The president of State Technical College of Missouri took to social media this week to urge students to stay in Linn until Thanksgiving to avoid becoming part of a growing number of students in quarantine for possible exposure to COVID-19.
President Shawn Strong said in a video, "We've got four weeks to go. Our positive cases of COVID-19 are flat. Our exposure cases are on the rise. That means the number of students having to quarantine is actually going up really fast."
State Tech reported on its website 15 students were exposed on or off campus the week ending Oct. 23, while there were 11 active cases of coronavirus infection.
The previous week, ending Oct. 16, 26 students were exposed on or off campus, and there were 10 active cases.
The week before that, ending Oct. 9, 21 students were exposed on or off campus, while there were seven active cases.
Given two-week quarantine periods and the ensuing overlap, more than 40 students were potentially in quarantine at one time this past week. The week before, that number could have been even higher.
"Students are going home on the weekend and getting exposed," Strong said.
State Tech provides specialized and advanced technical education opportunities to students from all over Missouri, enrollment has been growing for years, and the two-year school is a popular college choice for Mid-Missouri high school graduates.
The most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report, dated Oct. 25, listed Jefferson City, Columbia and Boone, Cole, Camden, Callaway, Osage, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan, Gasconade and Maries counties as having "red zone" high levels of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and high lab test positivity rates.
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Those metro areas and counties are listed in the order they're ranked in the report, from highest to lowest, for the number of new cases reported in the last three weeks.
According to the report, 87 percent of all Missouri counties have moderate or high levels of community transmission, with 68 percent having high levels in the red zone.
The report also particularly cautioned, "People must remember that seemingly uninfected family members and friends may be infected but asymptomatic. When meeting people who are not a part of one's household, masking and physical distancing must be observed at all times, especially when indoors."
Strong advised this time of year — toward the end of the academic semester — is the worst time to be in quarantine.
"So, how do you keep from getting quarantined?" he said. "Well, you probably guessed that as well: Stay in Linn until Thanksgiving break. You'll have over a month at break to be with family before coming back the first week of January."
The college will end most on-campus programs the day before Thanksgiving and have final exams remotely afterward.
State Tech spokesman Brandon McElwain said Friday students who miss class time because of quarantine could use flex weeks built into the schedule to have special accommodations made to make up any missed hands-on activities and have longer to take their finals.
The college is trying to avoid having to grant special accommodations, however, and the more students "stay on campus in their bubble," and the less they involve other people before Thanksgiving, the better it will be for them, their classmates and instructors, McElwain said.
He said the campus has not had issues maintaining staffing because of quarantines.
The college has some single apartments leased near campus as designated quarantine residence space, where food is delivered to students in quarantine, he added.
Lincoln University will end in-seat coursework for the semester Nov. 20.
"We are asking our entire university family to continue the same level of diligence they have practiced throughout this semester to get us safely through to the Thanksgiving holiday," LU spokeswoman Misty Nunn told the News Tribune. "We are hopeful for good health for all of us as we move to remote learning after Thanksgiving, through the upcoming holiday season and as we prepare for the Spring 2021 semester."
As of 3 p.m. Oct. 30, the university had 16 students in quarantine and six who had tested positive. Seven employees had tested positive, and three more were in quarantine.