Columbia city leaders address young people at COVID-19 briefing

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COLUMBIA - Columbia mayor Brian Treece called on college students to make smart choices when returning to campus. 

"I urge you to resist house parties where no social distancing is taking place and face coverings are not being worn," he said. "Be responsible in bars and restaurants."

Treece spoke at a COVID-19 community briefing Wednesday. He was joined by leaders from local schools and hospitals as well as by Stephanie Browning, director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Services.

Treece stressed personal responsibility for returning college students, as well as other community members.

"We can have one big back to school bash and be shut down the rest of the fall and probably throughout the spring," he said. "Where we can all take those steps to model behavior that is responsible, that follows the guidance of public health professionals and allows us all, it may not be ideal. It may not be normal, but it allows all of those bars and restaurants, and retail stores, and apartments to stay open, and students to stay in class.”

The health department has worked with colleges and primary schools to create safe plans for the fall semester. 

"Our partnerships with the education community have always been strong," Browning said. "One example of a partnership is with the University of Missouri. They've hired employees to do case investigations and contact tracing for their students living on campus. Our continued ability to work together is so essential at this time."

Browning also discussed the federal coronavirus relief bill money that the Boone County Commission recently authorized for the health department.

The department will receive about $1.8 million for contact tracers, communicable disease experts, health educators and data staff, Browning said. 

Browning also said that 55% of confirmed COVID cases in Boone County come from a close contact. She said it's important for people to not to let their guard down. 

"That one hug or that one gathering, that could be when you spread COVID-19," she said. 

Browning encouraged people to be patient with changing pandemic guidance. 

"We are literally watching the scientific process play out," she said. "We will continue to make decisions based on science and that means the guidance may change. We're asking you to lean in, partner with us as we navigate this next chapter."

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