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University of Missouri Health leaders looking at ways to track spreadability of COVID-19 on campus


Nearly one month into in-person learning at the University of Missouri, 1,418 students have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Mizzou's Show Me Renewal website, 184 of those cases are currently active, totaling 0.7 percent of the student body. Of those, 50 cases have been self-reported by faculty and staff, with 19 currently active.

While university leaders have been modifying and strictly enforcing policies to slow the spread of the virus, health leaders continue to look for more ways to monitor Mizzou-specific data.

Lynelle Phillips, an instructor of nursing at the university and member of the Columbia Board of Health, is a part of several task-forces focused on battling COVID-19 on campus.

She said one thing they are looking at is tracking the R0 (R-Naught), the number of people that a single infected person can be expected to transmit that disease to.

According to the assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, the R0 for all of Boone County as of Friday is 0.91.

On a state level, the Missouri Hospital Association reported that Missouri R0 was at 1.06 as of Tuesday. The central region of Missouri had an R0 of 1.18 as of Wednesday.

Phillips compared the R0 rating to taking someone's temperature, saying the higher it goes, the more concerned they would be.

"If your temperature is getting higher, you are getting sicker, if your temperature is getting lower, you're getting better," Phillips said. "For us, from a population standpoint, it's a little like taking the temperature of how well transmission is under control."

She said an R0 around 1 is ideal. Anything above that would likely spark some concern within the university community.

"From a planning standpoint, if that transmission rate is persisting, then we would know the student health center would need to hire more contact tracers and case investigators to prepare," Phillips said. "Fortunately, things have very much so calmed down on campus."

Phillips said from what they are seeing, the health order and university policies are starting to slow down transmission.

"What might have been a fairly alarming R0 estimation the first week of classes, in this past week it's much better," Phillips said. "That's the kind of improvement we want to see."

Coming up with this number doesn't come without challenges. Phillips said it is hard to get a really good grasp on the data, as students travel out of the area, and can potentially pick up the virus from off-campus or outside the university community.

"To have an R0 just for campus you have to make some assumptions," Phillips said. "The big assumption is that students are all passing it around among each other and they are sort of in a bubble."

She said this is still just an idea health leaders are tossing around as they look at ways to contain the virus and move forward with class right now.

Boone / Columbia / Coronavirus / Education / Top Stories / Top Stories / University of Missouri

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.


1 Comment

  1. It has become obvious that while the spread may be slowed, and maybe not, it won’t be stopped. It has become endemic. It’s everywhere, and nearly all will be exposed unless they take extraordinary measures, as the vulnerable should if they are so inclined. Those not so vulnerable, which includes the vast majority of us who are not old and do not suffer severe comorbidity, should go about their business as previously usual. I realize this would take a lot of power away from health “leaders” and “experts” who prefer not to give up their tyrannical power, which is to bad, for them. Meanwhile, as cases rise deaths don’t. Sweden got it right, and any further attempt to force control on the public is nothing but a desire to inflict your tyranny on whomever you are able to. There is no evidence that any restrictions are effective at reducing deaths, including mask orders.

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