Things I want to know about COVID-19 at Mizzou

Damon Kiesow
3 min readAug 28, 2020


I did not intend to turn this into a series, but for context, you can also read:

We have been working at this ‘dealing with a global pandemic’ problem for about six months now and I have some questions for Mizzou as we finish our first week back in classes.

  • So far, has it been worth infecting 306 students with the virus and sending dozens of others into temporary isolation?
  • Has it been worth driving CoMo to record-high case rates?
  • Has it been worth imposing new, damaging restrictions on downtown businesses?
  • Has it been worth forcing Columbia Public Schools to likely abandon even their hybrid class strategy in favor of online only?
  • Do we expect week two to be safer than week one?

So far the answer must be “yes” to all-of-the-above because here we are, wrapping up Friday homework and preparing for Monday in-person classes.

So the real question is, at what point can or should that answer turn to a “no.” And how will we know? The metrics around that have so far felt intentionally vague. So I would love to understand a few things better:

  • Why is there not a specific and accessible framework in place for this decision?

This is not to say a choice like this can be perfectly quantified but saying basically “it is complicated” is not useful. And the frequent mention of metrics like hospital capacity and fatalities sounds more like a risk management exercise not a health crisis that is impacting actual human students.

As residents and daily occupants of the campus and community we all deserve to know more, and more frequently. At minimum we should be receiving daily updates about:

  1. Total student cases
  2. Total student tests
  3. On and off-campus case numbers
  4. Location of clusters
  5. Available and occupied isolation space
  6. Faculty and staff cases

The lack of a useful dashboard and the lack of any real guidance as to how decisions will be made leads to suspicion and a lack of trust in the institution. A loss of trust is corrosive but can easily be reversed and cured with transparency.

A few more questions:

  • Given the results so far, should we have tried entrance testing?
  • Should we now be instituting a much more frequent asymptomatic testing regime?
  • Since we have medical professionals on campus, shouldn’t we be hearing from them and literally letting science drive the conversation?
  • It was reported earlier we planned to test dorm sewage for traces of the virus. What are the results of that?

Personally, I had a great week. It was amazing to be back on campus and teaching and learning from actual students again. And as much as I would love to repeat that experience, I would also prefer to not receive any more emails from the office of the registrar.



Damon Kiesow

Knight Chair in Digital Editing and Producing @mujschool. Formerly Director of Product @McClatchy Also: @BostonGlobe, @Poynter, @AOL, M.S. HFID @bentleyu