COVID-19 cases have remained steady the last few weeks at Northwest. The University averaged almost 14 active cases per day from Sept. 13-19, making up a little over 20% of the county’s total active cases during that time.

The University is set to host its largest weekend of events in the fall semester, outside of Homecoming. Family Weekend is scheduled to take place Sept. 24-26, with the largest event being the first Bearcat football home game of the season against Central Oklahoma. 

Most of the events for Family Weekend, including the football game, will take place outside where the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is lower. Lt. Amanda Cullin, a member of the Crisis Response Team 2, said the team will be keeping a close eye on COVID-19 data following this weekend.

“We are not anticipating any huge changes because of the event(s),” Cullin said.

COVID-19 cases in Nodaway County have stayed consistent through the month of September, but Nate Blackford, president of Mosaic Medical Center - Maryville, said he is concerned by an apparent rise in cases among children.

“We are seeing more and more kids, it seems, even under the age of 12 being impacted,” Blackford said.

Of the 109 people who tested positive for the coronavirus in September, 32 of them have been under the age of 20. Tabitha Frank, nursing supervisor for the Nodaway County Health Center, echoed Blackford’s concerns about cases among children. 

“That’s something that we want to try and help prevent as much as possible,” Frank said. “The way to do that is for those that can get vaccinated to be vaccinated and, you know, for everyone to take precautions.” 

At the time of publication, children under the age of 12 are not eligible to receive the vaccine for COVID-19. Pfizer conducted trials on a variation of the vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, and the results show the vaccine was effective. Pfizer plans to submit for FDA approval of the vaccine for children by the end of September, and approval could happen by Halloween, according to the New York Times.

Children under the age of 12 have been one of the hardest hit demographics by the delta variant in recent weeks. More children have been hospitalized from the virus during that time span than at any other time in the past 18 months. Currently, children make up over one in every five new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. 

Local vaccination rates continue to lag slightly behind state and well behind national rates. Data showed fewer than 42% of people in Nodaway County were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at the time of publication. A little over 47% of people in Missouri and 55% of people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated.

Vaccination rates continue to creep upward at Northwest, Cullin said. Wellness Services at Northwest has continued to accrue vaccination records as part of voluntary giveaways, the last of which will take place Oct. 1. Around 40% of students and 61% of employees have shared vaccine information with Wellness at the time of publication.

Booster shots have begun to be administered to those who are immunocompromised. Blackford said Mosaic is preparing for booster shots to open up for those over the age of 65, which the Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of Sept. 22.

Area hospitals, the Nodaway County Health Department and Northwest are still awaiting more information on Biden’s executive order from Sept. 9. The order mandated vaccines for government employees, healthcare providers and businesses with over 100 employees. 

Shortly after the mandate, Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s office issued a press release condemning the order. The release called it “unconstitutional” and an “assault on freedom.” 

As of now, courts have referenced Jacobson v. Massachusetts as the standard for the constitutionality of vaccine mandates. The case was decided in 1905, when the Supreme Court ruled that mandates for smallpox vaccines were constitutional.

“Right now, we are just waiting and seeing,” Cullin said of the mandate.

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