As we prepare to welcome students to campus, we write to provide a few updates specific to our COVID-19 planning for the spring semester.
First, we recognize the tremendous efforts of our UM family during the fall semester. Working together, we were able to keep COVID-19 transmission low on the campus, making it possible to complete the semester and enable degree completion for more than 800 students.
The Healthy Fall 2020 Plan has been updated and renamed the Campus COVID Operations Plan to guide us through the spring, summer and beyond as necessary. Most updates to the plan were changes to dates and timelines, refreshing language based on new guidance or adding measures implemented during fall semester. The Healthy Fall 2020 siteis still available to reference as needed. We have scheduled two ZOOM information sessions this week to answer questions:
Other important work to prepare for the semester also is underway. Here are a couple of specific items to note:
The COVID Response Team, which will continue to meet daily during the spring semester, has anticipated increased COVID-19 testing needs for returning (symptomatic) students. Curry Health Center anticipates the ability to run 100 tests per day, and we have surge testing capacity within the UM Genomics Core and possibly with the Missoula City-County Health Department, depending on community testing demand.
Throughout the break, we have communicated with students about proactive steps they can take to minimize their exposure risk, as well as the risk of exposing others, as they return to campus. We ask all members of our University community to self-monitor for symptoms and seek testing at Curry Health Center, a Missoula County testing site or with a primary care provider if they feel ill or develop symptoms consistent with a COVID-19 infection.
We have reviewed our protocols for quarantine and isolation for students in campus housing and have added additional units for this purpose. UM is prepared to support campus residents immediately should they need Q&I due to COVID-19.
The Facilities Services team has reset learning spaces on campus, which includes configuring classrooms for consistent and reliable physical distancing (similar to fall semester). The team also refilled disinfectant wipe dispensers and disinfectant/hand sanitizer to refill bottles in Healthy Griz Kits.
New students arriving this week will receive a Healthy Griz Kit during orientation beginning Wednesday. We plan several opportunities to pick up a kit on the Oval next week during the first week of classes for any student or employee who needs one.
Lastly, you’ve likely heard about COVID-19 vaccine distribution, which has begun in Missoula for residents in long-term care facilities and frontline health care workers. Curry Health Center is both a provider and distributor of COVID-19 vaccine, and will do so according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, specifically, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which established phases for vaccine distribution.
The MCCHD website has a helpful overview of these phases, of which we are currently in Phase 1A. For UM, this group includes Curry Health Center medical staff, students and employees gathering or analyzing COVID-19 test samples and students who are required to receive the vaccine to participate in clinical rotations. Currently, only those individuals in Phase 1A are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Curry Health Center will be able to provide vaccine to students and employees and may expand to the greater community in coordination with MCCHD. We will provide additional updates about vaccine distribution as new information becomes available –particularly as we complete vaccination of individuals in Phase 1A.
As we write today, there are 281 active COVID cases reported in Missoula County, down from a peak of more than 1,200 in late November. While this is encouraging news, please note that the current number of active cases remains higher than when we started the fall semester, and public health officials warn that the county and state could experience a new post-holiday surge. Thus, we will remain vigilant in wearing masks, washing hands and watching distances, along with the other mitigations for reducing COVID-19 transmission.
As we begin the New Year and spring semester, we offer our gratitude for your continued patience and dedication to keeping COVID-19 transmission low within our campus community.