Transparency, Testing, and Online Instruction to Prevent a COVID-19 Outbreak at Mizzou

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The University of Missouri’s inadequate policies to identify, track, and report aggregate data on positive cases of COVID-19 have placed the MU community and residents of Columbia and Boone County, Missouri, at imminent risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. Already, since MU began its move-in process for students just over one week ago on Saturday, August 15, Boone County has experienced back-to-back daily record highs in positive COVID-19 cases, with a majority of these occurring among the college-age population of people 18–22 years old, according to data from the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services. More than 150 cases within this age group have been identified in the last 7 days, exceeding the 130 cases that drove the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to pivot to online instruction. Known student violations of MU’s social distancing and mask policies in off-campus settings (such as the 100–120 person gathering at private dorm Midtown Brookside’s rooftop pool that was shut down by the Department of Public Health on Saturday, August 22) are the tip of an iceberg of person-to-person contacts in the MU community facilitating the rapid and dangerous spread of COVID-19. 

For these reasons, we call on UM System president and MU chancellor Mun Y. Choi and MU’s executive leadership team to immediately implement the following policy changes. We further call on Columbia Mayor Brian Treece to stand with members of the MU community and Columbia and Boone County residents who wish to prevent an imminent outbreak of COVID-19 in our community. We urge MU leaders:

  • Pivot to all-online instruction at MU for the Fall 2020 semester and the start of the Spring 2021 semester, or until Boone County’s 14-day rate of positive COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents in the area served by Columbia Public Schools (see second tab) falls below 10.
  • Publish aggregate data on the number of COVID-19 cases identified among MU students, faculty, and staff since move-in began on Saturday, August 15. (UPDATE, 8/31: Request met. See local reporting and data displayed on the MU website.)
  • Publish a COVID-19 dashboard like that maintained by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which reports daily aggregate data on positive COVID-19 cases identified among MU students, faculty, and staff. (UPDATE, 8/31: Request partially met. Limited dashboard established on 8/24, and faculty and staff data added on 8/31. Updates daily as of 8/31. See local reporting. Important data on the campus situation, reflected in the dashboards of many large public universities [e.g., UNC], missing.)
  • Invest in and implement twice- or three-times-weekly surveillance testing of students continuing to reside in MU housing and faculty and staff required to report to the MU campus for essential operations.
  • Continue to ensure that COVID-19 testing and any required screening appointments to qualify for such testing are available to MU students, faculty, and staff without cost.

As concerned MU students, faculty, and staff, as well as community members not affiliated with MU, we call for these policies to be implemented immediately. MU graduate students who would like more information about becoming involved in this campaign are encouraged to sign up through this page to receive updates from the petition authors.