COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Under the blistering late summer sun, Cade Lightle moved into a University of Missouri dorm hall with the help of his parents.
Wednesday and Thursday are freshman move-in days at MU. It's the second straight year the coronavirus pandemic has loomed over the start of the fall semester, but student cases are down from this time last year. MU reported just 19 active cases as of Tuesday compared to 228 when classes began last August.
Meanwhile, new cases in Missouri and in Boone County remain high. Local hospitals are strained, with 127 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Boone County as of Tuesday. The county had more than 600 active cases.
Outside Lightle's new home for the next nine months, the son of two MU alumni described what he anticipates for the school year. Lightle said he's excited about a fresh start.
"Especially with COVID my junior and senior high school years were pretty rough," Lightle said. "So I'm looking forward to being able to meet some new faces, have a new experience, new classes and just do everything as I started the next adventure in my life."
MU is still enforcing some COVID precautions. On Aug. 2, the university began requiring masks in classrooms regardless of vaccination status. Incident Commander Mark Diedrich and Operations Section Chief John Middleton laid out the new guidelines in a letter to students a faculty.
"While the (delta) variant poses a challenge, we head into this fall with the benefit of a vaccine and better knowledge of COVID-19," the letter said.
Lightle said he will adhere to all the university's COVID policies.
"It is still very important to wear masks. That way people who are unable to get vaccinated or have not yet had the chance to are safe as well as protecting those who are elderly and are at a higher risk from it," Lightle said.
University spokeswoman Stephanie Flemming credits the lower cases to students and faculty taking precautions.
"Our students -- and really our whole MU campus as a community -- has done a tremendous job of adapting and adhering to our COVID-19 policies, and it's because of them we had such a successful academic year last year, and that's why we feel confident this year," Flemming said.