COMING BACK COVID

Following Thanksgiving Break, Missouri State University will return for in-person classes for the last week before finals. This is a common trend among colleges in the Springfield area.

President Clif Smart outlined four main reasons MSU will return in-person.

First is campus case data from throughout the semester. Second, advice from the Greene County Health Department and Mercy Hospitals on the best course of action to take. Third are difficulties students have  transitioning online.

Fourth is the amount of COVID-19 testing administered by MSU. Smart said weeks 13 and 14 of the semester have seen only 61 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per week.

According to Smart, around 60% of courses feature some sort of in-person component to them.

According to David Hall, director of university safety, Magers Health and Wellness Center will act as a distribution point for the vaccine when it is released.

Kathryn Wall, Greene County Health Department administrator, said MSU has been an “excellent partner” during the pandemic. MSU coordinates with GCHD to determine what actions are necessary as the outbreak develops.

In-person classes at MSU will only resume for one week after Sunday, Nov. 29, but according to Drury University Vice President David Hinton, Drury will resume courses on Nov. 30 for two additional weeks. Hinton said all campus academic buildings and residence halls will remain open during winter break.

Hinton said faculty members had the option to move the final two weeks of their courses online. Students were notified if their professors moved the course online by Nov. 6.

Hinton said Drury is “excited and optimistic” about upcoming vaccines. Once the vaccines have been released, Drury will integrate them into their COVID-19 strategies. Drury is anticipating the vaccine will not be widespread until the spring semester.

Ozarks Technical Community College is also returning for two weeks after their Thanksgiving Break. Tracy McGrady, OTC provost, said faculty had the option to transition courses online, but many courses will remain seated, including courses with labs.

McGrady said while the vaccine for COVID-19 being developed is “excellent news,” OTC currently has no plans to administer the vaccine to students, as it doesn’t have a major distribution point.

Outside of Springfield, the University of Missouri is moving mainly online following the break. Liz McClure, Mizzou spokesperson, said a majority of courses offered by the university will move online after Thanksgiving. The remaining courses will remain seated for students in clinical education courses, such as nursing, medical and veterinary classes.

McClure said officials plan to reopen the campus on Jan. 19 for seated classes, though officials will be monitoring the situation to see what actions are necessary.

Mizzou has no plans for vaccine distribution at this time, McClure said.

Wall said the Greene County Health Department is working with local, regional and statewide partners on a vaccine distribution plan. The state is in the process of finalizing the plan to distribute to local and regional points.

Follow Tinsley Merriman on Twitter, @merrimantinsley

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