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‘We Need to Have Strategies Where They Can Be College Students, and Still Be As Safe As Possible'

Scott Clardy, left, and Lynelle Phillips, right, stand socially distanced – six feet apart – with a map of Boone County between them.
Rebecca Smith

Lynelle Phillips and Scott Clardy both work with Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services. Scott is the Assistant Director and Lynelle is a professor at the University of Missouri who leads a team of contact investigator volunteers.

They spoke about the bad rap that college age students get when it comes to testing positive for COVID-19 and about some of the ways college students can help keep themselves and their community – safe. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Lynelle Phillips: So, I've been talking a lot to the 20 to 24-year-olds that have COVID while volunteering here, in the case investigations. I kind of seek them out because I love them, because my sons are 21 and 23 years old and all my students are in that age range.

They – just that group has a big place in my heart, and my concern is that they may get somewhat stigmatized, because they're in this age group that is very social, and then they also, when I talk to them, I feel bad for them because they have these front facing jobs.

They are waiting tables and they are working down at the Lake [of the Ozarks] and they are working retail, and is it their fault they have COVID or is it the yahoo that runs the place that won't, you know, enforce mask ordinances?

So, we're just seeing more transmission in that group.

The students I've talked to that are coming back have a lot of apprehension and concern. They have grandparents at home that are frail. They have – I was talking to a kid that's going to be a freshman, and he said like, “How am I going to make friends if I'm not allowed to be social, and what if I wind up in the isolation dorm, the quarantine dorm, and what's that going to be like?”

Then my 21-year-old said, “Hey, Mom, this is like they've taken everything fun away about college and left all the hard stuff – the stakes.”


So, and these, you know, especially the freshmen, they just had a really crappy graduation – high school graduation – and I don't know. So, I have a big heart for them, but at the same time, just because 20 to 24-year-olds are the way they are, you know, we do have concerns.

So, we just need to really have that social context in place – where they're not going to get made fun of if they show up at work with a mask, the bar isn't going to swing their doors open and let the place get packed, and that they don't work for a place where everybody there tells them that COVID is a hoax.

All of this stuff. They need that social context to support them, as well as they need to – we need to have some strategies for them where they can be college students, and still be as safe as possible.

Scott Clardy: Well, you know, I would just ask people in that group to remember that people their age, when they become COVID positive, they don't always have symptoms. Sometimes their symptoms are so slight that they actually think it's just allergies or something like that.

So, one of the things I would ask them is, if you don't feel good at all – whatever your symptoms – Don't leave. Stay at home.

Lynelle: Yeah, right there.

Scott: Yeah. Stay where you're at and don't go out. That would be the first thing.

The second thing is try your best to think about others, you know, we just – that's kind of been one of our themes is, “Please, everybody try to think about everyone else before you think about yourself.”

Lynelle: Yeah.

Scott: And most people do that. 

Lynelle: I would add one more thing.

Scott: Yep?

Lynelle: Get your flu shot!

Scott: Yeah, absolutely.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
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