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Boone County health officials expect more coronavirus cases as university students return

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The Columbia/Boone County health department expects coronavirus cases to increase as the University of Missouri continues to test students before classes begin.

Scott Clardy, assistant director of the Columbia/Boone County health department, said he hopes health orders that are in place will lower the spread of COVID-19 as students return. Those orders include a mask mandate and limits on crowd sizes at businesses and gatherings.

“Back in August we saw what happened we had more cases and it led to even more cases until we got things under control,” he said. “I’m hoping this time we won’t have a repeat of that due to the health order.”

University of Missouri students help power a surge in Boone County’s coronavirus cases as the fall semester began last year. The outbreak on campus peaked on Sept. 5 with 683 active student cases, according to the university’s coronavirus tracking website.

MU is now reporting about 50 active cases. Five students have been hospitalized since last fall.

The University of Missouri’s spring semester starts Tuesday, and undergraduate students living in university residential housing will be required to get tested for coronavirus before returning.

According to MU’s Show Me Renewal website, medical experts believe arrival testing won’t stop the spread of the virus throughout the university but could help with health strategies and precautionary tactics.

John Middleton, chief of operations for MU’s incident command related to COVID-19, said this testing will help assess the undergraduate population when they arrive on campus.

“We are doing target surveillance of a group of undergraduates where we saw an increase in cases at the beginning of the fall semester,” he said.

MU will now know how many undergraduates are positives upon arrival. Then those students will be put in isolation right away and close contacts, if they have any in Columbia, will go into quarantine.

“This will allow us to box in a potential COVID-19 outbreak,” Middleton said.

Starting Monday students will have to sign up and can get tested at the Hearnes Center. Testing ends Thursday. Results will be available online within 24 hours.

If a student tests positive, they will be contacted by staff with either MU Health Care or Student Health.

The university last semester flagged more than 800 students for possible violations of COVID-19 safety rules.

Check back for more on this developing story and watch ABC 17 News at 5 and 6.

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