UM COVID Communication: July 30, 2021

Indoor Mask Use Recommended Regardless of Vaccination Status

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued updated guidance recommending mask use in indoor settings regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, in locations experiencing increased COVID-19 transmission and infection.

The Missoula City-County Health Department has reported increased COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in our county, including the presence of the Delta variant, and is encouraging indoor mask use for all.

Likewise, UM asks that employees, students and visitors voluntarily wear masks indoors – regardless of vaccination status – until Missoula County’s COVID risk level is Yellow (one to three cases per 100,000) or Green (less than one case per 100,000). Currently, Missoula County COVID risk level is Orange (10-24 cases per 100,000), which is classified as "accelerated spread."

Q. If wearing masks is to protect others, why do I need to wear one if I’m vaccinated?

A. Here are a few facts to consider:

  • While masks block the release of exhaled respiratory particles into the environment, studies also demonstrate that masks also can reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration.
  • Vaccinated individuals still can contract COVID-19. In fact, the Delta variant is so concerning because it is more infectious and there have been increasing cases of “breakthrough infections” in vaccinated people. However, breakthrough cases generally do not result in severe outcomes, hospitalization or death.
  • Because of the possibility of breakthrough infections, vaccinated individuals can be asymptomatic spreaders of COVID-19
  • Lastly, there are many in our community who cannot receive the vaccine due to age restrictions (i.e. currently unavailable for children under 12) or other reasons. Wearing a mask can reduce risk to those who cannot be vaccinated.

Q: How many of the new COVID-19 cases in Montana are the Delta variant?

A: In a recent NPR interview, state health officials noted the Delta variant was first detected in Montana in April, but the UK variant remained dominant until now. In July over 50% of the specimens sequenced by the state and its contractors were identified as the Delta variant.

Keep a Mask Readily Available

There are still places on the UM campus where masks are required, including Curry Health Center, on UDASH buses and Mountain Line Transit and some of our health clinics and clinical settings. Healthy Griz Kits, which include reusable masks, sanitizer, disinfectant and a microfiber towel, will be distributed to all new students at Orientation. These kits are also available for employees and visitors at various locations around campus. Single-use masks are also widely available. Keeping a mask with you in case you need it makes good sense.

There is Still Time to Vaccinate Before Fall Classes

If you’ve been busy this summer and haven’t scheduled your COVID-19 vaccine, now is the time to call the Health Services Pharmacy inside Curry Health Center. Call 406-243-5171 or just walk-in between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays. The pharmacy offers the Pfizer vaccine, which is a two-dose series 21 days apart. Missoula City-County Health Department also runs a daily clinic at Southgate Mall and mobile clinics in the community. Visit the Missoula County vaccination portal to learn more.

The sooner you make the appointment, the closer you’ll be to what’s considered “full vaccination,” which is two weeks after that second dose.

Missoula County officials urge vaccination for all residents 12 and older, stressing the importance of vaccinating eligible youth before school starts in late August.

Note: This Campus COVID Communication now will resume weekly frequency, and we will answer questions received from employees and students about our approach to fall semester. Please email questions to the CRT (crt@mso.umt.edu), and we will address them directly or in future updates.

Be well,

COVID Response Team

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