COLUMBIA, Mo (KMIZ)
The University of Missouri is hoping to get more information about the COVID-19 pandemic by testing certain students returning to campus.
University of Missouri officials said Tuesday afternoon students living on-campus next semester will have to get tested for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus.
A University of Missouri spokesman Christian Basi said by testing this population, which is less than a quarter of total students, it could help guide their decision making for the semester.
"We're going to see what information can we glean, is it feasible, is it worth it, does it help us with our strategy with our opening of the spring semester," Basi said.
Only undergraduate students living in university-sponsored housing will have to be tested, but the university is strongly encouraging students living off-campus to get testing before coming back to school.
Students who are required to get tested can receive the test at their current residence five days before returning to the university or register for a test at a temporary clinic set to be opened on campus. This testing will not be charged to students.
Students who tested positive for COVID-19 between Oct. 15 and Jan. 9, 2021, need only provide documentation of their positive results. Students who chose to live on-campus over winter break can sign up for a test in the week before classes start.
The university will not accept results from a COVID-19 antibody test that uses a blood sample from a vein or a finger prick.
When asked what this new data will impact at the university, Basi is unclear what kind of information this will provide.
"That's part of what we are trying to learn ourselves, is there information we can learn from this arrival testing that might drive our strategies," Basi said, "We don't know so we want to take a look, we want to try this and see if there is information that might help us."
He said an example of a question the university may be able to answer is whether or not some kind of testing policy will be needed moving forward. Basi said their medical professionals believe mass testing will not stop the spread of the virus.
"We're continuing to receive the same advice from our medical professionals which is that there is no evidence that large amounts of mass asymptomatic testing is helping stop the spread of the disease," Basi said. "Our medical professionals have said from the very beginning is behavior is what stops the disease."
Assistant Director of the Columbia/Boone County Health Department said he and his staff are hopeful this testing will stop a surge in cases like what was seen when students returned in August.
MU student Jonathan Fajen supported the announcement.
"I think it certainly something, just one component of things that should definitely happen if we are going to do predominately in-person learning," Fajen said.
Fajen said because this semester was a hybrid model, the next semester could run smoother.
"There certainly a case to be made that having one semester of hybrid learning under our belts will lead to improvement," Fajen said.
The fall semester ended last week and the spring semester starts on Jan. 18, 2021.
ABC17 News reached out to Mayor Brian Treece for a comment but did not immediately receive a response. The Chair of MU Faculty Council John Middleton was not available Tuesday evening.