The University of Missouri’s Columbia campus will begin the spring semester as scheduled on Tuesday with no options for online classes, masking requirements or vaccinations, UM system president and campus chancellor Mun Choi wrote Friday. , to heads of faculty.
Choi’s response to concerns raised in a letter from the campus faculty council’s executive committee was sent just hours before the state Department of Health and Senior Services only reported COVID-19 hospitalizations. 19 and statewide intensive care utilization has reached a level new record on Tuesday, with 3,526 hospitalized patients and 715 cases in intensive care.
Only 15% of intensive care beds in the state remained available as of Tuesday.
“We don’t have support for an indoor mask mandate,” Choi wrote. “We will continue to ask all members of the Mizzou community to wear a mask indoors.”
The Conservative Council on Tuesday rejected Choi’s appeal to require masks on the system’s four campuses. Only three of the nine council members supported his request and only two supported a mask rule reserved for classrooms and laboratories.
In response to the letter’s request for a college vaccination requirement, Choi wrote that the UM system complies with federal rules. An executive order from President Joe Biden requiring federal contractors have vaccination mandates been enforced until suspended by the courts in December.
There will be no switch to online classes, even temporarily, Choi wrote.
“Instructors are expected to deliver the course in their assigned modality (in-person, online or blended/hybrid),” Choi wrote. “However, instructors should not attend classes if they feel unwell or are in self-isolation or quarantine.”
The response on masks and vaccines was not surprising, said Kathleen Trauth, associate professor of engineering and chair of the Faculty Council.
“I think the issues where there was the demand for the mask mandate and the vaccine were not unexpected because those are within the purview of the Conservative council and they have spoken,” she said.
She’s disappointed that Choi won’t allow classes to move online because many classroom spaces don’t allow for social distancing, she said.
The Faculty Council’s concerns are shared by the Intercampus Faculty Cabinet, which has representatives from all four campuses, she said.
“We have been in communication with President Choi and expressed our concern about the masking and some of the restricted classrooms,” she said.
The system’s flagship campus is in Boone County, which has more than 3,200 active coronavirus infections, nearly three times the highest number at any previous point in the pandemic. The local health department is reporting 415 cases a day, also nearly three times more than at any other time.
On the Columbia campus itself, the 262 active infections among students are at their highest level since September 15, 2020, and the 119 active infections among faculty and staff reported on Friday is a new peak.
Columbia Public Schools announced Friday that it will take a three-day hiatus starting next Friday in an effort to control infections among students and staff, the The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
The letter from the committee said members were “extremely grateful” for Choi’s advocacy for a mask rule at Tuesday’s special board meeting.
“Teachers tell us of their concerns about their safety and that of their students. This is particularly concerning for faculty and students who are immunocompromised, medically ineligible for vaccines, and/or at higher risk for COVID-related complications,” the letter reads. “These students have unequal access to the classroom and the teacher if they choose to stay safe.”
The omicron variant has hit Missouri hard, and the worst infection rates are in the state’s largest urban areas, where three of the UM system’s four campuses are located. On Friday, the state Department of Health and Senior Services reported 9,904 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the reported total for the month to 154,449.
On Tuesday, the ministry reported more cases so far in January than in any previous month of the pandemic.
Boone County has the fifth highest infection rate for the month among the state’s 118 county and city Health Department jurisdictions and the fourth highest percentage increase in cases from December totals.
Choi has not received any similar communications from faculty at the St. Louis, Kansas City or Rolla campuses, spokeswoman Stephanie Fleming said Friday.
Masks will be required in indoor spaces on the UMSL campus due to a mask requirement imposed by St. Louis County, she said.
If local governments in Columbia, Rolla, or Kansas City enact mask requirements, the university will comply.
The executive committee also called for an on-campus coronavirus vaccine requirement and a free supply of highly protective masks.
The university will not implement a vaccine requirement, Choi wrote, but will provide masks.
“We have ordered a stock of KN95 which will be freely available to faculty, staff and students at the bookstore once they arrive,” Choi wrote.