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Officials seek to allay coronavirus fears at Columbia City Hall news conference


City and local health officials sought to reassure the public Thursday in Columbia, saying no COVID-19 cases have been identified in Missouri.

Mayor Brian Treece, local health department director Stephanie Browning and University of Missouri leaders took part in a news conference at Columbia City Hall to discuss the local response to the novel coronavirus that has spread across the globe.

Treece said no one has tested positive for coronavirus in Missouri and that the city shouldn't be fearful, just be prepared.

Stephanie Browing, director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Services, said repeatedly that everyone has a role in protecting themselves and the people around them.

"So I want to say a community response is an all-community response," Browing said. "We all have a role in protecting ourselves and those around us. Some of the best things that each of us can do are the things you are hearing over and over on TV -- wash your hands often."

MU Health Care leaders say their organization is confident that it is prepared to take care of someone with coronavirus.

"We believe the risk in our community is very low, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be prepared because eventually, we may see it," said Dr. Stevan Whitt, MU Health Care's chief medical officer.

MU Health Care is exploring virtual visits to keep the people home who need to be home.

"We think it's a very reasonable solution to not just this but other yearly flu cycles," Whitt said. "We would love to afford putting in some infrastructure that would allow our communities to reduce their exposure rates by driving around to be testing, to even speak or get their questions answered."

Whitt said the test for the novel coronavirus is similar to tests for other common diseases.

"We will not be testing everyone," Whitt said. "We test people with indications for those tests ... this both protects the testing materials but also reduces the likelihood that the tests will be not representative of true disease."

University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said MU leaders are always thinking about what may happen.

"Scenario planning is important," Cartwright said. "We want to make sure that everything that we're doing in our messaging and in our planning aligns with CDC guidelines."

Treece said he’s been in close contact with True/False Film Festival organizers for many weeks about what they are doing to protect people from the coronavirus.

John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering created a data map that tracks where the coronavirus has been and where it is spreading.

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Amber Tabeling

Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


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