According to a report in Thursday’s Missourian, Governor Parson thinks that the reopening of colleges and universities in the state is “off to a good start.” The facts suggest otherwise.
As of last week, this paper reported that over 7,000 Missouri college students had tested positive for COVID-19. Here at Mizzou, there are over 600 active student cases and the positive test rate is nearly 10 times the national average. Because testing is restricted to those with symptoms, or individuals who have had direct contact with a known COVID-19 case, this number is certainly a gross underestimation. The CDC estimates that 40% of cases are asymptomatic, which puts the campus closer to 1,000 active cases. To provide some context, 130 positive cases led to the widely reported closure of the University of North Carolina shortly after reopening. While it is true that most healthy young adults who contract the virus will recover without intervention, even in this cohort the potential long-term health effects remain poorly understood. And, nearly one out of every three young adults hospitalized for COVID-19 in the US has died, according to a Sept. 9 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While we can debate the pros and cons of reopening the campus during a global pandemic, the “doubling down” by Parson and the Mizzou administration on remaining open despite these facts is unjustifiable. It is a gamble that is placing the most vulnerable in our community at substantial risk. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Columbia continue to rise. K–12 education has been forced to move fully online, stressing working families and placing at-risk children at an even greater disadvantage. Local businesses that were finally emerging from the lockdown are having to retreat and bear the economic consequences.
As a member of the faculty, parent of two Tigers and Columbia resident, I call on the Mizzou administration to do the right thing and halt this failed experiment now.
Scott H. Frey, Ph.D. is a professor at MU.