Missouri's biggest campuses report several COVID-19 cases

Associated Press
A sidewalk sign reminding University of Missouri students, faculty and staff to socially distance from each other greets pedestrians at the new Sinquefield Music Center building at University Avenue and Hitt Street.

O'FALLON — Missouri's biggest university campuses are both reporting large numbers of students with confirmed cases of the coronavirus as in-person classes resume for the fall semester.

The University of Missouri-Columbia's COVID-19 online dashboard on Tuesday cited 159 known active cases of the virus, and 168 total positive tests since the university began receiving data from Boone County on Wednesday. Students began arriving on campus in mid-August. Enrollment at the Columbia campus is 30,849.

Meanwhile, at Missouri State University in Springfield, the university reported 140 confirmed students cases of COVID-19 in the first full week of in-person classes. Enrollment at the Springfield campus is 19,733.

Outbreaks have been reported at colleges and universities across the U.S. since classes resumed. The University of Alabama on Monday reported 531 confirmed cases since last week at its Tuscaloosa campus. Notre Dame, Michigan State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among universities that have moved classes online.

The University of Missouri said in a news release that any student testing positive will be required to provide a list of close contacts. Classrooms are required to be set up for social distancing.

"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," Mun Y. Choi, University of Missouri System president and the chancellor for the Columbia campus, said. "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."

David Hall, director of university safety at Missouri State, told the Springfield News-Leader that the "unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic" made it difficult to predict how many students would be infected.

"We never really set a specific number of how many we thought we'd have," Hall said. "The reality of it is if your county positivity rate is 3% and you have 20,000 students coming on campus, you know you're going to be in the hundreds pretty quickly."

Missouri has reported 76,636 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, and 1,4440 deaths. The state cited 692 new cases Tuesday, and 14 additional deaths.

The head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force said the number of hospitalizations in the region has stayed steady for nearly a month, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch  reported.

"It looks like we'll be at this level for quite some time if everything stays the way it is right now — so if we don't take any other actions to prevent transmission, if we can't get more people to be wearing masks or not gathering in large crowds," Dr. Alex Garza said.