On Nov. 18, the Missouri State University Board of Governors Executive Committee met to discuss updates after drawing all available CARES Act funds and how a vaccine will be distributed on campus.

President Clif Smart shared how MSU is doing in its 14th week of the fall 2020 semester. Cases across the campus decreased down to 17 confirmed cases in week 11 but increased to 31 confirmed cases in week 12. Weeks 13 and 14 both have, as of Nov. 18, 61 confirmed cases.

In preparation for Thanksgiving break, the university is offering free asymptomatic testing, so students returning home can confirm their health status. After Thanksgiving, MSU will return for in-person classes. 

“You know, the good thing about us is a lot of places are coming back for three weeks after Thanksgiving, but we're only coming back for four days,” Smart said. “We've got four days of classes, dead day and then testing starts. I think that gives us assurance.”

The university coordinated with Greene County Health Director Clay Goddard, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure and Mercy Hospitals CEO Lyn Britton to ensure returning for its final weeks will be safe, according to Smart. Smart also shared the university has drawn all of its state allocated CARES Act funds on Nov. 18. 

This does not mean all CARES Act funding is gone; the university is instead using it to reimburse COVID-19 related expenses. A half-million dollars has also been allocated to the university through Greene County.

Smart said the fall semester has led to $16 million in budget cuts. These cuts were brought about from reducing classroom repairs, the presidential salary, academic equipment and the university’s travel budget. 

The biggest cut was the reduction of classroom repairs, which cut $1.6 million out of the university’s budget.

Smart also proposed an $600 increase in salary to staff and faculty, to be voted on at the December finance and faculties meeting. The meeting will also cover attempts made by the university to sequester more state funding.

As of Nov. 18, pharmaceutical companies BioNTech SE and Pfizer have announced their vaccines for COVID-19 to be 95% stable. David Hall, director of university safety, shared that a tier system will go into effect when the vaccine is released. The release of the virus will be staggered, with tier one being the first to receive the vaccine. 

Tier one includes health care workers on the “frontlines” against the virus, tier two is critical infrastructure such as first responders and teachers and tier three are average citizens.

Being citizens, all students are considered tier three. Hall said he expects emergency authorization of the vaccine to go into effect in December.

“(Vaccine distributors) are working to partner with major pharmacies and chains. For example, Magers Health and Wellness Center is one here on campus,” Hall said. “They would be a point of distribution that could then provide for our faculty, staff and students.”

MSU’s finance and faculty meeting is planned for Dec. 10, along with several other committee meetings.

Follow Tinsley Merriman on Twitter, @merrimantinsley

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