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Lincoln University welcomes students back to campus as pandemic continues

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Lincoln University in Jefferson City was one of several schools in Mid-Missouri to start the fall semester in classrooms on Monday, with extra precautions in place.

The university shuts it's doors for the spring semester to students in late March to protect students and employees from COVID-19. The campus was reopened to students in July.

Members of the university are asked to follow the Blue Tiger Comeback Plan, requiring masks in campus facilities, social distancing, and event restrictions on campus

The University also announced it would cancel Homecoming events, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Spokeswoman for Lincoln University Misty Young said students have been complying with the rules for the most part as of Monday.

"We're hoping there's not going to be a whole lot of problems," Young said. "We are dealing with adults, so we are hoping they are going to act like adults."

To enforce these policies, Young said if there is a violation, leaders would first try to educate students, then if violations continue, students could face conduct violations.

Neither Jefferson City nor Cole County have a health order or mask requirement, and Young said university leaders hope students, faculty and staff practices all the health guideline off campus, even though they are not required.

"We can't monitor everything a student does off campus, we keep our keys and ears open," Young said. "Again, It's about personal responsibility, and we are hoping out students make wise choices."

The start of classes come as cases continue to rise across the state, largely in the younger population.

According to the Cole County Health Department's weekly COVID-19 Dashboard, 35 percent of cases as of August 20 were in the 20-39 year old age range. 15 percent were reported in the 0-19 age range.

Cole County's Weekly COVID-19 Dashboard showing the breakdown of cases by demographic as of August 20.

The communicable disease coordinator for the department Chezney Shulte said this trend has been consistent for a while and mirrors the state. She said the department has been working with Lincoln University and other schools to try to contain the virus.

"We are hoping all of their hard work and preparation will pay off as we see the many benefits to our students, teachers, and community as a whole as students return to school," Schulte said in an email.

If a member of the university tests positive for the virus, the individual is required to notify the university and quarantine. Patients are not allowed to comeback to class until they receive a negative test result, or have quarantined for 14 days.

Young said they university has a COVID-19 task force that meets weekly to discuss the state of the pandemic. If cases were to spike or they see several cases on campus, they would considers what that means for the university.

She said faculty trained and prepared this summer in case the university would have to go fully online.

"Should we need to make a transition, we would be able to do that fairly quickly like we did back in the spring," Young said.

One Jefferson City Councilman Mark Schreiber said he and the council are excited for the return of students, as the university brings in revenue dollars to the city.

"It's always nice when students return because Lincoln's been such an integral part to the City of Jefferson," Schreiber said.

He said while health offcials have been telling the council more young people have been infected, he isn't too concerned with the students return because he believes young people will follow the health guidelines.

"But then again, time will tell. If school is back in session, if Lincoln is back in session, then you know it remains to be seen," Schreiber said. "We'll see how that works out, and they'll have to make decisions accordingly, based on whatever happens health-wise."

Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for full coverage of Mid-Missouri's Return to Learn.

Cole / Coronavirus / Education / Jefferson City / Lincoln University / News

Connor Hirsch

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

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