President's Update: Campus Prepares for COVID-19

March 3, 2020

Dear UM Community:

As you know, new cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S. continue to rise, most recently with new confirmed cases and fatalities in Washington state.

Since the State Department alerts were initially issued for travel to mainland China, the University has been in weekly coordination calls with the other units of the Montana University System regarding response to coronavirus. Early on, these calls were focused on impacts to students in study abroad programs, visiting scholars and international students. More recently, our planning calls have shifted toward prevention and response and the potential for coronavirus on our campuses in communities here in Montana.

Based on events in the U.S. over the past week, we must anticipate and prepare for coronavirus here on campus. We have already been promoting the CDC guidance around handwashing and other measures to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus or spreading it to others. We have also initiated contingency planning for all aspects of campus operations in the event of a coronavirus case on the campus or in our community.

While there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Montana, our Campus Preparedness and Response Group is working through planning scenarios around significant disruption to campus operations, including the possibility of a temporary campus closure, a move to online/remote delivery of courses or other measures to reduce the health risks to our students, faculty and staff. We are collaborating with the City of Missoula, Missoula County Public Schools, Missoula County and our local hospitals to ensure our decisions and actions are aligned with the best science and policy guidance and coordinated with respect to the impacts on members of our community.

We are monitoring COVID-19 developments on a continual basis and are looking ahead to how we’ll manage large events on campuses across the MUS, such as the upcoming Montana Class C basketball tournament in the Adams Center and the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Bozeman in late March. We are also planning for the potential impact of spring break, which will see our students traveling within Montana as well as across the U.S. and possibly internationally. We will be communicating with students before they depart and provide guidance for their return.

As we move forward, please remember at this point, the most effective defense against coronavirus includes the following:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The University has established an information page on coronavirus on the Curry Health Center website. There is a link to that page from the main UM homepage and from the UM app.

Please know that the health and safety of our UM community is our highest priority. We will share more information and updates as they are available.

Seth