Dear UM Community,
We begin the fifth week of the fall semester today, which is a testament to our careful and thoughtful planning over the summer and also to our collective, mindful approach to working, teaching and learning despite the challenges presented by the COVID pandemic. Thank you for the patience, flexibility and persistence shown over the past few weeks to come together as a community and to work toward a safe and successful completion of the fall term.
Over the past week, there have been new positive cases of COVID-19 among our University community. Given the continued identification of new cases in Missoula County and around Montana, these are not unexpected, and we are prepared to respond to provide support, manage quarantine/isolation needs and test symptomatic individuals and close contacts at Curry Health Center. Our COVID Response Team continues to collaborate closely with Missoula City-County Health Department (MCCHD) to understand these new cases and identify learning opportunities that can be gleaned and shared with our campus.
We write to share the following observations:
- Responsible behavior and proactive safety measures off-campus are critically important. Most, if not all, of the new cases have resulted from social activities off-campus and outside of classes or University events. The University has been proactive in designing classrooms, common work areas, dining, housing and student services to mitigate risks of COVID-19 exposure and spread. But students and employees are only in these environments for a portion of the day. Implementing the same risk mitigations – wearing your mask, practicing social/physical distancing, washing your hands and keeping your social circles small – outside of class, work and campus activities is absolutely critical.
- Don't assume your symptoms are due to seasonal colds, allergies or wildfire smoke. Remember, for many people COVID-19 symptoms can be very mild. Call your medical provider to discuss your symptoms and your specific medical details to determine whether a COVID-19 test is recommended. A test to confirm or rule out COVID-19 is integral to knowing whether you need to quarantine or isolate to prevent spreading the virus. If you are a student having symptoms compatible with COVID-19, call Curry Health Center at 406-243-2122 to speak with a provider and inquire about a COVID test. UM employees should contact their health care providers or call MCCHD at 406-258-INFO to request a test.
- Do not come to campus or attend classes if you aren’t feeling well. Call in and inform your faculty member or supervisor you will be out. You do not have to disclose the nature of your condition, whether you are seeking medical care, being tested or have COVID-19. The most important thing is that you seek medical care if you are unwell and that you minimize the risk of exposure to others.
- Contact tracing conducted through MCCHD is thorough and commences immediately upon notification of a positive case. Many of the cases have been identified through contact tracing, thanks to quick reporting and cooperation by all those affected. If you are determined to be a close contact of a positive case, you will be notified directly by MCCHD. You can help MCCHD with effective contact tracing by monitoring your email and voicemail and responding promptly to messages.
- Attending a class or teaching a class attended by a student or faculty member who tests positive for COVID-19 does not, in and of itself, mean you are a close contact. UM has designed classrooms for physical distancing and has a mask mandate to minimize your risk. Close contacts are identified through investigation by MCCHD contact tracing specialists. If you are determined to be a close contact of a positive case, you will be notified by MCCHD. If MCCHD requests a University communication to aid in contact tracing, we will issue a message promptly.
- If you are in isolation because you are positive for COVID-19 or in quarantine as a close contact of a positive case, you must comply with these orders from public health officials. Likewise, the University expects compliance with all policies and COVID protocols in buildings, classrooms, residence halls, recreational facilities and other areas on campus, as well as during all University activities.
Every day, we observe UM students and employees taking proactive measures to protect themselves and our community. We appreciate your continued diligence with wearing masks, watching your distance, washing your hands and all of the other steps you’re taking. We must carry these great behaviors with us off-campus, on evenings and weekends, too. In doing so, you’ll be doing your part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and allow the semester to continue as planned.
Thank you, again, for your cooperation. Be well, UM Family!