O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — With more than 1,300 of its students infected with the coronavirus, the University of Missouri in Columbia said Tuesday that two students were expelled and three others suspended for violating rules meant to slow the virus' spread.
A news release said the sanctions were necessary because of flagrant violations of rules and regulations that require students who test positive for the COVID-19 virus to isolate themselves and comply with social distancing requirements.
University System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said the university has repeatedly stressed the importance of COVID-19 policies and regulations aimed at keeping students, faculty, staff and the community safe.
“We have seen a strong adoption of our policies and regulations,” Choi said in the release. “Unfortunately, a few students have violated these policies and violated the trust of their fellow community members.”
The students' names were not released. Choi said the discipline was necessary because the students “willfully put others at risk, and that is never acceptable. We will not let the actions of a few take away the opportunity for in-person learning that more than 8,000 faculty and staff have worked so hard to accomplish for the more than 30,000 MU students.”
The university's COVID-19 dashboard cites 1,347 student cases of the virus since classes resumed in August. Of those, 332 cases remain active and 1,015 students have recovered.
All told, about 470 students have been referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Accountability for possible violations of COVID-19 policies, the university said. Discipline can range from a verbal reprimand to expulsion. Eleven student organizations also are under investigation. Those organizations were not named.
NO FAST SOLUTION, EXPERTS WARN
Leading St. Louis-area doctors are warning residents to brace for at least another year of living with COVID-19.
The region, covering portions of both Missouri and Illinois, has surpassed 1,500 COVID-19 deaths and more than 54,000 confirmed cases since the first positive test in March. St. Louis Public Radio reports that while doctors say they've become better at treating the virus and preventing its spread, life won't likely return to a pre-pandemic “normal” until late 2021 at the earliest, echoing comments made last week by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Dr. Alex Garza, who leads the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said that despite the persistent number of confirmed cases, the region is in a “better position” now than early on in the pandemic because more is understood about slowing the spread.
Garza noted that the percentage of sick people who die is lower than in early spring. Early in the pandemic, outbreaks were happening in nursing homes, meat plants and other crowded spaces.
Steps such as requiring masks in those places, restricting visitors and increased testing have helped, Garza said.
Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Tuesday announced he's handing out 25,000 three-ply, disposable face masks to local election workers to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Voters on Nov. 3 will head to the polls to pick the president, Missouri governor and state and federal lawmakers.
OUTBREAK IN MACON SCHOOLS
A rural mid-Missouri school district is moving to online-only classes temporarily due to an outbreak of the virus.
Macon School District Superintendent Scott Jarvis wrote in a letter to parents Monday that the district has confirmed positive cases in all four school buildings. Jarvis didn't say how many students are ill but said 286 are under quarantine because of potential contact with infected students.
The letter states that 15 staff members have tested positive, are under quarantine, or are being tested.
“We are having a difficult time keeping our classrooms instructed by certified staff,” Jarvis wrote.
Tentative plans call for the district, with about 1,300 students, to resume in-person classes Sept. 28.
SOUTHEAST MISSOURI SPIKE
Coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly in southeast Missouri. Cape Girardeau County reported a combined 99 cases over the three-day period Saturday through Monday, the Southeast Missourian reported. The county has seen 1,291 confirmed cases and 15 deaths since the pandemic began.
Neighboring counties also are seeing more cases. In Stoddard County, a nursing home resident died Monday morning and the county said several long-term care facilities are reporting multiple cases.