Guidance as of April 24, 2020

First, thank you all for your tremendous efforts during the past few weeks and months. Your willingness to adapt and adjust has been admirable and much appreciated in these difficult and uncertain times. As you may have read, both Gov. Steve Bullock and Commissioner Clay Christian have issued instructions on when we can all begin to return to work on campus within the next several weeks. Missoula County also has issued guidance, and we are considering all of this, along with our knowledge of the University’s specific operations and needs, as we move forward.

We will proceed in a measured and data-informed manner to consider, first and foremost, the safety of all members of our UM community. 

Consistent with the governor’s phased approach, we will begin working toward Phase One, which describes the following guidance for individuals and employers:

Phase One: Individuals

The Stay-at-Home Directive is extended for individuals until April 26. Effective Sunday, April 26:

All vulnerable individuals should continue to follow the stay-at-home guidance. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents. (“Vulnerable individuals” are defined as people over 65 years of age; people with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity or asthma; and people whose immune system is compromised, such as by chemotherapy for cancer or other conditions requiring such therapy.)

All individuals, apart from members of a vulnerable household, should:

  • When in public (such parks, outdoor recreation areas or shopping areas) maintain at least six feet of physical distance from others.
  • Avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.
  • Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to Montana guidelines regarding quarantine.

Phase One: Employers

Except as otherwise specified in this directive, the mandatory closure of nonessential businesses provided in the Stay-at-Home Directive is extended until April 27.

Following the expiration of the Stay-at-Home Directive, businesses are no longer designated essential or non-essential, except as otherwise provided in this Directive.

Effective Monday, April 27, employers should:

  • Continue to encourage telework whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
  • When telework is not feasible, employers are encouraged to accommodate alternative work schedules such as shift work and staggered scheduling in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
  • Minimize nonessential business travel.
  • Make special accommodations for members of a vulnerable population or those with vulnerable household members.

Businesses that reopen must adhere to specific guidelines appended to the governor’s directive.

There is additional guidance, described in “Phase One: Specific Types of Employers/Activities,” which describes details for places of worship, retail businesses, restaurants, gyms, pools and other operations. That information is posted in the state’s “Reopening the Big Sky” guidance.

The last item with a date-specific action within Phase One is the May 7 date upon which K-12 schools will have local decision-making around how to proceed for the remainder of their academic year. As you know, the MUS already has announced and will continue with remote instruction through the end of spring semester.

UM will begin a gradual transition into Phase One. As you might expect, some parts of the campus will proceed differently than others and on different schedules. For example, the University Center, with retail business lease-holders, restaurant operations and other services likely will proceed with a more immediate timeframe.

Employees working on campus need to practice social distancing measures, limit the number of people in common areas and continue to monitor their own health and stay home if sick. Many employees currently are working remotely and can continue to do so provided their work is being completed efficiently and effectively.

If work must be accomplished on campus, and this can be done safely with COVID-19 in mind, supervisors will work with employees to modify or cancel telecommuting agreements and have employees return to campus. Supervisors should consider staggered work arrangements for some employees to work remotely some days per week in order to accomplish social distancing. Employees with underlying health conditions may need special or enhanced accommodations to be able to work safely.

UM leaders will begin assessing the workforce adjustments required to transition fully into Phase One and be in a position to build on our efforts for the subsequent phases. This will involve design work on the part of managers, guidance from HR with the best health and safety guidance and a plan to adjust as needed.

Please keep in mind this phased approach will be gradual and will require disciplined monitoring and adjustments. It is not a “return to normal.” We are working together to craft a “new normal” – one that keeps safety as the top priority but also facilitates a return to campus to enable continued operations and a path forward in anticipation of our students, employees and community members returning to campus.

Paul Lasiter
UM Vice President for Operations and Finance