UM COVID Communication: Mask Requirement Expanded

Due to COVID-19 Case Surge, UM Expands Campus Mask Requirement

The COVID Response Team continues to assess daily the COVID-19 landscape in Missoula and on campus, as well as the emerging science regarding the COVID-19 Delta variant. Our daily meetings provide us with vital information we need to make appropriate adjustments. We are grateful for the expertise our public health faculty and Missoula City-County Health Department colleagues bring to the CRT.

Over the course of this past week, Missoula County surpassed previous records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, total daily new cases and average daily new COVID-19 cases. While we hope this disturbing trend reverses soon, we also believe we can assist with additional mitigation to reduce COVID-19 transmission within our University community.

In light of recent MCCHD news regarding COVID-19 cases, as well as the strain COVID-19 is causing in our local hospitals and throughout the greater medical community, UM will temporarily expand our mask requirement to indoor spaces on campus, including the following:

  • Academic buildings, including Missoula College and the West Campus.
  • Research facilities.
  • Administrative buildings.
  • The Mansfield Library.
  • Common areas of residence halls.
  • UM dining facilities (except when actively eating or drinking).
  • Public areas such as the University Center, Adams Center, Schreiber Gym and Lommasson Building.
  • Facilities and maintenance buildings.
  • Galleries, performance venues and lounges.
  • The Campus Fitness and Recreation Center.

The mask requirement applies to public spaces (both public-facing and open areas). It does not include private offices, residence hall rooms and apartments in UM Housing.

These changes will go into effect Monday, Sept. 20. Those needing additional posted signs reflecting mask requirements can find them on the COVID-19 printables website. The CRT will continue meeting daily to review cases and assess other factors concerning COVID-19, and we will make adjustments as necessary.

Missoula County COVID Cases Surge

This week, Missoula County reported severe impacts from COVID-19, setting new records for active cases, daily new cases and hospitalizations. Here are a few things to note:

  • More than 80% of the active COVID-19 cases are age 20 to 49.
  • Children too young to receive the vaccine account for lower case numbers: 7.32% of cases are in children ages 0-9, and 11.62% of cases are in ages 10-19.
  • The rolling, seven-day average of daily new cases per 100,000 people in Missoula County is 87 cases.
  • Missoula Hospitals are struggling with overflowing waiting rooms and shortage of beds (especially intensive care units).
  • Based on national data, the vast majority of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are in unvaccinated individuals.

The Fastest Way through this Pandemic: Vaccines, Masks and Small Social Circles

As cases rise in our community and on campus, everyone is encouraged to take proactive steps to reduce their risk of infection and also, if infected, to reduce their risk of transmitting the virus to others.

These things make a big difference in reducing COVID-19 transmission:

  • Get Vaccinated – Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect yourself from severe COVID-19 disease. The Health Services Pharmacy inside Curry Health Center offers free COVID-19 vaccination to anyone on campus or in our community. Stop in during regular business hours. No appointment is necessary.
  • Wear a Mask – Masks inhibit the spread of COVID-19 by blocking aerosolized particles (respiratory droplets) when you talk, cough or sneeze. Because you can be infected with COVID and not exhibit symptoms, masks are effective in reducing asymptomatic spread. In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with crowds that likely have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
  • Wash your Hands – The exact impact of handwashing in reducing COVID isn’t known. However, handwashing removes pathogens, preventing them from spreading to others (handshakes) or to the food you eat.
  • Watch your Distance – If you become infected with COVID, the smaller your social circle, the lower the number of people you may have unintentionally exposed. High numbers of close contacts currently create delays in case investigation and in notification of these individuals so they can quarantine to reduce the potential for additional new infections.

Be well,

COVID Response Team

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