Universities in Missouri differ in pandemic policies

Universities across the state have changed and adopted new regulations to protect students and prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus. Some schools have chosen to suspend all in-person classes this semester, while other schools are continuing to offer in-person classes in addition to remote learning options.

Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville currently has 10 active COVID cases related to their campus, with a total of 396 cases. As a response to COVID, Northwest is offering several different class formats for students this semester. According to the University’s website, 44% of the offered courses will be affected by changes. These changes include the required use of facemasks and the implementation of social distancing measures. Thirty-five percent of classes are having an “alternating attendance” method, where one day of class will be in-person and the day after will be online. Eleven percent of courses are being offered with a blended format, which is a combination of both in-person and online lessons. The other 10% of classes will be all online or a combination of other methods.

Brad Scott, assistant vice president of enterprise risk management at Northwest, said some of the biggest precautions Northwest took this semester were adjusting classrooms for social distancing, strict requirements of face masks and adjustments to food services. The dining hall on campus will allow only a certain number of students at a time and has been rearranged to allow for more social distancing. Scott said he thinks all the changes made have been successful so far and will continue to be successful.

“We continue to refine campus mitigation measures and make adjustments as needed to create a safe and healthy environment for our students and employees,” Scott said.

If a student at Northwest contracts COVID or is showing symptoms as determined by a healthcare provider, they are assigned to quarantine in a designated residence hall. Residence Life staff will deliver food to those students and provide other accommodations for them while they are in quarantine.

The University of Missouri in Columbia has had 1,585 total positive COVID cases since August 19. 69 student cases are currently active, which is .3% of the student body. 1,516 students have recovered from COVID, with no students having been hospitalized. 

Mizzou has been taking action to lower the number of active cases. A viral photo showed a pool at Mizzou packed with students in the first week of classes. Within the first two weeks of classes, 330 students were punished for violating COVID safety precautions. The violations include refusing to wear a mask and throwing big parties. Two students were expelled and three students were suspended for these violations. Eleven student organizations are currently under investigation for violating COVID precautions.

Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for student affairs, published a letter to Mizzou students and staff on Sept. 15 condemning students who are not following the safety measures. Stackman said he understood the struggles students are facing, but it is up to everyone to stay safe.

“Let me be clear: The university will not hesitate to hold those flouting the rules accountable,” Stackman stated in the letter.

Stackman’s letter includes a reminder that tailgating at football games is banned as part of their ban on large social gatherings. This decision was announced on September 11. Mizzou football games will only be operating at 25% stadium capacity to ensure social distancing, with everyone present being required to wear a face mask.

Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph currently has 15 active COVID cases related to campus. Missouri Western has adopted many of the same guidelines as Northwest. In addition to shared guidelines, Missouri Western is offering reduced hours for their on-campus dining options. The shorter hours will allow for more in-depth cleaning and sanitation. 

Alex Thomsen, freshmen at Missouri Western, said he thinks the University is doing well under the given circumstances. He said they have been adamant about enforcing campus policies to prevent the spread of COVID on campus.

“Our school is very strict on the ‘masks always on inside’ rule and if you’re eating in the cafeteria you have to wear your mask until you sit down to eat,” Thomsen said. “On the esports team, we have to sanitize the desks and chairs everytime we leave.”