Dear UM Community,
You may have heard yesterday that Missoula City-County Health Department will impose additional local restrictions this week in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. These new measures will take effect at 8 a.m. tomorrow. The goal: to decrease COVID-19 incidence to 25 cases/100,000 population (new case, seven-day average) for two consecutive weeks. The infographic and information on the main Missoula City-County COVID-19 Information page explain this in greater detail.
The new local restrictions exempt our curricular activities, as described in item 1f:
“Limits on gathering size do not apply to students in classrooms or at other school-related activities. However, limits on gathering size do apply to spectators or audience members at those activities.”
During the press conference announcing these measures, MCCHD Public Health Officer Ellen Leahy noted that structured environments, such as those provided in schools and business offices, are proving to be at lower risk for COVID-19 transmission. Our work at UM in structuring classrooms, office spaces and other areas to accommodate reliable physical distancing is reducing transmission in those spaces.
Additionally, the hard work of our custodial teams in routine cleaning and disinfection, as well as targeted responses in areas where positive cases occur, has been integral to our efforts to minimize transmission on campus. While we are encouraged by UM case numbers and trends, we are ever mindful of how fast that situation can change, especially with cases on the rise in our community.
Except for a few specific instances with regard to events and some business/retail adjustments for vendors and dining, the new orders will not change UM’s current operations. We will continue working to maintain the mitigations we have in place around physical distancing, custodial cleaning and disinfection and our pause on non-curricular events. We ask that our community members continue with personal responsibility for wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining distance.
While not specifically mentioned in the order, yesterday’s announcement included a “voluntary stay-at-home” request. With the rise in cases, our local health care system – especially the hospitals – are being stressed with demand for care. The voluntary stay-at-home request is that we all stay home except for going to work and school, seeking medical care, getting groceries, recreating outdoors safely, etc. The more we can minimize opportunities for transmission by avoiding extracurricular indoor activities, gatherings and events, the better our chances of reducing positive cases in our community.
The new order will be reviewed in two weeks and weekly thereafter. Working together, our hope is that Missoula County will see a slow in COVID-19 transmission.
Lastly, the importance of staying home if you are ill and getting a test if you’re exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 cannot be overstated. If you are a UM student, please contact Curry Health Center at 406-243-2122 if you feel ill, exhibit symptoms or have questions about potential COVID-19 exposure. If you are a University employee, refer to your primary care provider or visit the MCCHD testing options website.
Thank you for your continued vigilance and cooperation with local health orders and University COVID-19 guidance. Working together we can reduce transmission and care for our campus community.
UM COVID Response Team (CRT)