JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The University of Missouri is using harsher punishments for students not following COVID-19 rules and restrictions on campus.
Mizzou’s Chancellor Dr. Mun Choi testified in front of state lawmakers Tuesday to give an update on the university’s response to COVID.
Before Choi’s testimony, Mizzou announced two students had been expelled and another three were suspended for threatening the safety of the campus and the Columbia community.
Choi told lawmakers most students are following the campus’ restrictions, which is why the number of active cases on campus has dropped by more than 350 cases in the past 10 days.
“Most of our positive cases are from off campus student activities,” Choi said.
Since the start of the school year, more than 1,300 students at Mizzou have tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m not here to blame students for getting COVID, that would be wrong” Choi said. “But I am blaming students who willfully disregard the public health guidelines and, in some cases, knowingly spread COVID.”
Last week, Mizzou announced face masks would be required everywhere on campus, even outside unless you’re alone. The university said about 470 students have been referred to the office of student accountability for not following the rules.
“And there will be appropriate sanctions but only after due process is provided to each individual,” Choi said.
Besides the expulsion and suspension of five students, nine student organizations have been suspended for violating the COVID polices and two other organizations are under investigation.
Director of Communications at Mizzou Christian Basi would not say if the students tested positive for the virus or which student organizations were under fire.
“Out of the thousand students who have tested positive at the university, we have not had a single hospitalization of our students,” Choi said.
The chancellor said students are required to notify the university within four hours after receiving the news they tested positive. At present, the university is isolating students in hotel rooms.
“We have contracts with local hotels for isolation spaces,” Choi said. “We have over 300 rooms that are for isolation and currently for isolation and quarantining we are only at about 25 percent occupancy.”
Students in isolation have food delivered to them and are given phone number to a person they can contact in case they need support. In order to be released from isolation, Choi said after 10 days, the student is asked a handful of questions from the university and then the county before being cleared.
He said he meets with medical experts daily to talk about the situation of the virus on campus.
“If we find that the pandemic is turning for the worse or the experts tell me that it’s time to pivot, we are going to pivot to remote learning immediately,” Choi said.
Choi said enrollment for the university is up 1,000 students this year, bringing total enrollment to around 31,000. He said of all 1,347 student cases, only one student who lived in a residence hall who tested positive for the virus did not come back to school after isolation.
He told lawmakers tailgating will not be allowed this year at football games. Currently, the SEC makes sure athletes and staff are being tested twice a week for COVID.
As of Tuesday, there were 332 active COVID cases at the Mizzou campus.