Coronavirus Update: Cases increase on campus; UMKC plans return after Thanksgiving

UMKC saw an increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases on campus following Halloween weekend. (UMKC)

Emma Hilboldt

UMKC reported the second-most positive coronavirus cases on campus in a single day following Halloween weekend. 

The uptick in on-campus cases came at the same time as the U.S. had a record-setting 100,000 cases in a single day.

The rise in cases has not appeared to slow. On Nov. 12, Missouri officials reported 5,300 new coronavirus cases in the state, setting a new record for single-day positive cases. 

UMKC’s Student Health and Wellness administrator, Obie Austin, weighed in on possible causes for the increase in cases on campus.

“Halloween is definitely a contributing factor,” Austin said. “We also saw a surge of good weather that probably led to a lot of people gathering.” 

Austin suggested the presidential election over the last few weeks was another possible factor in the surge of cases, with large numbers of people gathering at the polls. 

Looking ahead to the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Austin suggested new considerations need to be made. He said those who do not need to travel for the holidays should remain at home. 

“Maybe consider not having those Christmas gatherings that you normally have, even though people don’t want to do that,” Austin said. 

He reminded students still on campus to be vigilant of social distancing guidelines, not get lazy about wearing masks, frequently wash their hands and stay home if they exhibit any possible symptoms of COVID-19.

The CDC has now released guidelines on how to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday safely. The agency has specifically recommended that people hold virtual gatherings with family members who they do not currently live with.

UMKC spokesperson Stacy Downs shared the university’s plan for the rest of the semester. 

“We plan to return to campus after Thanksgiving, but will be closely monitoring the number of COVID cases on campus and within the community,” said Downs. “Our plans may be subject to change based on what’s going on in the community.” 

In contrast, the University of Missouri (MU) announced on Nov. 12 that the majority of in-person classes would shift to a virtual format following Thanksgiving break. While the university has largely seen a reduction of cases on campus, the administration stated the decision was based on the rising numbers in the surrounding area.

“We have said from the beginning that our decisions would follow medical and public health guidance, and they would be based on a full evaluation of circumstances and not driven by a single number,” MU Chancellor and UM System President Mun Choi wrote in a statement. “We know this is disappointing news. We also know making adjustments to our plans this quickly won’t be easy.”

UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal also issued a statement to campus on Nov. 12 urging students to avoid gatherings and practice recommended safety precautions during the holiday break.

“This year, November also marks a sobering chapter in our pandemic journey,” Agrawal wrote. “We urge you to redouble your efforts to stay safe – and help keep others safe.”

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