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MU Group Attended Conference with Person Who Later Tested Presumptively Positive for COVID-19

A person who attended NICAR20, a data journalism conference in New Orleans this past weekend, has tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. A group of at least two dozen MU students and faculty from the School of Journalism attended the conference.

Investigative Reporters & Editors issued a statement confirming the positive test Tuesday night. It said the person with the illness has mild symptoms and is expected to make a full recovery.

The attendee is self-quarantined at home for 14 days and is reaching out to people the person came into close contact with during the conference, at the recommendation of health professionals.

IRE will not be providing detailed schedule information for a single attendee or answer inquiries about specific sessions or events at the conference; however, those who participated in a "pre-registration, hands-on class with the attendee" have been notified, according to the organization.

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Columbia.

MU Health Care said that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at MU Health Care as of Tuesday night. The hospital has tested more than 10 patients for the virus, but a spokesperson said he could not comment on whether the results of any of those tests are outstanding.

IRE is based in Columbia at the MU School of Journalism. The organization instructed all staff and student employees to work from outside the office "until further notice," according to a Tuesday email.

Also, the MU School of Journalism has instructed all MU students and faculty who attended the conference in New Orleans to self-quarantine.

This story will be updated.

Here is IRE's complete statement:

A person who attended the NICAR20 conference in New Orleans last week tested positive today with COVID-19.

This attendee has mild symptoms and is expected to make a full recovery. They are self-quarantining at home for 14 days, as recommended by health professionals.

The test has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control for confirmation. Until the test result is confirmed by the CDC, which can take up to a week, it is considered a presumptive positive.

IRE is notifying conference attendees now so that individuals can make their own decisions on how best to proceed.

The attendee traveled from within the United States to the conference in New Orleans and was present from Thursday (March 5) until Saturday afternoon (March 7). Based on the onset of the limited symptoms, they could have contracted the virus either before, during or after the conference. Symptoms can appear within two to 14 days of exposure, and in some cases do not appear at all.

The attendee has been reaching out today to people they had close contact with during the conference. In addition, IRE is notifying individuals who participated in a pre-registered hands-on class with the attendee.


RE has consulted with the CDC for guidance. The CDC recommends conference attendees contact their health care provider to let them know that they attended a large gathering with someone who has a laboratory-positive test for COVID-19. Based on your health history and whether you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough or shortness of breath), your doctor may want to see you and/or conduct a coronavirus test. Protocols and testing availability vary from state to state.

The CDC also suggests checking with your local and state health officials and employer for guidance on whether you should work from home or take other measures to limit contact with others. If you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath, please contact your health care provider immediately.

If you do become ill, please contact IRE so that we can notify public health officials and other attendees as necessary. Please email IRE Executive Director Doug Haddix ( doug@ire.org ). IRE will respect your privacy.

For further information, the CDC recommends this particular guidance page as well as the more general COVID-19 page online.

IRE will send further updates as warranted. For questions, please email info@ire.org.