The number of MU students with active cases of COVID-19 was 159 Monday, 0.5% of the student body, according to MU’s new COVID-19 dashboard that went live the first day of classes.
Students who have tested positive are isolating, and none have been hospitalized, according to an MU news release.
On Monday, multiple positive COVID-19 tests were reported in the MU chapter of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, a news release from the fraternity’s national headquarters noted.
According to the MU Show Me Renewal website, Boone County health officials are tracking the numbers of student cases. The website says the numbers are incomplete, however, because there might be students who tested positive outside of the county who have not reported to MU, as the university requires.
“We have to be realistic and understand that some students may not go through that, or for example, some students may test positive and go home,” MU spokesperson Christian Basi said. “There could be any number of reasons why those numbers may not reflect exactly every single individual who might test positive.”
For a more complete picture of cases in the area, MU recommends looking at Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department data.
“By understanding the full ramifications of the virus in the county and our community, that is a much more accurate picture for our community, as opposed to just the numbers from our student body on campus,” Basi said, pointing out that the virus “doesn’t stop at the sidewalk.”
MU does not plan to report positivity rates for staff and faculty numbers, Basi said.
When considering whether to go back to fully online for the semester, MU officials will monitor the numbers and other factors, such as hospitalization rates and availability of supplies and isolation units, he said.
The dashboard website will be updated each Wednesday at noon with the most recent numbers. It might be updated more or less frequently in the future as MU officials see fit and the situation requires, Basi said.
“There is a certain amount of staff time and effort that has to go into compiling the numbers,” he said. “We felt that right now, once a week seemed adequate. We may decide to do that on a more regular basis in the near future.”
According to alerts on an MU Health Care testing website, the estimated wait for testing Monday at Mizzou North was around two hours.
The Mizzou North site conducted 2,476 tests during the week of Aug. 17–22, MU Health Care spokesperson Eric Maze wrote in an email. That’s up from 1,873 tests the week of Aug. 10 and 1,626 tests the week of Aug. 3.
Maze was unable to specify how many students have been tested at the site, but he said 3,082 of the 11,775 tests administered over the last 30 days were of people ages 20–29.
On Aug. 3, MU Health Care merged its two COVID-19 testing sites — one at Mizzou North and another in the Mizzou Softball Stadium parking lot — into one location at Mizzou North.
Basi said health officials are monitoring the demand for tests when considering whether to open more testing sites.
“Right now, they do feel that they can act quickly, get those tests taken care of,” Basi said. “They’ll watch it. Of course, we expected an uptick in demand for a little while, but if it continues, then we’ll likely make a change.”
Inpatient numbers up
On Monday, the number of COVID-19 deaths crept up to six after holding at five deaths for over two weeks. The sixth death was a person in their 80s, the Health Department noted in a tweet.
Case numbers that held steady or increased gradually over the summer have leapt with the start of the semester.
MU Health Care reported 19 inpatients with COVID-19, as of 4:10 p.m. Monday.
There were five COVID-19 patients in an the ICU at MU Health Center, Maze said. This has been a steady number in the intensive care unit for the past few weeks.
Boone Hospital Center reported 10 inpatients with COVID-19. That’s an increase from seven Friday.
At Truman Veterans’ Hospital, there were six inpatients with COVID-19, said Jeffrey Hoelscher, public affairs officer for the hospital. The number was nine Friday.
Boone County had a total of 399 active cases, according to the Boone County Information Hub.
More than 1,500 people have been released from isolation over the course of the pandemic, and there have been six deaths related to COVID-19 in Boone County.
Friday was a record high for new cases, adding 81 to the total. There were 41 new cases Sunday.
With the increase in the number of students in town — the age group with the highest infection rate in Boone County — questions have been raised about why more information isn’t available from the Health Department or MU about where infected people live, work or attend school.
The majority of college students fall into the reported age brackets 10–19 and 20–24. The Health Department takes its cues about how to report case numbers from the state, Assistant Director Scott Clardy said Monday.
Clardy said the Health Department would not disclose locations of cases or case clusters, unless it becomes necessary for contact tracing.
Besides important patient privacy concerns, he said there are downsides to making information public. “You could harm somebody’s reputation,” he said.
Doing so could open the Health Department up to lawsuits, as in the case of a restaurant or business losing clientele, he said.
MU has also been resistant to disclosing locations.
The university will not release information except in the interest of public safety, or when it is necessary for contact tracing, Basi said, adding: “We’re taking our cues from the medical experts.”
Yasmeen Mir contributed to this story.