August 24, 2020
Contact: Stephanie Fleming, 573-882-8353, SFleming@missouri.edu
The University of Missouri today launched an online dashboard with statistics of COVID-19 cases among students, information on contact tracing and resources for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services is the official source for information about COVID-19 cases in Columbia, and figures on the MU dashboard are based on cases tested and confirmed at the MU Student Health Center and other testing locations in Boone County, as identified by the county health department and shared with the university.
“The university is constantly assessing the situation in relation to the number of cases, but also in our ability and capacity to address the number of cases we have. We are in regular communication with local and state public health officials as we consider the safest, most effective way to deliver education this semester,” said Mun Y. Choi, UM System president and MU chancellor. “We are fortunate to have a comprehensive health care system on our campus that not only provides us world-class expertise, but also a large capacity to address the health needs of the community during the on-going pandemic.”
There are currently 159 active student cases, or 0.5% of the total student body. Following CDC protocol, all 159 students are in isolation. None of the 159 students required hospitalization. Information about specific cases and any identifying information is kept confidential by the county; and the university is also prevented from sharing information about cases it becomes aware of due to federal privacy laws.
Physician Scott Henderson, medical director of the MU Student Health Center, said that positive cases are expected, considering the size of the university, but it can be managed effectively if the campus community follows safety and health rules.
“As cases are identified, we will be isolating those students from the general campus population,” Henderson said. “By following classroom guidelines that keep participants 6 feet apart and by requiring face coverings, the rate of transmission between students and instructors is expected to be very low.”
When a student tests positive, he or she will be contacted by a case investigator and asked to make a list of any close contacts they’ve had beginning 48 hours prior to experiencing symptoms. A close contact is defined as anyone within 6 feet of a person who tested positive for the virus for 15 or more minutes, or someone who has had physical contact with a COVID-positive person. By federal law, close contacts will not be told the name of the individual who possibly exposed them. The university is taking precautions to ensure the classroom environment is arranged so those sharing a classroom maintain 6-foot distances and wear face coverings. If these practices are followed and if a case is discovered in a class, the rest of the class will not necessarily be considered close contacts.
Several factors will be considered before escalating or deescalating MU’s response to COVID-19, including but not limited to:
- MU-associated and Boone County active cases.
- Availability of hospital care and isolation space.
- Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
Statistics on student COVID-19 cases will be updated each Wednesday by noon.
More than 130 administrators, faculty, staff and experts in public health have worked together for months to develop and implement the policies and procedures that would allow MU students to return to campus. The plan, Show Me Renewal, is available at renewal.missouri.edu.
A comprehensive education campaign about the policies outlined in the plan were covered in a required online training course for students, faculty and staff. Additionally, a comprehensive marketing campaign has focused on the importance of staying safe. Sidewalk clings and other signage throughout campus display what 6 feet looks like, as well as hygiene advice in bathrooms.