University of Missouri officials are so pleased with how the Columbia campus is managing the coronavirus that Thursday they announced that they will drop a previous proposal and continue with in-person and hybrid classes after Thanksgiving break.
They had originally said it was possible that after the break students would not return to campus and would finish out the semester with all classes online, as the University of Kansas and Kansas State University are planning.
“We’ve been very pleased with how our students, faculty and staff have responded to the new campus requirements,” said Mun Choi, UM System president and MU chancellor. “We have demonstrated that we can have in-person classes at Mizzou and do so safely.”
University officials said holding students to a promise to abide by safety rules — wear masks, avoid large groups and wash hands frequently — is working to keep infections low.
University officials boast COVID-19 case numbers there are trending down.
“MU’s active case load is down 91.5% since Sept. 5, when it peaked at 683 active cases,” Christian Basi, university spokesman, said on Monday.
On Aug. 24, when Mizzou started classes, the university reported 159 cases. Since then MU has had 1,761 cases, 1,691 have recovered and no students have been hospitalized. As of Thursday the university was reporting 70 active cases among students. Monday the university reported six new cases, seven new cases on Tuesday and 24 new cases Wednesday.
But only students who exhibit symptoms are tested, so, some observers say, there is no way to know the true number of cases at MU.
Both KU and K-State announced in June that they would conclude all in-person classes before Thanksgiving and that finals and a study week would be held remotely after the holiday. Officials said they wanted to limit the amount of back-and-forth travel between campus and students’ home to avoid spreading the coronavirus further.
Choi said several factors contributed to the MU decision, including, “We have no evidence that the virus has been transmitted in the classroom.”
In addition, he said, “Many students, including those from low-income households or those who live in rural areas, could face significant challenges for online classes and final exams if they do not have access to broadband internet.”
He said many students rely on jobs on campus and in Columbia to fund their studies.
The university is encouraging students to stay on campus over the break and will provide meals and a celebration of the holiday.
“We wanted to announce this now in order to give students and families an opportunity to make appropriate plans,” Basi said.
But he warned that depending on how the virus progresses, plans could still change.
“As always, we will continue to monitor the pandemic and its impact on the county, and we will make any necessary changes as quickly as possible,” said Latha Ramchand, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.