Missouri governor says positivity rates spiking among college-age students

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.jpg
Posted at 12:40 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 15:02:40-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri continues to see an increase in positive cases among college-age students as they return to campuses, according to Gov. Mike Parson.

The governor, speaking Thursday at Washington University in St. Louis, said that through August alone, nearly 7,000 people in the 18- to 24-year-old age group tested positive for COVID-19. Statewide, about 30% of all new cases recently have come from that group, Parson said.

“I know there is a lot of concern right now regarding college students, but I want to assure you that our colleges and universities have plans in place and are taking all steps necessary to keep their students and communities as safe as possible,” Parson said.

According to Parson, positivity rates in some Missouri college communities have risen as high as 45% in one day among 18- to 24-year-olds.

He urged young people to continue taking precautions such as hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing.

“While young, healthy people are likely to have mild symptoms and quick recoveries, they may unknowingly carry COVID-19 to someone older or with underlying conditions who is unable to fight off the virus,” Parson said.

While younger people are contracting the virus at higher rates, the majority are not being hospitalized. The University of Missouri has had no students admitted to the hospital because of the virus, Parson said.

As positivity rates climb among younger people, the state as a whole is seeing fewer older, at-risk people getting sick, Parson said, which he called “a good sign.”

Parson spoke to the media on Thursday afternoon after visiting with representatives at the Washington University School of Medicine, which announced last week that the FDA had approved a saliva-based COVID-19 test developed there.

Dr. Jeffrey Milbrandt, head of Washington University's Department of Genetics and the McDonnell Genome Institute, said that while details are still being worked out, the “highly accurate test" will expand testing capacity in St. Louis and across the state.

Parson hailed the approval of the test, calling it “a major development that will improve our testing capabilities even more.”

Also Thursday, Parson addressed questions surrounding a contract with a Virginia-based firm consulting on the state's pandemic response. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the state has paid a total of $829,000 to the McChrystal Group using CARES Act funds.

Parson defended the contract, saying there were discussions about canceling it in July, but he advocated for its extension because schools in the state were about to begin.

Parson said no taxpayer dollars have been used for payments, which the Post-Dispatch reported began one month after Parson said the state was not paying the company.

Watch the full news conference below: