To our students, faculty and all MU and UM System staff,
We are at the start of week two of the fall semester and we want to share information about our classes, our campus and how we’re managing the virus. We visited classes every day last week and were pleased with what we saw. In classes and around campus, faculty and students are socially distanced and wearing face coverings. Many of the students we spoke with appreciated the opportunity to get away from their computer screens and engage in person.
As we have shared in previous emails, the health and safety of our university community is our first priority. We are meeting with infectious disease experts, public health officials and university leaders on a daily basis to track the spread of the virus and adapt quickly to address needs that arise.
When it comes to metrics, we are not looking at just one number. Together with a team of medical and public health experts, we use a comprehensive approach that monitors total number of positive cases, trends in positive cases, capacity to test, quarantine, isolate and treat.
Today, in addition to Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health data for MU students, we are providing new numbers of self-reported positive cases among staff and faculty, including UM System staff. Unlike data for students, the county health department does not provide specific numbers for faculty and staff. Here are the latest totals:
|•||Boone County health officials are reporting 415 MU students with active cases or 1.3% of the student body (there are 30,849 total students at MU), with 134 recovered.|
|•||4 faculty cumulative positive cases or 0.12% (there are 3,282 total faculty at MU), with 2 recovered.|
|•||18 staff cumulative cases or 0.24% (there are 7,363 total staff at MU), with 6 recovered. No UM System employees have self-reported positive cases.|
At this point, despite the recent rise in cases, our medical and public health experts are unanimous in their assessment that we can maintain a mix of in-person and remote learning that makes social distancing possible.
Also, our capacity to isolate and treat those who test positive or who are close contacts remains larger than the need. In addition to having sufficient space for isolation and quarantine, the hospital has the ability to quickly expand its care and treatment.
We are also taking a number of new actions to support those affected, and increasing our efforts to limit the spread of the virus:
Contact tracing and support: Over the weekend, we worked with public health officials to shorten the time for an initial call from contact tracers. We are also adding to our CARE team – Mizzou staff helping students who test positive or are a close contact. This team will ensure that all students (on or off campus) are quickly reached with resources, guidance, and assistance, in addition to the activities of the contact tracers. In the same way, our HR professionals will assist affected staff and faculty.
Limiting gatherings: We have worked closely with city and county leaders to limit gatherings (reduced from 100 to 20), institute curfews in bars, prohibit parties in fraternities/sororities, step up patrols by MUPD and increase staff members in Greektown and East Campus. We have limited university-sponsored events to 20 and are prohibiting nearly all events from outside groups on campus.
Student accountability: We have provided training and a large education campaign to encourage safe behaviors and we are pleased that most students have responded. We continue to enforce our health and safety policies and enact appropriate sanctions. To date, we have 270 students going through our conduct process for alleged violations of COVID policies and guidelines. Ten student organizations have been temporarily suspended while an investigation progresses. Students will not be punished for providing valuable information to contact tracers.
We understand the concerns about rising cases and questions about our decision-making process. We are tracking the situation closely and adjusting as the situation evolves.
Our plan follows a proven method for preventing the spread of disease: behaving in a way that assumes everyone is potentially infected. If all of us make this assumption and follow our protocols, the risk of the virus spreading to those who comply remains low.
Testing is a key tool in this fight, and we are very fortunate to have a medical care system as part of our campus that can return test results faster than many other areas of the state or the country. Our strategy tests those with symptoms at a time when tests are the most accurate.
Some have suggested that we should test everyone in hopes of changing behavior. Unfortunately, testing is imperfect and retrospective and does not stop what is spreading the virus – social interaction. Also, false negatives, which can be common in recently exposed individuals, instill a sense of safety and can encourage risky behavior. To help focus our testing efforts, we require all faculty, staff and students to monitor their temperature and symptoms daily whether on campus or working or learning remotely so that any change in health can be addressed immediately. Dr. John Middleton, chair of our faculty council and one of our medical experts on our testing and tracing committee, explains this strategy in this short video.
We will continue to work with public health, our community, our student body, faculty and staff to ensure everyone knows how to stay safe and what to do when an exposure occurs or when someone tests positive.
We are grateful to our incredible staff and faculty who are working hard to support these healthy behaviors and our students who are making responsible decisions and encouraging others to do the same.
Please take care of yourself, use the #CampusClear app, keep social distanced, wear your face covering and frequently wash your hands. Our collective commitment makes all the difference.
Mun Y. Choi, Ph.D.
President, University of Missouri System
Chancellor, University of Missouri
Latha Ramchand, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Missouri