(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Students at Missouri Western State University are back on campus after returning from summer break, but the challenge for university leaders is making sure they stay on campus without a coronavirus outbreak.
“We want them to still maintain their education, but still stay safe too,” said Dr. Crystal Harris, MWSU Covid Response Team Coordinator.
Several colleges and universities across the country have struggled to keep COVID-19 off campus. Some are already moving classes online, one being University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"The situation has changed and we believe that taking these actions are necessary at this point," said Kevin Guskiewicz, UNC Chancellor.
Entering their first week of online and in-person classes, MWSU is keeping an eye on what's happening on college campuses throughout the U.S.
“Thinking about what other institutions are doing? Yes. We’re participating in many group phone calls so we know what’s happening on the national level, the state level, the Missouri level of high education offers conferences weekly so we have a finger on that pulse," said Dr. Harris.
MWSU's COVID Response Team Coordinator said prevention is key in keeping students in class this semester, "We're doing everything we possibly can to keep students safe and we hope that the students are also following through and doing those things that they have control over."
The university has already seen some positive cases.
“Yes, we have. A lot of them are off campus, so they’ve never set foot on campus. Since this is only our first day back, we’re doing very well,” said Dr. Harris.
The COVID Response Team said they don't have a certain threshold of cases that would force the school to fully go online, but the team said they are prepared in case of an outbreak. Dr. Harris said, “We’ve got people that attended training for contact tracing, so that if we needed to support the health department we could do that and we will be ready.”
Faculty said while they're mindful of how COVID-19 is shutting down other colleges, they're focusing on their campus case numbers.
“Our rates here in St. Joe or even in the greater Kansas City area, are not the same as those in California, New York or Texas. We really have to pay attention to what’s happening here on campus,” said Dr. Harris.
MWSU students, staff and faculty can report their positive case results to Missouri Western's online reporting system. Reported cases from the university go directly to the St. Joseph Health Department.