Spring Break Message to UM Students

March 11, 2020

This Friday is the start of the University of Montana’s traditional spring break. It is a great time for all of us to take a deep breath and prepare for the sprint to the end of the semester. This year, however, as we prepare for this much-needed break, we also need to be aware and prepare for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), or SARS-CoV-2, and the potential impact this outbreak might have on your travel plans.

UM, as part of the Montana University System, is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and our state and local health departments when it comes to travel advisories and planning.

Be Prepared to Adapt for the Rest of the Semester

As you depart for spring break, be assured that UM will continue to closely monitor the coronavirus situation across the U.S. and beyond. Discussions will continue about possibly moving all classes online or using remote learning methods if that becomes necessary. Some universities already have extended their spring breaks or transitioned fully to remote instruction. To this end, you should consider and prepare for the possibility of remote instruction when the term resumes. You will be notified via multiple communication channels (email, text and social media) if any of these steps become necessary. If you are traveling for spring break, take essential items with you and keep your laptops handy!

While we have no cases in Montana yet, there is a possibility we will have one by the time you return from spring break. Please pay close attention to your University email account and watch the website for announcements and information. We continue to work closely with public health officials at the local, state and national levels to monitor the spread of the virus. Public health officials are providing quarantine guidance and monitoring of individuals identified as being at risk. This is a rapidly changing situation. Please check the UM coronavirus website and UM social media channels often for more updates and specific information.

All this information is available on UM's full Coronavirus Information website.

Traveling Domestically for Spring Break

Know where you’re going. Research reputable sources for information on COVID-19 for the areas you plan to travel. As of Wednesday morning, the CDC report 938 cases in the United States, which include confirmed and presumptive cases. So far the intermountain West (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota) do not have cases, but that may change.

Reconsider your trip. If you’re feeling uncertain about traveling for spring break given the coronavirus situation and you live on campus or use dining services, realize that both housing and dining will be open during spring break. Reconsider, especially, if you have underlying health conditions that would exacerbate the impact of contracting COVID-19. We are happy to have you remain on campus with us.

Have a plan to minimize your exposure. Practice social distancing, frequent handwashing and cough into your elbow or a tissue, and then discard the tissue into a covered waste container. Avoid touching public surfaces such as handrails, door knobs, countertops, etc. Carry hand sanitizer in the event hand washing is not available. Use sanitizer with at least 60% to 95% alcohol. Continue these best practices throughout your trip.

Monitor sources for COVID-19 information while you’re away and as you prepare to return. This is a dynamic and emerging situation. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. Get your information from reputable sources, such as Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization, the CDC and state public health agencies.

When you are back from traveling, monitor your health closely. If you become symptomatic when you’re back home, monitor and call your health care provider. Be sure to include information about your symptoms, travel itinerary and places you visited. Know the primary symptoms for COVID-19 — fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure. These symptoms overlap for other respiratory illnesses, so it’s important to provide complete and accurate information to your health care provider, who can determine if you need go to a health care facility, be tested or if you can remain at home. Follow up if your symptoms get worse. If you believe you have a viral illness and want to visit Curry Health Center, call ahead at 406-243-4330 and use the cold and flu clinic entrance on the west side of the building.

If you are sick, stay home. Do this even if you haven’t been to an area with confirmed coronavirus. It’s a good practice to simply stay home when you’re sick to avoid transmission to others. Take the time you need to recover and resume normal activities. UM has a class excuse form available online for those who need to miss class due to illness.

Students often live in communal situations with roommates. Practice consistent handwashing and other CDC recommendations to keep yourself healthy. If you develop symptoms, contact your medical provider and take appropriate steps to minimize spread to others

UM-Related International Travel

At this time, UM-related international travel is only restricted to the four countries listed on the State Department website: China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. If you are traveling on a UM-related trip to other international destinations, please register your UM-related international travel using the UM International Travel Registry. The travel registry is the University’s official means for sharing urgent health, safety and security related information.

UM travelers are encouraged to build in as much flexibility as possible to their plans as travel disruptions are possible. Please consider purchasing trip insurance in case last-minute changes or cancellations are needed. The impact of the coronavirus virus on future education abroad programs is still unknown, as the situation is rapidly evolving.

Please be aware that while you might make it to your destination just fine, you may be unable to return to the U.S. or Missoula as planned. You may be held in quarantine along the way, upon return or be asked to self-isolate at any point during your trip or travel home.

General Precautions

While there are several confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., no cases have been confirmed in Montana, Missoula County or here on the UM campus. Beyond these travel restrictions, there is currently no recommendation for the general U.S. public to take additional precautions.

Additionally, it’s flu season in Montana. If you are ill, stay home and rest. Here are everyday actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least a 60% alcohol base.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a covered trash bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with a “kill” antibacterial solution.
  • If you haven’t done so, get a flu vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should students consider staying home from class?

If you are sick, stay home. You should take steps you normally would when sick, including focusing on caring for your health, contacting your health care provider if you feel you need and don’t attend class if contagious. If you miss class due to illness, work with your instructor on any necessary arrangements for making up coursework.

I have COVID-19 symptoms but have not been around anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. What should I do?

  • The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough and shortness of breath. These can be symptoms of other respiratory illnesses as well as COVID-19.
  • If you are in a high-risk category, and have symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider for advice. If you are at risk for serious illness, your health care provider may arrange a test for COVID-19.
  • If you do not have a high-risk condition and your symptoms are mild, you do not need to be tested for COVID-19. Do not go out when you are sick, practice excellent hygiene and wear a facemask when you are around other people if you can.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Avoid sharing personal household items. Clean your hands often. Clean all high-touch surfaces like doorknobs often.
  • Monitor your symptoms and call your health care provider if symptoms worsen.
  • Stay home and avoid others for 72 hours after your fever goes down and symptoms get better.

Will UM cancel classes?

At this time, there are no plans to cancel classes at UM. Should that time come, however, we have plans in place that will allow our faculty to conduct classes or exams remotely, as possible, until the semester concludes in May. In some cases, when the nature of a class is not suited for remote delivery, other options, including submitting grades based on work conducted to this point, may be used. Faculty and graduate students will receive additional information in a follow-up message from Provost Jon Harbor. Our goal is to make sure students’ academic work is fairly recognized and that any disruption does not present a disadvantage to their future academic progress, including admission to their preferred major in the months or years to come.

In the event of a campus closure or emergency, instructors may be called upon to teach remotely. UMOnline has compiled resources to assist faculty and students in continuing instruction in the event of an extended disruption due to pandemic illness, natural disaster or unsafe conditions.

UMOnline has set up a Keep on Learning site for students that may be helpful in a coronavirus disruption to regular classes.

Should classes be canceled, our campus will remain open to serve all those who rely on our services, including dining services, residence halls, library services, and recreation and athletics facilities. In addition to providing maximum flexibility for our University community to take health precautions and finish classes this semester, this transition provides our facilities crews additional time to deep clean classrooms, auditoriums, libraries, restrooms and other public spaces, as is their standard practice

A more complete FAQ with frequent updates is online here.

UM's Full Coronavirus Information website

UM Coronavirus Communications

Curry Health Center

Curry Health Center Coronavirus Updates