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University, Community Officials Urge Calm In Coronavirus Press Conference

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia
Columbia Mayor Brian Treece speaks about the city's plans for coronavirus.

At a press conference with Columbia Mayor Brian Treece Thursday, University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright emphasized that no cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state. 

He said the university is in communication with students who came back early from study abroad trips in Italy and South Korea, and the protocol for them is self-isolation. Cartwright also said the university is looking into teaching classes remotely in case an outbreak occurs.

Credit Sebastián Martínez Valdivia / KBIA
University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said the university is in communication with students who returned early from study abroad trips in Italy and South Korea.

  Doctor Stevan Whitt from MU Healthcare said the system has learned from previous campus outbreaks of mumps and H1N1. "Planning for what if we run out of room where we usually take care of patients, where would we put extra patients, those kinds of plans are the same ones we’ve had since H1N1 and we update them literally every single year," Whitt said.
Cartwright and university spokesperson Christian Basi said the university had also learned and adapted its emergency response plan after previous outbreaks on campus. In 2016, a mumps outbreak infected dozens of students on campus, and in 2009 the H1N1 strain of the flu infected hundreds of students across the state.
Whitt said while there are tests available, they are only for people presenting specific symptoms. He and others stressed the importance of typical preventative measures like washing hands and cleaning surfaces and devices regularly.
Mayor Brian Treece said he was in contact with governor Mike Parson about how Columbia fits into the state's response plans. 

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia was a health reporter at KBIA and is documentary filmmaker who focuses on access to care in rural and immigrant communities. A native Spanish speaker and lifelong Missouri resident, Sebastián is interested in the often overlooked and under-covered world of immigrant life in the rural midwest. He has a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in documentary journalism at the same institution. Aside from public health, his other interests include conservation, climate change and ecology.
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