week on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. While the football program may not see substantial stadium changes in the near future, Vanderbilt will renovate the team's locker room as soon as it is able, continuing a project that was brought to a halt by COVID-19. "Because of COVID, we sort of pushed pause, as a university, on all of our capital projects," Lee said, explaining why the locker rooms were not renovated. "Now we're finalizing the design for that locker room. Right now, I think our projected timeline is, we would love to have it done before spring ball."

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