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Lindenwood U Administrators Warn Of ‘Rapid Increase’ In Coronavirus Cases

Kayla Drake
St. Louis Public Radio
Lindenwood University placed signs reminding students to social distance, not gather in large groups and wear face masks across campus.

Lindenwood University has reported more students with COVID-19 than any other university in the St. Louis region this week.

Administrators emailed students last week warning of a “rapid increase in cases of COVID-19 and possible exposures.” As of Thursday, the university recorded having 54 students who tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 130 students in quarantine for being exposed to someone who tested positive. A majority of students are choosing to isolate and quarantine on campus.

The university cracked down in response to a spike in cases after Labor Day. It warned that students planning to party on campus amid the pandemic could be kicked out of university housing for the year and would not receive a refund. A university spokesperson did not respond to an interview request.

Wyatt Watkins
An email from administrators sent out Sept. 13 warns students of new punishments enacted for alcohol and visitation violations.

St. Louis-area universities have not experienced mass coronavirus outbreaks since classes started about a month ago. Most schools are reporting fewer than 20 active cases among students. Maryville University and St. Louis University are tied for the next-highest case count, each with 27 students.

Lindenwood sophomore Wyatt Watkins was quarantined earlier this semester. He said the school has an aggressive contact tracing process, led by the dean of students' office.

While Watkins was confined to his dorm room for two weeks, student workers in residential life left meals at his door. He went to the Total Access Urgent Care across from campus to get tested. Like other small colleges, Lindenwood does not have resources to test students on campus.

The university has sought other ways to try to contain the virus. It removed seating in dining halls and reduced classroom sizes.

Yet cases continue to rise. While Lindenwood requires masks, St. Charles County leaves it up to individual businesses to mandate facial coverings.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page have mandated that bars close early and reduce capacity to 25%.

St. Charles County government has not enacted the same restrictions, which attracted people from St. Louis to downtown St. Charles, said Chris Franklin, manager of Quintessential Dining & Nightlife.

Quintessential is the largest bar on Main Street and popular among Lindenwood students. The bar reduced capacity to 25% but is not requiring people to wear masks.

Franklin said the bar has reached maximum capacity every weekend for the past month. A line of 30 people waited an hour to get in this past weekend.

A spokesman with the St Charles County Health Department said that it is not aware of any students contracting the virus in a bar, but that downtown St. Charles continues to be of concern. Among St. Charles County residents who have tested positive for the virus, those in their twenties outnumber all other age groups by at least 500 cases.

Junior Allie Hosto had to move into Lindenwood’s isolation dorm after testing positive for the coronavirus and her entire field hockey team had to go into quarantine.

“Maybe from the outside, it can look like, ‘Oh, we have such a high number of cases,’” she said. “But you know, I think they're just taking those precautions like putting people in quarantine that aren't showing symptoms.”

Even though the university has taken precautions, Hosto said it’s not in a bubble.

“While you can only have so many people in your dorm or your house, people are now going off campus and going to like restaurants and bars, and so they're meeting with people outside of our campus as well.”

Hosto worked as a pharmacy technician all summer but didn’t test positive until returning to campus. One thing she said she’s learned going back to Lindenwood is that students “are gonna get it at some point.”

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

Kayla is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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