COLUMN: MU starts another semester with failed COVID-19 safety attempts

Despite growing death rates, MU fails to give their best efforts in COVID-19 prevention.

Andrea Merritt is first-year journalism at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about local issues for The Maneater.

MU received backlash statewide after spiking in COVID-19 cases in the fall semester.

“Within a only week back at school, the Mizzou campus has had 415 students infected with the virus,” according to Fox2 News in St. Louis.

In the spring semester, the university attempted to amend their response to the pandemic by requiring returning students living on campus to have a COVID-19 test.

MU encouraged students to either get tested within five days prior to arrival or upon arriving on campus. Those who waited to get tested until returning to Columbia were encouraged to quarantine until receiving their results. However, MU failed to enforce this procedure, making the system ineffective.

MU students were allowed up to a week to get tested when they arrived on campus. Without having to report to MU a specific testing day within that week, students could have waited as long as possible to get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated COVID-19 is one of the most contagious viruses known to affect people. This allows students to quickly spread the virus and contract it in the first week of arrival.

There was also no authority enforcing students to abide by a quarantine. Neither residence advisors nor MU officials forced students to stay in their dorm rooms while waiting for results or waiting to get a test. Students were allowed to spread the virus for a whole week.

According to a study published in The Lancet Microbe, the first five days after symptoms are the most contagious. Coronavirus symptoms can range from non-existent to severe. This means students were in class, in restaurants and with friends spreading the virus during their peak contagion period possibly unaware of their illness.

MU freshman Shelly Brown didn’t quarantine when arriving on campus. She waited two days to get tested and received the results in eight to ten hours.

“If you got tested on campus, you’re most likely just getting here, so you wanna see your friends and go out and stuff,” Brown said, “Especially if you’re not even sick, who would want to quarantine?”

This is the exact same situation as last semester because students are not being tested right away and not quarantining. Yet, this time students were lured into a false sense of security. It is easier to feel safe going out and partying when a student thinks everyone at MU is negative. MU freshman Allison Harris explains the difference in the response to the virus in the spring semester versus the fall.

“[During] the first semester, I think a lot of people waited a few weeks before starting to post [on social media] about how they wanted to go to parties and planned on having parties,” Harris said. “This semester, I started seeing posts as soon as people arrived.”.

For many, the end of the pandemic has always appeared closer than it is. In March of 2020, it was assumed two weeks was all that was needed to shut it out of our homes. In May, people hoped that the summer heat would make it go up in flames. By the time school started, people prayed the new year would make the pandemic disappear. It is unknown when the pandemic will be over, so moving forward, MU should improve the integration of students on campus.

For example, Northwestern University required students to get tested the day they arrived, then get tested again four days later. They gave a third test a week following the second test. This was all while strictly enforcing a quarantine. Students who missed a test received reminders and were forced to reschedule a testing date. Those who missed a second test were sent to the Office of Community Standards. From there, disciplinary action was determined. This resulted in only 43 confirmed student cases out of 22,172 students in their first week of the spring semester. The second week dropped to 19 confirmed cases. MU needs to mimic a similar plan in the future.

MU needs to make organization and discipline a higher priority because lives are at risk. They should have been stricter on enforcing COVID-19 tests and quarantine, but all they can do now is learn from their mistakes. MU can’t let up on their race toward a virus-free campus.

In order to help fight racial injustice, the Maneater encourages readers to donate to Equal Initiative Justice, an organization aimed to highlight criminal justice reform. Donate at: https://support.eji.org/give/153413/#!/donation/checkout

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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