Region, state work to slow virus

Posted: Mar. 16, 2020 12:01 am

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Although no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Northeast Missouri, several precautions are being taken to lower risks of spreading the virus.

Responses have included a suspension of in-class instruction at some universities. And tourism officials are looking at the possible affects for festivals and riverboat tours.

"Classes will not physically meet on the HLGU main campus next week," Hannibal-LaGrange University Dean of Students Josh Pierce said.

"At this point we've done this in an effort to be cautious and to protect our students, faculty, staff and community."

Online classes will be used to keep students and instructors safe, while giving the school time to prepare the campus before students return to on March 22. Returning students will go through a check-in process to identify anyone who might have symptoms or who traveled to an area where the coronavirus has been confirmed.

HLGU did not have class last week due to spring break

Pierce said HLGU officials are working on plans that will guide the school if someone tests positive for COVID-19.

"We're continuing to evaluate what we have in place and we're reaching out to people with more experience" with medical emergencies, Pierce said.

Culver-Stockton College at Canton is extending spring break through next week. Classes are set to resume March 23 and will be available online to give residential students the option of returning to campus or staying home. Most C-SC events have been cancelled through April 4.

Truman State University, in Kirksville, will not conduct in-person classes next week in an effort to limit exposure to the virus.

While the tourism industry braces itself for a negative impact as a result of the virus, it is too soon to say what impact will be seen locally on tourism, according to Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We continue to follow the latest updates from the tourism industry and are working proactively to make sure our advertising messages are timely and on target," she said.

Could Hannibal become a more attractive destination for people who otherwise might have taken a cruise or traveled abroad on vacation this summer?

"Missouri as a whole and Hannibal in particular has the benefit of being a driving destination," Bryant said. "If people opt for more ‘staycations' closer to home, as opposed to a large trip like a cruise or a vacation abroad, Hannibal will see benefit."

Bryant does not believe Hannibal's large, outdoor events, such as Twain on Main, will suffer attendance-wise.

"As of right now, events that are being canceled are indoor events where large crowds of people are in a confined, indoor space," she said. "Twain on Main and other festivals, which are still months away, focus on outdoor entertainment. Although it is too soon to predict impact the difference in the two types of events is important to note."

Bryant declined to speculate whether the riverboat industry will curtail its number of cruises on the Mississippi River, which would mean fewer of the big boats docking in Hannibal.

"It is too early to tell at this point," she said. "Our season for large riverboats does not begin until July. Although some large cruise lines have canceled cruises they have only done so through May, which is two months before our first riverboat is scheduled to dock."

Missouri reported its fifth case of the novel coronavirus Saturday.

The state lab now has the capacity to perform 1,000 COVID-19 tests, and more kits were expected shortly, said Gov. Mike Parson.