COVID-19 Columbia | KBIA

COVID-19 Columbia

This week on Views of the News, a look back – and a look ahead – from the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Also, a Voice of America reporter is reassigned after questioning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Vogue editors defend their February cover, a portrait of Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris some say is too casual.

Mizzou Show Me Renewal

It’s the first time since the University of Missouri started reporting COVID-19 cases that the number of “TOTAL STUDENTS HOSPITALIZED SINCE AUG. 19, 2020” was not zero.

The Show Me Renewal dashboard was updated on Monday to two students, marked with a double asterisk.

The City of Columbia is starting a loan fund for local small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Small Business Recovery Loan Program will give eligible businesses up to $15,000 in loans to cover expenses and adjustments caused by the pandemic. The program comes from the Housing Programs Division and will be open to locally owned Columbia businesses that have between six and 49 employees.

The loan is 0 percent interest and will be forgiven so long as the business can prove it has had at least one low-to-moderate income employee for the past year. The funds for the program are coming from the CARES Act, which provided extra money for recovery efforts through community development block grants.

Randy Cole is the housing programs manager for the City of Columbia. He said at the beginning of the pandemic, local businesses were struggling to stay open.

“We had 161 businesses report how long they could operate under the current state of conditions,” Cole said. “At that time, seven and a half percent were less than a month, 11 percent were one month and 27 percent were two months. And that was back in April.”

Cole said that even though Columbia’s begun to reopen, businesses continue to need help and relief.

“Certainly, we’ve reopened, but there’s still additional restrictions in place, still additional issues with consumer confidence in going out, so there’s a significant number of businesses that have contacted us that are still interested and need that assistance,” Cole said. “So, I think that need is still there.”

The initial fund will be able to support 26 businesses, but Cole said they have plans to try and help out more businesses, possibly expanding outside of the city of Columbia.

“So, we applied for funds through the county to help fund additional businesses here in Columbia and potentially help some businesses that are out in the county area, or non-city,” Cole said. “So, we’re still waiting to hear back from the county on that, but I would anticipate hearing something here within the next week or two.”

Applications for the loan will open on October 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hickman High School
Meiying Wu / KBIA

The Columba Public School Board voted 6 -1 Monday night to begin the school year entirely online – a change from the intended in-person/hybrid plan introduced just a few weeks ago.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Missouri has entered its sixth month of navigating the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and for dozens of health departments across the state, CARES Act funding has been slow to arrive.

That means crucial public-health positions like contact tracers and case investigators have been left unfilled. So, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services has found one creative stop-gap – Masters in Public Health student volunteers.

Verna Laboy, left, stands next to Dee Campbell-Carter, right. They both smile broadly into the camera.
Provided by Dee Campbell-Carter

Verna Laboy is a health educator for Columbia/Boone County Public Health & Human Services, and runs the Live Well by Faith program, a community-based health program that targets chronic health conditions through black churches. 

The program supports health ministries at 17 black churches in the area by providing health programming, training and resources for people in the congregation, and leaders within each church help run programming and do data collection.

She spoke with Dee Campbell-Carter, a lifestyle coach for the program, about just a few of the ways the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is impacting the black community here in Columbia – and how they’re supporting one another.

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

Provided by Jordan Parshall

Many routine medical procedures have been postponed or rescheduled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but there is one common medical condition that cannot be put off so easily – pregnancy.

So, hospitals in Mid-Missouri have had to determine the best ways to keep moms, babies and staff safe, as well as reduce anxiety for expectant mothers.

Meiying Wu

Today, new guidance was announced for a wider reopening of businesses and activity in Columbia and Boone County.

According to the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, there have been 108 positive COVID-19 cases in the area, with nine being active and one person hospitalized.

Furloughs Required for 579 MU Staff Members in Budget Crisis

May 11, 2020
Columns and Jesse Hall on MU's campus.
Sara Shahriari / KBIA

Almost 580 MU staff members have taken furloughs or are scheduled to take them before July 31, according to a new campus website showing budgetary actions.

The number jumped from zero last week because it is first week in which an overall accounting of layoffs and furloughs is being posted on the website. Updates will be posted each Friday and reflect information through the end of the previous Wednesday.

MU Looks at Antibody Testing for Students for Fall Semester

May 8, 2020
Columns on MU campus.
Sara Shahriari / KBIA

To prepare for the fall, MU is developing a task force for COVID-19 antibody testing and contact tracing, UM System President Mun Choi said Thursday.

University officials are determining whether MU should provide tests to students or ask them to get antibody tests where they reside, Choi said at a meeting of the MU Faculty Council.

More Than 1,200 Students Using Columbia Public Schools' Meal Service Daily

May 6, 2020
Exterior of Hickman High School.
Meiying Wu / KBIA

The Grab-and-Go meal service launched March 30 for Columbia Public Schools students has been working well, district spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said Tuesday.

From 1,200 to 1,300 students pick up the meals each day, she said. There are 19,052 students in the district, according to the district’s website.

After school buildings closed because of COVID-19, the district began providing Grab-and-Go meal service for students in need.

Coronavirus Forces Columbia Budget Cuts

May 4, 2020
Columbia City Hall.
Meiying Wu / KBIA

Declining revenue from sales tax and other sources, along with spending in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, will force city staff and the Columbia City Council to amend the general fund budget for fiscal 2020.

The council will discuss budget adjustments at a work session before its regular meeting Monday night. At the regular meeting, it also will discuss whether to shift federal money from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development toward more help for small businesses and people struggling to keep their housing.

Columbia, Boone County Businesses Will be Able to Open Monday with Restrictions

Apr 30, 2020

Most businesses in Boone County will be able to reopen Monday with restrictions intended to prevent a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Columbia/Boone County Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning said at a community briefing Thursday that she signed new orders with guidelines for which businesses will be allowed to open and how. She said the order marks the beginning of "our journey to a new normal."

Diane McMillen

For hundreds of elderly and disabled residents in Missouri, personal care attendants, or PCAs, are a lifeline that stave off isolation and help them stay out of nursing homes. The field was already facing a shortage of workers before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but now, things are even worse.

Makeshift cubicle rooms
Desmond Foo / The Straits Times via EPA

For the second time in two decades, Singapore is grappling with a coronavirus.

One of the hotspots of the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, the country is putting the lessons it learned then to work as it faces COVID-19, the potentially deadly infection caused by another coronavirus.

Missouri School of Journalism student Aqil Hamzah, quarantined in his hometown, interviewed two veteran newspaper editors about how coverage of the two outbreaks compares. 

Columbia and Boone County Extend Stay-at-Home Order to May 3

Apr 23, 2020
Meiying Wu / KBIA

The Columbia and Boone County stay-at-home order will now go through May 3, according to a news release from the city.

An extension of the original order, which began March 25 and was set to end Friday, had been signaled in recent comments by local officials.

Columbia Public Schools Cancels In-Person Summer School

Apr 23, 2020
Meiying Wu / KBIA

In-person summer school is canceled for Columbia Public Schools students this year, Superintendent Peter Stiepleman announced Thursday at a Columbia School Board meeting. 

The district is considering an optional in-person August session as well as the possibility of additional sessions throughout the 2020–21 school year.

MU, Boone Hospitals to Resume Treating Nonemergent Necessary Clinical Patients

Apr 22, 2020
Columbia City Hall
Meiying Wu / KBIA

Local hospitals will reopen to begin treating people who need nonemergent necessary clinical services, Mayor Brian Treece said at a community briefing Tuesday.

At the City Council meeting Monday night, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning laid out four conditions for reopening the city.

Alexander Trimis

Missouri is temporarily waiving restrictions on to-go and delivery orders of alcoholic beverages, the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control(ATC) announced yesterday.

Restaurants and bars will now be able to mix cocktails and package them to-go, in addition to the prepackaged alcohol like beer they were able to sell before.

“It’s being done to try to help restaurants out, and their employees, who are facing very difficult economic circumstances because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said ATC Spokesperson Mike O’Connell.

Boone Hospital Center Begins In-House COVID-19 Testing for Inpatients

Apr 15, 2020
Doctor's office supplies on desk.
Raw Pixel / Unsplash

Boone Hospital Center can now test inpatients for COVID-19 in the hospital’s laboratory, according to a Tuesday news release, expediting results.

The in-house analysis using “rapid molecular technology” has reduced the time it takes to get results to less than an hour, “when we were previously waiting up to 24 hours,” Drew Wilkinson, Boone Hospital Center lab director, said in the release.

The laboratory has always been capable of performing the tests but was waiting on a federal allocation of testing kits, which the hospital received this week.

The six independently standing columns in front of Jesse Hall serve as a major landmark at the University of Missouri.
Sara Shahriari / KBIA

The topic for the UM System Board of Curators news conference Thursday was COVID-19.

The curators held the news conference after their public session meeting, during which UM System President Mun Choi fielded questions about the university’s financials and the challenges that come with staying on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Choi talked about how unique this pandemic situation has been in comparison to issues in years past.

KBIA's Rebecca Smith's cat, Pip, sleeps on his windowsill bed while keeping her company in her home office.
Rebecca Smith / KBIA

When my cat, Pip, started sniffling and sneezing a few weeks ago, I didn’t give it much thought. But as the sneezing continued, I started to get worried – both about Pip, of course, and about how I was going to safely get him to the veterinarian during Columbia’s stay-at-home order.

So, I called my vet and found out they had changed the way appointments were handled. Instead of going into the office with my cat, I would call when I was parked outside, hand Pip over in a carrier from my car, and then talk to the vet over the phone about a treatment plan.

A drive-up, hands-off vet clinic.

Provided by Matthew Huffman

As COVID-19 cases have gone up in Missouri, more and more stay-at-home orders have gone into effect. But these orders, which are an attempt to reduce transmission, could, in some cases, be increasing the risk of domestic and sexual violence.

Matthew Huffman is the Public Affairs Director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and he spoke with KBIA’s Rebecca Smith about how domestic violence programs offering direct services to survivors – things like shelter, counseling, food, and more – are adapting and where people can still turn for help.

Columbia Motel Becomes Homeless Shelter During COVID-19 Pandemic

Mar 30, 2020
Columbia City Hall
Meiying Wu / KBIA

A low-cost hotel has become the front line for assisting the homeless residents of Columbia during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Welcome Inn is hosting the CoMo Crisis Shelter, which is housing homeless people in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the population. 

Each room houses two people, which isn't ideal, the CoMo Crisis Shelter website states, but allows it to house more people while still lowering the risk of transmission overall.

Rebecca Smith / KBIA

By now, most people will know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider older individuals "at higher risk" for serious complications of COVID-19, but there are several other groups that also have higher risk – and are maybe not as obvious to the naked eye. 

Doctor's office supplies on desk.
Raw Pixel / Unsplash

Two more people in Boone County have tested positive for COVID-19, the city of Columbia reported in a Thursday evening news release.

The two new positive cases involved people in their 60s and 70s. Both are related to out-of-state contact with another person who had tested positive.

This brings the total number of positive cases discovered in Boone County to three. The first person diagnosed, who was in their 60s, died Wednesday.

UM Campuses to Shut Down Through April 12

Mar 20, 2020
Jesse Hall and MU columns.
Ryan Famuliner / KBIA

Starting Monday, all four campuses in the University of Missouri System are closing. No one will physically work on campus unless directed otherwise, UM System President Mun Choi said in a systemwide email Thursday afternoon.

The shutdown will continue through April 12 and is meant to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Parking Enforcement Suspended in Downtown Columbia

Mar 20, 2020
Columbia City Hall.
Meiying Wu / KBIA

The city has suspended parking enforcement in an effort to allow greater flexibility for customers getting carryout food. 

"Effective immediately, parking enforcement is suspended. This will assist in not overwhelming our Municipal Court system once operations are back to normal," the Public Works Department tweeted Thursday.

"We hope this will help our downtown business community in their efforts to provide carry-out services and curbside pickup."