The university reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, setting a new single-day record for positive cases on campus.
UMKC’s previous record didn’t last long, having been set only three days prior on Friday, Jan. 21, with 19 new cases. With a total of 71 cases since the spring semester began on Jan. 18, the university has already reached 25% of the total cases reported for the entire fall 2021 semester in just one week.
This mirrors the local trend in Kansas City, where the seven-day average has been at its highest point during the entirety of the coronavirus pandemic.
In light of the rising case numbers, Kansas City Mayor Quentin Lucas said on Jan. 19 that he was considering all available options to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. One of these possibilities included reimplementing a city-wide mandate, which Lucas has been previously hesitant to consider.
“Right now what’s holding us back is, in some ways, the political challenge that we receive from the state of Missouri,” Lucas said in an interview with CBS when asked about plans for a universal mandate.
Lucas pointed specifically to Attorney General Eric Schmitt as the primary cause of this political difficulty, as Schmitt has filed numerous legal challenges against mask mandates in cities across Missouri.
UMKC also remains without a mask mandate, though officials in the University of Missouri System had proposed a system-wide mandate prior to the start of the spring semester.
The proposal contained two different options: one that would require students and faculty to wear masks in indoor spaces, and one that would require masks only in classrooms and lab spaces. If accepted, the mandate would have been in effect until the next board meeting on Feb. 3. However, the Board of Curators rejected both plans in a Jan. 11 meeting, voting 3-6 and 2-7 respectively.
System President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi had urged the board to accept the proposal, stating that it could result in significantly lower rates of COVID-19 infections on campus and help the universities stay open.
Following concerns expressed from the faculty council at MU over the board’s decision, Choi told faculty that MU would carry on operations as normal.
“We don’t have the support for an indoor mask mandate,” Choi wrote in an email from Jan. 14.
Following the expiration of the previous system-wide mandate in October, UMKC’s Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications John Martellaro said the university would follow the system’s policy of encouraging masks and mirroring local mandates.